11.00 pm. Still in Edika's. Still waving beer. "..sometimes I think Paris should have moved to New York and been even bigger.." I look but Pellerin is fast asleep.
5:00 am. The following morning. I am still crying. There are three reasons people cry. Here I am, in bed with all three.
Something abstract, a thought, takes root in my malaise, expands in meaning to stake it's claim on my whole vision. It reaches to ring emotive bells in the inner cloisters, recharges and feeds off old feelings. I sense a darkening that quickly blinds me; a shudder of breath but a breathlessness, a whimper underscores the odd tingle of my first tear. An infinite framework of sorrow, now double-feeding on self-pity at my own state, grows confident. A greater shudder, my nose unblocks, the stream of tears begins. My mouth opens to my chest, the room melts behind water, I hold onto myself and bawl openly. Increasingly I turn, bawling at the ceiling, hide behind my sheet, sniff mucus, reach for tissues, sob again. The Crying Cop they call me.
"The Crying Cop they'll call you." Holding onto the kitchen table, I telephone the Police Judicaire. Commissaire Choux is appalled. "Here he comes, they'll whisper. Look! The Crying Cop! Oaf."
"It'll work in my favour." I grumble, hang up the phone and return to bed, cursing Choux for filling me with such imagery. Me - attempting to apply handcuffs to some gobsmacked embezzler, the tears rolling freely down my cheeks. Mesmerised, he asks if I'm OK. My lips eventually quiver "no," I drop shaking to my knees and squeeze at my eyeballs - watering curves around my fingers and wobbling lips to anoint his footwear. Then, me - leading a dawn charge across a suburban basement crack factory, only to detour through the hoodlums to the nearest wall, bury my head and suppress a scream till my salt fluids silently wander the wallpaper. Finally - hotfooting the Funky Family down an alleyway, a silken scarf of blub wavering gently behind my screwed-up face - I collide into bins, over a dumpster. Look! They turn, slap their thighs laughing. What a knob! The Crying Cop! Hahah!
Fuck them. Fuck Choux. I pull the duvet over my head and open a tray of dates. I peel away the plastic film and slowly breathe in against the sweet fruit fumes. Gently prizing out a long, yellow plastic fork that nestles between the rows inside the tray, I use this to pierce into my first date. It lifts free from it's companions with an audible, sticky twist.
As I eat, I read. Great things come in small packages. One serving - four to five delicious and nutritious dates - contains 240 milligrams of potassium. In fact, weight for weight, dates contain more potassium than bananas. As I read, I think. I increasingly feel that I may have blown my chances with Julianne. She was absolutely right, of course - it was too soon. I telephoned her last night. Her answering machine informed me that she had to return to London for a short while. 'Pressing personal reasons'. I hope that my proposal wasn't a factor in this decision. I hope I haven't come on too strong. Perhaps I have a problem.
Dates contain B-complex vitamins, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and panthothenic acid. They help metabolize carbohydrates and maintain blood glucose levels, and make hemoglobin - the red and white blood cells.
My feelings for Julianne have made me reconsider myself. To be perfectly frank, I have long felt that I was on the scrapheap of love, a pyre doused in the petrol of self-awareness, simple honesty. I say this with clear-headedness. A terrifying prospect, you'll reflect. But once one is up there, accepts the situation, makes a space and stretches out, one maps and adapts to this emotional rest home with the good sense that makes us the remarkably resilient creatures we are. Some happiness can be scratched out within these new parameters. It is only when a sweet smile - and the open hand of devilish optimism - tempts one away for a moment that one finds oneself terrified afresh of those heartless, but never misanthropic, heights. Love goes on - take comfort from the knowledge that you are merely an absentee.
They are fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free. Dates are a sweet and good source of dietry fibre: all this and your average date still only contains 23 calories! Enjoy! A POWER PACKED HANDFUL OF DATES.
