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JoAnna Novak

I Found Her Asleep


Though I know myself to be handsoft; a man who has taken his share of Scotch cake, bonnet cake, school cake, bread yet detested frosting, ganache, sandwiches with jelly, coffee with sweet; one who would lie prone, lifeless, absorbing the sounds of wrenching and cycling through a Valentine’s Day Saturday, man I was not, man I could not be, eyes before the menu, eyes which might close to open or gloomily reflect on sudden reversals of good fortune rather than dressing—in two pairs of wool socks, a layer of long underwear beneath close-fitting jeans (I am thin—this much I can say for myself), an undershirt, another undershirt and a cardigan—so I might pad down to Monk’s and take brewet like a celibate.

 In the interim:  Wendy. 

So, I am a Chicagoan and Chicagoans can tough it out anywhere, and Paris is no exception:  Paris is anywhere.  From hostel websites, it seems all people ever do is go to other countries and get on the internet.    I know not to do this.  There are streets, still, and corners where the Sun does not thrill.  Rains prevent most from venturing beyond the cafes or the dusty rose gold gilding of the macaron shops, but not me.  Who am I, if not one to trounce sodden and sullen towards New Year’s Eve, set upon violence at the Sun’s limb?

 (Then, I am neither sullen nor sodden, but a mole in a chattering elevator, nothing but an eye and an ear.)

 (Avaler des couleuvres, as the French say, I hear.)

 The empty seat is next to me; below, the Atlantic Ocean is faith.  The red train I ride from Paris to Versailles: twenty minutes, six euros. 

 “For two, monsieur?” 


The Waldorf-Astoria Trianon Versailles: little palace which had once housed Marie Antoinette’s girl friends or her gardens or her lambs. 

(It is my sincere hope that, while in Paris, I may avoid mimes, small dogs, but mostly monkeys for I have heard the tale of the Certain Ape: 

“who, seeing a Mother washing her Child observed her fixedly, and getting into the house, did take the Child out of the cradle, and who did set water on the burner, and, when it was ‘roiling, removed bonnet and bib and washed the Child therewith until it killed it.”)

Dear Wendy, lovely and sweet and at home with her father.  Dear Wendy, in your eyes the sky was always a question:  Tell me. 

Many other tales of jest and duplication we had shared, and o, how she would have loved our room!  With the thick claret carpeting and the bone-backed chairs.  The view of the garden engulfed in Paris’s late day gray.  The porter was to follow with my trunk, so alone I arrived.  To champagne from my mother chilling and yellow Emigrant tulips and a drowsy Dalmatian maid who claimed to be Split.

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