Sunday, December 28, 2014

Age of innocence

Christmas at Henry's sister's, it's his cute idea of a neutral ground. I come unarmed but slightly intoxicated, just enough to get me through the night. In spite of her gray Protestant demeanor she generously makes sure our glasses are never empty (but only drinks red wine herself). Sanguinis Christi.

He gives me a book about Coco Chanel, neatly wrapped in an editorial from Libération. A weaker version of myself would have thought he was trying to tell me something. "That man" he says after dinner, "the one I met this spring. He said 'never get them diamonds'. At first I though he meant girls in general, but now I know he was talking about you".

When we stumble back home together in the clear Parisian winter night he tells me about a friend in Prague that he needs to see for New Year's. He doesn't ask me to go with him and I think I'm relieved. I've been falling down this Boulevard Saint-Germain for too long now, voices are calling me from other places and I've only just begun to listen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fairytale of Saint-Denis

For a moment I forget about the walls and the voids between us, alone in a Tuesday frenzy looking for material things to please him with. Paris looks more beautiful than it did when we first came here at the end of the summer - maybe it's the sparkling lights and the generic Christmas music. I'm a child playing too close to the open fire, heartbeats like butterfly wings under silvery skies.

I know I'm buying him too many gifts and I imagine him wearing them when it's just the two of us on Christmas eve: navy shirts from Givenchy and Cavalli, Galliano boxers and more of his Bleu de Chanel - EdP. Maybe he's out doing the same thing for me, picturing me with delicate fabrics and without.

Outside in the swarming crowds, my Russian blood pumping like oil money and I'm slowly getting warmer. It's been cold for too long now and I wish this year had never happened.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thought of you as everything I've had but couldn't keep

He's in front of the mirror getting ready like it's our first date and we're sixteen dans La Ville-Lumière. I finish his Champagne because he's too busy with his hair and he returns to an empty bottle. "I like you better drunk" he says and slides his hand up my dress, but he does it like a gentleman in cufflinks and a pinstripe suit.

The last days of this year have felt like the end of the world, but I guess they always do. My vision is blurred, I can't imagine anything beyond December but with him there's no immediate need to pretend. Walking these streets in daylight I feel like screaming till the air in my lungs is wasted, but when the sun sets I put on something black and he comes home and we drift away together, even after what he said to me a week or so ago.

I don't drink to forget because there's still too much I want to remember. I drink because the world and this life we're living makes a little bit more sense when spinning itself out of focus before our pale blue eyes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Art Nouveau and other stories

We started talking again this weekend but not much remains to be said. "What's your New Year's resolution" he asks vapidly, "I've been meaning to pick up smoking myself". I don't have one but I lie and tell him I'm going to write a book. He nods discreetly, right hand firm around a highball glass of Rye Whiskey.

Insomniac nights are becoming a habit, the closest I am to a ritual. I wander these Saint Germain streets long after he falls asleep and far in to the early morning. Last week I met her in the same place at the exact same time from Monday to Friday: the ethereal woman from an Alphonse Mucha poster. Dressed in burgundy and black, she walks lightly as if in a painless dream and leaves traces of l'Air du Temps on the air as she passes by.

I'm back in bed undressed before he wakes up, he asks me if I slept and I tell him that I'm too much in love. I guess it's a little cruel but I just can't help myself.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

There's a crack in everything

If nothing more than November ends tonight I'm not sure we'll be alive in the morning. Every last trace of tenderness was lost in this week's morbid silence, ten words or less between us in seven days. He doesn't sleep, at least not when I'm watching.

Everywhere around me is Christmas and lights and crowds of people, I try to absorb whatever's left of warmth inside Lafayette on Haussmann and the chaos. It doesn't work, he calls me but hangs up before I get the chance to answer, his quiet breaths still just a fading memory.

Three hours to December and if nothing changes we might still wake up tomorrow. I never meant to hurt him, it just happened along the way like so many of the things I learned not to regret. My fragile heart is almost empty now, it's an overdose and a painless way of slowly dying before the winter and the snow.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Turn around and say good morning to the night

This is what he says:

"I met someone at a restaurant in Nice, or was it Antibes? Never mind. It was spring, I saw him sitting alone at another table and somehow we started talking. He was from California but felt he needed to get away as often as possible, just like us. I told him about you. No, I told him about a girl that was coming to spend the summer with me. I told him she was from New York and had a heart as black as midnight.

I described little things I loved about her, how she bites her nails when she's nervous and only wears matching light colored underwear regardless of the season. I told him about the Rose Bar at Gramercy and her morbid obsession with butterflies.

He listened without asking questions, somehow I got the feeling he knew this restless girl I was talking about. I got the feeling he had met you, that he had spent a great deal of his life close to you and knew precisely what I was going to say next. That he had seen that exact same depth in your eyes, those eyes I get so hopelessly lost in whenever I try to understand what you're daydreaming of.

We spoke for an hour, I spoke for an hour and he listened. He did this thing with his fingertips, like he was drawing something on the tablecloth. Or writing perhaps. Suddenly he excused himself and got up, told me it was very nice to meet me and started to walk away. I wouldn't have said anything if it wasn't for his last words, but they've been echoing like thunder in my sleep ever since you came here. I can't stop thinking about it and I'm afraid I'll go mad if I don't tell you. Or ask you.