Above ground, in the corner of the room, the television natters away. Wha? - I surface when I believe I hear a name mentioned. Anne Renaud. "So that's tonight, one forty five, here on Canal Betamix." Canal Betamix! Ever since having the local cable service installed I have increasingly gazed in awe at this no-budget junk. I reach out from the bed, scour the guide.
Canal Betamix. ..hmm.. 1:45.. "Le Cerelab" New Paris arts review with a mo' octane punch.
2:00 pm. Exhausted - I blow my nose and resolve to take some form of action. I decide to pay an afternoon visit to Madame Burgalat, my concierge.
"Shh Corbeau," she scurries back to the living room and her easy chair, "The Fires Of Sex and Fury."
I take the other seat. Those Brazilian soaps will blow her mind some day.
"Trust me." A youth in a white tuxedo. The usual local overdub. "I know when Maria orgasms." He leans forward across an airport lounge bar, purses his lips and raises a glass. "She grips me like a chamois fist and yodels the saints' names."
I glance at Madame Burgalat. A smile will rise on her lips. Her eyes will narrow. That finger will drum the lid of a biscuit tin. She tuts and burps silently with one palm placed across her chest.
A man dressed as an airline pilot stands, swiping the space around him, "That's my sister you're smudging with your mouth!" The same local overdub.
"But that means.." Wavering close-up on a pair of eyes, "..she's my sister also." As the credits flash across a glinting chandelier, Madame Burgalat begins to push herself to her feet. "Brazilians. It's orgasm this and orgasm that. Now, verveine." Her knees crack, but support her into the kitchenette.
I am somewhat unnerved when my concierge talks in this way. When I do, I talk about sex in the past tense, and I find it remarkably easy to leave it from my thoughts. There is something unattractive, especially in a man, in discussing the sexual act. All I wish to add is that once a month - with a regularity that is almost menstruatory - I will awake to find that I have had an erotic dream. I can never recall these fantasies but am left with the early morning evidence of their content. At this point, I sidestep towards my bathroom and begin clearing the remnants of this unorthodox happenstance as I would undertake any other human ablution - with calm disinterestness and a mind on the more important matters of the day.
"Every morning I <censored> until I orgasm. Starts me up nicely in weather like this." Madame Burgalat's head is peering round from her kitchenette, her eyes darting over a held-out plate of speculoos, "Nibbles?"
The room has suddenly started swaying, panning back and forth, extending but staying very still. I cannot consider Madame Burgalat at the point of orgasm. "It must be dangerous at your age?" I speak without thinking, then stare into the advertisements, hoping the conversation will turn.
I am quite sure that one day I shall be calling the coroner for Madame Burgalat. We've even joked about this. But never have I considered this new fact, that on that fateful day I may also be required to grasp her mottled, frozen forearm and use it to unhook bluish fingers from the powdered tuck of her gusset, for her dignity. "You think so?" I have filled her with fear. She looks around, seems to reconsider everything in a new, more sorrowful, light.
1:45 am. I settle in front of Canal Betamix to watch le Cerelab. Another box of dates. Somewhat nervous. Anne.
Just a black screen with vibrating lines. I reach for the remote, but - <<Hello and welcome. Don't think. Learn. Yes. Absorb life but when it comes to living - don't think. It will only hold you back. That's what le Cerelab thinks. Anyway. Welcome.>>
Fade in. A pair of hands wearing motorists gloves - strangler's hands - translate these slow tones into an allusive sign language for the deaf. <<Already we've been labelled 'post-culturalist thug spoons' by people who haven't even heard of us. We challenge this. Challenge this (the hands draw a rectangle to represent the television screen) and we challenge you to challenge us to challenge this (the hands draw a rectangle to represent the television screen)>> Titles in a futuristic font - Le Cerelab. Geometric shapes in narrow lines morph in time to "The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine" by Laurel and Hardy. It all stops abruptly.
