Travelling

The pont des arts, collapsed. The boulevards lined by soldiers. Broken windows. Gaping houses. A presentiment of disaster. A bad dream. Paris? Should I go there? I run, now, to the Sickert room. In the corner is a painting of Paris. A street. Nighttime. Layered on the canvas are my memories of three women. The dark-hair-blue-eye artist: smoking. Perched above Le Balto. Wine in hand. Me, below, leaning with head stretched back, watching the sky. She, breathing out smoke, watching me. The canvas below: the dark Paris street, muddy, pastel mud. Another dark haired lady: Michel’s friend. Older. Sitting in the bistrot. She wore make up: lines of paint that broke her face into discrete elements that I could not form into a whole. Buveause d’Absinthe? Her youth had not disappeared without making its mark. The girl who lived still was in the lady that lived now. Especially when she smiled: and one could feel the depths of vital existence that heaved beneath her discontiguous face — broad smiles and excited glances surfacing as crashing waves. Sickert’s dark Paris. An old Paris. A Paris no more. A dead world. The sign says “CAFE” in yellow letters. Lone pedestrians pass the lonely sign. But, to me, night Paris is a warm Paris and these women are that warm night Paris. Cheryl’s hair is not dark. The bistrot lights sharpen her whiteness. Dark outside. Around us is fleeting light: trapped like so many fireflies among the pot plants that enclose the terrace. Pencil thin cigarettes. Smoke in my face as we leaned close. Her coat: black. Sharp. A tool. A knife’s edge. Our manufactured world! Her words are quiet: over populated by ‘r’s and each sentence concluded by a nasal lowered inflection — the stem of a glass bulb pinched by the blower in his furnace. “Do you like the art?”