He was walking away when he stopped, hand in his pocket, running the other hand through his hair as if deciding whether to turn around or not. He did, and he said: 'Tell her I forgave her a long time ago'.

With all the love I feel for you now, with every beat of my broken heart I ask you: what did you do to him?"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

To Père Lachaise and back

He wakes me up at 5 AM, his Bowmore breath thicker than a rain cloud. He tries to whisper but fails, the cold, dusty smell of his pinstripe suit tells me he's been smoking more heavily than usual. "It's time" he slurs as he climbs in to bed with his shoes on, lies down beside me and gently puts his ivory hand between my legs. The pressure from his fingers is always just enough, as if he's done it a million times before.

He picks out clothes for me (a raven dress, champagne ballerinas), then escorts me through the hotel lobby and in to the street to a waiting cab. It's warm and quiet outside, "go" he says and we drive through a city asleep, past the Bastille and in to the 20th arrondissement. I don't need to look out the window to know where're going. I can already feel it.

We get out and start walking past rows of headstones and monuments. He squeezes my hand as if to comfort me but I've never been afraid of the dark or the dead. "I told you you'd get to meet my mother" he whispers, successfully this time, "and you should know I always keep my promises".

Monday, November 17, 2014

Whatever makes her happy

We go out late on a Sunday because the walls are closing in and we need to escape somewhere so we dress up in our blackest clothes with traces of silver and we find a place to breathe where there's music and dancing and smoke and we're high on a little bit of everything so the air catches fire with every careless beat of our broken hearts and these flashes of light come less often now because we're not as young as we used to be but it doesn't matter 'cause his eyes are glimmering like stars in a January night sky and I'm his Daisy or Karenina and they start playing hip hop right after Boys Don't Cry and we hate it equally much so we fall out in to the street where taxi cabs run us over and we're almost caught by the police but get away together down in the dark by the river banks and we're back at the hotel just when the autumn sun comes up over Paris and I fall asleep somehow while he's inside me and I dream about stolen diamonds and when he calls me in the morning it is to say that he has something that he needs to tell me and he should have done it a long time ago.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I feel it in the air

Paris seems prettier now than when we first came, maybe it's the cold war against this lingering summer warmth that ultimately soothes my worried mind. We spend much of the afternoon in the Luxembourg garden around the palace underneath glimmering cascades of yellow and red and crisp azure skies stretching into infinity.

He talks about his classes and the need for radical reforms (of everything), about summery Christmases in Los Angeles and early memories of his mother. Everything is tinted in pastel purple and pink, filtered through the passing of time and only deep in between the lines are those thin traces of bitterness and grief I've learned to discard as misanthropy.   

We stroll down the Boulevard Raspail to Le Bon Marché and look at multicolored trompe l'oeil prints from Mary Katrantzou. "I have a father somewhere" he says, "at least I think I do". Through it all he holds my hand in his and his ivory skin is soft and warm like cotton.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I'm always awake before him and can only go back to sleep once he's gone. All I want is for him to touch me when he lays there peacefully, caught up in a dream or a nightmare. I sometimes take his hand and place it between my legs to see if it wakes him up and when it does he fucks me in slow motion as if we're both still asleep.

Lately he's been gentle in the way he speaks to me, in the things he says and how he holds on to me when we stumble back from restaurants and bars late at night. He asks for permission to call me between lectures and lets me pick out shirts for him to wear.

This morning, just as he's about to leave in something close to black from McQueen, he stops for a second in the doorway. The sun has yet to come up from behind the building across the street, air smells of gasoline and dust. "Avy?" he says, almost whispers, his back still turned against me. "I don't want you to be unhappy".


Monday, November 3, 2014

The great beauty (II)

Summer turned to November so quickly while I wasted time sleepwalking through the cul-de-sacs of Paris and our lives. The pictures I've taken are all of places and things, no body parts except my own, covered in skin and transparent light colored fabrics. Under them the scar on my shoulder looks like a gentle brush stroke.

Henry is equally absent, I refuse to photograph him because I want to be able to forget him some day. The color of his eyes and the way his hair falls when he bows down to kiss me. Not that he'd ever allow me, he prefers watching me undress through the lens of my camera and I prefer letting him.

I'm so much younger in the photos my father took of me once, before he suddenly stopped. "Beauty" he said, "can't be captured, only remembered". That morning I had been chasing butterflies across the fields around our summer house for the very last time and in a way it felt like growing up.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Till life do us part

I can't remember my father's funeral. How I felt, what I wore, who said what and why. I can't even say with certainty that I was actually there. What I do remember is Los Angeles in the aftermath, after what seemed like an earthquake and a raging hurricane. Birds kept singing, autumn winds carried the saphire sea to shore as if nothing had changed, as if everything was fine.

I remember people smiling all around me as I walked up and down Sunset wearing black inside and out. They were happy, oblivious, discussing things that never mattered and never would because they had nothing to fear. That's what I read from their plastic faces and careless minds.

