he is not expecting anyone to be there. but someone picks up the phone
All sorts of busy the rest of this week: Content analysis of about half a dozen issues of Creation Care magazine for teh thesis, a nice stack of movies, Jack Kerouac's Some of the Dharma, and of course Series Three’s premiere this Friday on SciFi at 8 P.M.
I always thought the Fourth of July was a pretty mean and stupid holiday; there are always better reasons to take a day off. All the same, the Great Wheel turned for me 4 July about eleven years ago in downtown Tampa, on Our National Day of Gratuitous Flag-Waving and Gas Guzzling, in spite of – well, in spite of a lot, aside from what exactly the Fourth of July is supposed to mean, be it a ninety-eight years ago or eleven years ago or now. So here’s to finding hopeful things on unlikely days, especially during this most undeserving time…
The next day, after a long shower, he goes for a walk in Luxembourg Gardens. Then he catches the metro and gets off at Pigalle. He eats at a restaurant on the rue La Bruyere and sleeps with a prostitute in a little hotel on the rue Navarin. Her hair is shaved at the back but very long on the top of her head. She tells him she lives on the fourth floor. There is no elevator. And it is clear that nobody lives there. It is just a room she uses for work, she and her friends.
While they make love the prostitute tells him jokes. B laughs. In his pidgin French he tries to tell here a joke too, but she doesn’t understand. When they are finished, the prostitute goes to the bathroom and asks B if he wants a shower. B says no, he had a shower that morning, but all the same he goes into the bathroom to smoke a cigarette and watch her shower.
He is not surprised (or at least he doesn’t let it show) when she takes off her wig and leaves it on the toilet lid. Her head is clean-shaven and he can see two relatively recent scars on her scalp. He lights a cigarette and asks how she got the. But the prostitute is already in the shower and doesn’t hear him. B doesn’t repeat his question. Nor does he leave the bathroom. On the contrary, he makes himself at home; he lies down on the white tiles, feeling placid and relaxed, contemplating the stream billowing out from behind the shower curtain until he can no longer see the wig, or the toilet, or the cigarette in his hand.
By the time they leave, night has fallen, and after saying good-bye he walks unhurriedly but almost without stopping from the Montmarte cemetery to the Pont Royal, by a vaguely familiar rout, via the Gare Saint-Lazare. When he get s back to the hotel he looks at himself in the mirror. He is expecting a hangdog look, but what he sees is a thinnish, middle-aged man, sweating slightly from the walk, who seeks, finds, and flees his own gaze, all in a fraction of a second. The next morning he calls M in Brussels. He is not expecting her to be there. He is not expecting anyone to be there. But someone picks up the phone. It’s me, says B. How are you, asks M. Well, says B. Have you found Henri Lefebvre? asks M. She must be still half asleep, thinks B. Then he says no. M laughs. She has a pretty laugh. Why are you so interested in him? She asks, still laughing. Because nobody else is, says B. And because he was good. Straightaway he thinks: I shouldn’t have said that. And he thinks: M is going to hang up. He clenches his teeth and an involuntary grimace tenses his face. But M doesn’t hang up.
--- “Vagabond in France and Belgium,” Roberto Bolano, The Last Evenings on Earth.