She thirsted to hear my voice again, even the small things; asking her to shut the light, the click of the last domino being put back in the box, my cigar as she walked by the ashtray left on the counter.
When she was beautiful there was something almost commonplace about it. I much preferred her looking tired or melancholy. It has a more honest feel to it as it also encompasses a sort of collaborative origin involving us both.
Even when we had first met, her in her best dress, she interested me with the lies that she told and not her beauty.
That first night we drank all the free booze which the party had to offer, then walked all the way to Les Halles for onion soup. We talked the entire time, not out of any awkward pressure but just for the enjoyment of it.
Our two voices, her French more of a sing song quality than my thick tongued grunts, would sometimes come back to us via an empty alley echo. This late night duet was not without its appeal.
It had kept me more alert than I had expected. The soup would now be more than mere ritual, I was becoming hungry.
She talked of appetite in an honest way with all its accompanying unpleasantness, which appealed to me.
Desire, those who always know how to get what they want, the abstract idea of the goal, radiate a sort of light like the gleam of a star, brilliant and cold. Marissa though, her glow was more that of a funeral pyre.
It has been two years and I am still waiting to see how it will end. We both have our little power plays and bite backs but neither of us seem inclined to rush towards an end game.
I have become superstitious about her tears. After conjuring them a certain amount of times they will haunt me long after she is gone. The tiger crouched in the pile of dirty laundry under the bed, I must be careful.
I had not asked her to pick me up and she had not offered. It would acknowledge our shared history another link in a chain which grew a little longer every day.
The airport at this hour was mostly empty, the few bodies one saw where all at a distance, frozen, more random components of a tableau than actual people.
There were no taxis to be found so I caught the train.
It was raining, I buttoned my jacket even though I knew the train would be too warm and I would have to undo it again.
The last train of the night. Using the blurred lights which slide by, the drizzle paints an impressionistic image of the city upon the window which I now lean my forehead against for its coolness.
I climb the stairs to the street. I stop at Pepe’s to call and let her know I made it all right and a quick Calvados to ease the pain in my side.
Technically, they were not open but two old men sat by the window smoking cigars and playing cards. One tourist who had initially been attracted by the lone light on a dark street in a tee shirt sat alone and dazed in front of a row of empty glasses. He was too drunk to get back to his hotel but did not know where else to go.
Not bothering anybody, Marc had stopped serving him but let him stay.
We shook hands, he let me use the phone as he poured. I held up two fingers. She wanted me to come over. No. She wanted to come over. No. I would see her tomorrow which was now today after I cleaned up and rested a bit.
She tried not to come across as disappointed. I noticed her effort but pretended not to.
The drinks made me temporarily feel good enough to make it home. I paid and left.
Without turning on the light, I put my bag down next to the door and started getting undressed.
I go to wash my face. I enjoy the quiet, the familiar scent of my place. I leave the lights out, I feel a headache coming on, I probably had not had enough water before flying.
The rough hewn bar of soap left in the basin of the sink takes on the identity of a pearl in a shell as now viewed in the pale light spilling in through the windows. I should get some sleep. I look in the mirror, in this light though my features are indistinct, I could be anybody.
I now reach for the soap, the underside is still slick like a secret, someone had been here. I hold it in my hand, my fingers playing over the cracks in its top.
I thought of how I had gotten the drop on the one they had called Zeppo.
He could have stood still and I would have just taken him in. But instead he had made a reach, chancing that he would be faster.
I knelt down and clearing his lips of blood with my own handkerchief held his head up in case he wanted to say something.
The killer had been warm like the hum of an old tube radio. He had gambled it all and lost. Men like us never seem to go in for half measures.