I have not seen Anne since the surprise party. Even then, I only turned to her briefly, and it wasn't Anne at all. Shocked, she moved her attention to her daughter. At the point when I corrected myself and walked past into the hall - I looked and she glanced back briefly. And I did not expect such an instantaneous glaze - a glaze suggesting amputation from what one is actually seeing. Anne is an intelligent woman. Confronted by feeling they shrink back inside, hold themselves until the time is right, then slip from it's contraints. They never struggle with feeling, they never protest and they do survive. They slip through feeling unscathed, keep it to ingratiate, entertain and fit out the middleground between humankind in moments of civility - the mutual selection and sharing of something cultural and detached. Me, I bleed into things a lot. They bleed into me.
The bulk of the programme is made up of brief art, music and computer game reviews interspersed with increasingly absurd claims made by the stranglers hands. Then - just as I require the lavatory - we cut to Le Cerelab studio. Makeshift, verite - cameramen and clipboard folk are occasionally seen wandering about.
In the background, a chainsmoking young painter is making dawbs on a vaguely grotesque Monoprix representation of an expectant mother. Some British G-Plan chairs are slung to the foreground. Anne is sitting very correctly, dressed in a business suit. To her left, a young lady with a robotic t-shirt, scarlet-tinted shades and streaked hair. She introduces herself as Brigitte Kay Dix.
BKD: "Hey Raoul, nice ass. Does it move you? The picture, not his ass."
AR: "No. Actually. No, it doesn't."
BKD: "Bim. What moves the words in this book? They rattle ahead like chirpy-enough rolling stock."
AR: "Love. I wanted to reflect the seemingly liberated logistics, the romance that lead to an irreverent but somehow self-deceiving period in Fr.."
BKD: "It's a bonky mirror. Says 'look at me, I'm fucking' does it?"
AR: "I beg your.."
BKD: "Do you know what's real? Do you know, Evel Knievel?" Brigitte lifts her shades into the camera, holds a breast and then makes a gradual wind-up action with one fist. I pause - a date hanging from my mouth.
AR: "The devastation of Afghanistan, for one thing, Brigitte. That's real."
BKD: "Oh yeah? Can I touch it? Touch remains the more neglected sense, no? Used to twist Victorian infant hearts. Died of marasmus, so they say. So - 69. Before my time."
AR, loosening her suit, waving an arm: "68."
BKD: "Pity. Kris sounded hot. Was he real?"
AR: "The character of Kris should be viewed as .. a compendium.. of.."
BKD: "Uh-huh. The Enrages were the best. They went nuts."
AR, pointedly: "They may have been the bounciest kids in the castle, but that bounce needed ideologies I like to think we .."
BKD bursts out laughing. Raoul responds in kind.
AR: "I don't see what's funny. Ideology brings.."
BKD: "Fornication? Chas? Change! Durrr. Bim. Where's this?"
The screen has been filled with lumbering footage of a group of us protesting in Dijon. Riesel. Me. Stoke Newington folk. Suddenly I'm shaking a police van, others join in. I look slackjawed but persuadingly serious.
AR: "I don't know him. Some of these people.."
BKD: "shh. This bit's good. This guy's classic."
The footage - I am being pushed into the back of the police van. I am contorting and struggling with cops. I push one in the face. He batons me. I am slung about by my secondhand coat, batonned again. The camera closes in on the grotesque and lifeless look on my face, my tongue lolls around on my beard. Suddenly I wrestle a helmet off a riot cop, sport it backwards and run off.
AR, quietly: "Yes. I met that guy."
BKD: "In what sense?"
AR: "Really he hasn't changed."
The footage - I'm swinging off a tree. Cops swing off my ankles.
BKD: "Your old man was arrested himself recently. Next book maybe?"
AR, drifting off: "I can't .. discuss that. It's on-going."
The studio. Raoul is tuning and retuning a radio into seemingly random electronic sounds. "..this shit." He kicks the painting off the easel and joins the group on the G-Plan chairs, the radio to his ear. He has a Fairisle jumper and a brushed down mohican haircut, puffs a Swiss pipe.