But I'm not alone. Everyone I know comes from a broken home, from families torn apart by death or greed or violence. I wasn't alone and as time passed I learned to live with the realization that knowing this didn't just numb the pain - it made me happy.


Sunday, October 26, 2014


The last few days I've been drifting without any sense of direction, wandering alone leaving scarlet lipstick stains on wine glasses all around the Rive Gauche. Everywhere I hear seagulls and rhythmic waves on the autumn winds, knowing we're still miles away from the ocean.

"She was buried in Oscar de la Renta" he says, "such a fucking shame". He tells me he's going back to school on Monday, "but you can stay here as long as you want". I close my eyes and all I see is New York long after sunset, the lights from the Chrysler Building a glimmering constellation over Lexington Avenue. Me in my navy Prada coat, high heels and ivory leather gloves on my trembling way back home from the Rose Bar. The air smells distinctly of salt and anticipation.

Maybe it's this past summer echoing in the back of my mind, the things I should have said and done while there was still time. I call him from some bar in Saint-Germain to ask if he knows but he doesn't. Everywhere are sounds of people talking and laughing and even when I try I can't remember the last time I cried.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What you had and what you lost

He tells me about the dreams he's having and how with time he remembers them more and more as things that really happened.

We found a prettier hotel and moved our lives across the river a couple of hundred yards to the north He buys blue and violet cut flowers and rearranges the furniture according to his own messed up idea of feng shui. Paris is a fading fantasy outside, a neglected lover we got tired of sooner than we could ever imagine. "I was born here" he says, gazing distractedly out the window through the ivory drapes. "But it means nothing to me now".

We try out gin cocktails at the local bar and he makes me speak French with French girls in flimsy dresses and bird's nest hair. I know exactly how to make them want me more than him and I know that he loves me more because of it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Live and let live

I wish I could tell one day from the next but the wine's far too cheap here. He's found a small three star hotel near the Luxembourg gardens, still on the Rive Gauche but reasonably far from his sister. "I don't want her to kill you" he says, I'm sure it's some form of a compliment.

We watch people pass us by in the early mornings on their way to work while we're still high on the fumes from last night's Champagne and oysters. We try (unsuccessfully) to act sober as we look for cracks and tears in the fresh paint, something to offset the expected and disrupt the pedantic patterns laid out before us: someone under 40 wearing clothes from Desigual (impossible), young Parisian men without sneakers (hard), pretty women with broken hearts (this is where we start guessing).

I ask him again when we'll see his mother. "I told you I shouldn't have put it that way" he says, annoyed, "but we will". He takes another sip from his highball glass of Absinthe, church bells echoing melancholically across the river as he speaks. "You will".

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Do you think we'll be in love forever?

We're back in Paris and it feels like being pulled out of a beautiful dream. I see tourists and lovers in the streets but they all remind me of how much I hate the Champs-Élysées and standing before Les Invalides in the wind and the velvety darkness at night.

Henry's calmer than before, a part of me thinks he's already given up. Elisa sends me a text saying Tom and Daisy have been arrested. "She looks surprisingly cute in handcuffs". I could tell him but decide not to.

On the first evening we return to La Coupole in Montparnasse, he drinks Talisker and asks me about everything insignificant he can think of. I look at him through the mist and I hold his hand softly in mine and it's only when I forget about the world around us that the time we spend together makes this much sense.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Because blue is how I feel on the inside

He's changed scents, downgrading his clothes but upgrading his perfume from Versace's Blue Jeans to Bleu de Chanel (EdP). He tells me he can't get us in to Milan Fashion Week but it's a cheap lie to keep us out of sight. "I always knew things would end this way" he sighs, "ever since...".

Maybe it's all in his head but the way he plays this game until there are no other options sends shivers down my spine and we're the slightly darker 21st century versions of Bonnie and Clyde. He turns toward me in bed, runs his sharp fingers through my tumbleweed hair.  "Anyway" he says, "I want you to see my mother".

So we drive north again and the pre-autumn sunlight drifts across the hillsides and the mountains like fingertips on naked skin. We stop for pastries and coffee at a run-down restaurant just east of Lausanne and he makes me promise to re-read Anna Karenina in time before the winter and the snow.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We made it out to the other side

We spend a few restful days in Milan, traces of clean Mediterranean air still infused in my lungs from the last deep breaths I took before we left. He uses a wide range of creative pseudonyms and refuses to stay more than one night in the same hotel, shopping for new clothes and accessories at H&M (this is what really frightens me).

He remembers my birthday through the temporary madness, we share a bottle of Vermentino di Sardegna at a quiet restaurant and he almost seems relaxed, the tensions in his body dissolve and the night skies are filled with silvery little stars. We walk arm in arm through the fashion quarter and Via della Spiga, he stops by the Cavalli store and talks passionately about his favorite leather jacket back in New York.

Later he fucks me slowly in a morning mist in the Montanelli gardens. "Your pussy tastes like summer rain" he says and I know he's been listening to too much Lana Del Rey but it's alright 'cause he says it like it's the only thing in the world that really matters.