I am in Paris, for one year, my high school student exchange program. I enroll in the obligatory French language classes. To my surprise, I love both courses, and my teachers, especially, Fleur. I have her in my advanced French class. I admit she is my favorite, a master linguist, and philosopher of everything Amour.
First I giggle, and then I ask her “how?”
Fleur’s short answer, “Slightly lift your tongue like a pen, and then sketch tiny alphabets in your closed mouth. This works especially when painting nouns and verbs.”
“You are making me blush Fleur.”
“No Ms. Melissa, your limitless imagination is making you blush.”
I cry when I say goodbye to Fleur. She asks that I be careful. She says, “there are so many decisions in life, and so few involve choices. Love is the most important decision in life, choose wisely.”
By the end of summer, before my senior year, I commanded the poetics of the French and believe true love will eventually find me, and haunt me pleasantly forever, like a ghost circling the tip of an endless Dreidel.
* * *
Years press forward, depressed, I drop out of college, with only one quarter remaining.
* * *
We are taking one of our long drives, into the foothills, where witchweed, and lavender thistles bouquet the rolling green landscape, wafting a potion of jasmine blossom, and the delicate scent of wild mustard. But as I look closer, past all the beauty, I can also see the alabaster rib cage of a winter deer, under the rotting oak shade branches. I see spring creeks, running dark and muddy, and moody. I see all this through my passenger window, and then as I slowly turn, I notice you thinking too hard.
You fancy me invisible and then you mouth, “I still can’t believe she’s gone.”
* * *
We take too many of these trips, but at least I can mull to myself out the window, rearrange the scenery, even the weather, which seems darker with each new trip.
When we return in the early evening, you ask me, Please stay for a glass of Merlo you would rather not waste.”
I say, “No thank you, Mr. Conrad.” I think cadavers.
* * *
Over Bombay and Safire, at a fancy hotel bar full of enough men for a turkey shoot, you flirt me around like it’s a whore convention. I think shame on you, but I understand because in your mind I am bought and paid for, like your wrinkled laundry waiting for its folding in a basket at home.
As I cry and race home, I throw out party napkins full of telephone numbers. The fresh air pounds me like a sound tunnel, cigarettes, ash and filth lift then whisk in a swirl, like Dorothy’s Kansas tornado.
‘Where are those god damned ruby red shoes when you really need them,’ I say out loud?
* * *
I’m not worth much, that’s what my lazy boyfriend says. He fancies himself a ninja wordsmith, and he’s good at the hateful ones. He’s a Jedi Knight, with a sword for math. For example, he knows exactly how many empty Budweiser cans it takes to recycle our dreams, typically $10.00 at the recycled center.
During sex, I am high above him on a cloud hooked to a string. I can predict when he cums, because that’s when I am paying late bills or eating apples in my mind. Then I crush, “Right there, right there baby!” That’s when I cut the string and untether, and float to the stars, far from the white noise in my head. Then somehow, I awake from my sleep not quiet dead.
* * *
I’ve been told that it is ok to live with the memory of love. That it’s ok to live with a vivid image, or .gif of stormy neon kisses that flowed over and down, staining my white blouse. Just live with the memory of weather and the wetness you caused, all this just by saying “I love you,” and meaning it. I’ve been told by my therapist, it’s also ok to remember the broken dishes on the floor, to make room on the table when food was not what we hungered for. If only I didn’t recall the two solemn marines at the front door.
* * *
On our way home from yet another Sunday and dusk, you say, “No! Like an ice cream cone, slow and easy, like she used too.”
I listen, but I can’t hear you. It’s a terribly windy day that insists on flapping against my ears like mad seagull wings. I have to lean into the wind just to hang on. As I stand at a childhood bridge in Seattle, mist rises from the water toward a cloudless sky. I see heaven, magnifique, it is so all alone, orphaned of name. On such a day, emptiness can only be quenched in fathoms. ‘I say to myself slow and easy, slow and easy. It’s almost over.’
* * *
Le temps a des ailes. ‘Time has wings.’
All stories must end. This one does not.
We find ourselves at Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts. Melissa is teaching a class about the French Renaissance. Outside, on a bench, a young woman finds herself pleasantly fatigued from the challenge of learning. She looks out across the vacant green courtyard at the tall stand of fall Sycamore, which seems to climb into the afternoon sky like a burning teal castle. Just in time, a damsel needs rescuing.
In her silence, she traces the letters of Joan of Arc with her tongue, blending each letter into words into a carousel of thought. It’s The One Hundred Year War, a revolution. She knows to take her time.
‘il y a pire que d’être seul, as Fluer might have said––there are worse things in life than being alone, like having no choices perhaps.
It’s then, Erica, with only the tip of her tongue, slowly spells, M-e-l…
DAN A CARDOZA has a MS Degree in Education from UC, Sacramento, Calif. He is the author of four poetry Chapbooks, and a new book of fiction, Second Stories. Recent Credits: 101 Words, Adelaide, California Quarterly, Chaleur, Cleaver, Confluence, UK, Dissections, Door=Jar, Drabble, Entropy, Esthetic Apostle, Fiction Pool, Foxglove, Frogmore, UK, High Shelf Press, New Flash Fiction Review, Rue Scribe, Runcible Spoon, Skylight 47, Spelk, Spillwords, Riggwelter, Stray Branch, Urban Arts, Zen Space, Tulpa and Zeroflash.