Brigitte is suddenly cued. She stands, walks about fanning a copy of Les Amants Du 68: "Intimations, Anne Renaud. D'you know what I read when I read this? I read Monoprix. That's not me. You're a flake and a quack, a woman who wants to be a man who wants to be a dyke. You're related to Yeats but that's as far as it goes; it goes so far then each down-payment ends up at the back of yours and everyone elses nose. And you've given up on Raoul and me cos you read bad news on the bog wall. You think we're all Diesel and a diddy job for daddy. That's what I read. You've got your target audience in a twist, sister, and something in here smells lonesome."
AR, chuckling nervously: "I just think that I might be on the wrong show, Brigitte."
Raoul exhales and announces in a nasal, educated, Neuilly-Auteuil-Passy accent: "We all are, ho. Have an election."
BKD picks up the painting: "Gustave Flaubert? So Raoul, what inspired Add Hen To Eggs?"
AR, sitting forward: "What did he just call me?"
Raoul: "Everything but irony. This generation cheers on every stupid sex act except the lavish miracle it's there for. It's so fucked up. I'm fucked up." He cradles his head, drops his pipe.
AR: "Don't talk to me that way."
Raoul, head bowed, he spreads his arms, sighing absurdly: "Drum and Bass defined a decade."
AR: "So did the charleston."
Raoul throws himself back: "Blahblahblahblahbl.."
AR: "My generation fought so that you could enjoy stupid sex acts, young man."
Raoul, standing: "Well let's get 2 rammin, Duke Nuke'Em."
AR sits forward and begins unzipping her skirt: "Ready when you are."
BKD: "I feel a golden tv moment coming on."
My jaw is dislocating with dates I have forgotten to swallow.
BKD, covering the camera lens with Anne's book: "On the shelves from Monday, Sir K."
The sound of zips. Raoul's voice: "Color me taken aback.. ouch. hand's cold."
AR's voice: "Sissy."
Raoul breathes a nervous laugh.
What a peculiar programme. I run to the lavatory.
BKD: "Le Cerelab is sponsored by Yap Alcomilk."
What a very strange programme indeed.
2:15 am. Time for bed again. That was strange. It must have been staged. Anne wants publicity. I guess that I shouldn't be surprised. Everyone wants something.
But I am so tired I cannot think. My pillow is still cold and damp from earlier in the day. I pull it onto the floor and curl an arm under my head. There are three reasons why people cry, Corbeau. The best thing about love is that it gives people somewhere to hide. They hide in one another. So #1. People cry because they have nowhere to hide. #2. People cry because everyone wants something. And #3. People.. But I have begun to fall asleep.
Suddenly I sit up. I know why I've been crying. I know what I have to find. I know what was missing from the ski-boot box, in Anne's old bedroom in Jura. #3. People cry because they don't know what they want.
8:30 am. There is a moment, at this time of the morning, when the rising sun just makes it over Notre Dame and soft, slanted blocks of shade arrange themselves on the pavements that lead to Pont St Michel.
I'm on Rue Git le Coeur when I notice him. I pause foot-forward to retie a shoelace. Something in the corner of my eye, hopping around in a hutch in the window. I lean closer. He stops his flipperty flopping and looks me up and down - a slightly impertinent look which seems to say 'What do you want?' and I return that - 'Hold on, what do you want?'
"Le p'tit Malkmus! Affectionate mite. But daft as a dick hat." The shopkeeper, seemingly blind and leaning on a white cane, cries out from the doorway.
I follow him into the store. The animal smells are overpowering. His t-shirt is on backwards. Something Wild. "Thirty euros for le p'tit Malkmus, monsieur."
"Named then abandoned at Christmas. Bunch of pute Quebecois bikers and a party trick that sadly left a sour taste in the mouths of even the most implicated."
I hand over my card. "I'll collect him at the weekend. A hutch, a run, wood straw, vitamin pellets if you please."
"But of course."
"And this." I slide a copy of 'Larousse Letters To Hutchperson: The Art Of Bunny Care' across the counter.
I leave with the book in my pocket. He is still flipperty flopping about in the window. As I cross the Pont St Michel I actually smile.
9:00 am. "Oaf."