I apparently lost control of my cut and paste muscles when I made the post of the last chapter. That post said that the chapter being posted was chapter twenty one. It turns out I cut and pasted chapters twenty one and twenty two.
After reviewing the mistake I think I should have combined them in the book.
But I didn’t; and the book is printed.
So here is chapter twenty three.
I mentioned previously that I met a couple at Brasserie Lipp a few evenings ago.
It was an unusual encounter in a number of ways. The results of the encounter have been more unusual still. I must tell what else has happened afterwards.
When I returned to the apartment I thought about the idea of walking the entire length of Rue Saint-Jacques. I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. For a casual suggestion from a stranger it had taken on a surprisingly assertive character.
I got up and got a glass of calvados and sipped and pondered and, ultimately, slept.
When I awoke the next morning, after a pot of coffee, and a croissant, both of which aided immeasurably in thinking, I decided to walk Rue Saint-Jacques in search of whatever Lisa had imagined that I might find.
The day was fine, at least at that early hour. Watching the clouds scud across a Paris sky at any time of the year causes one to quickly draw the conclusion that Paris weather is, and must be, capricious. But on that morning, after the beautiful evening of the previous day, it looked as if the good weather would hold for awhile longer.
It was about 0830. That is really early for me to start. It is barely light at that time of day. But the sun was working his way up from the downstream bend of the river, and he would soon be high enough to shed some light into the canyons of the seven and eight story buildings that make up most of that part of Paris.
I had decided to intercept Rue Saint-Jacques where it begins at l’Eglise Saint-Séverin across Le Petite Pont from from Cathedral Notre Dame.
Rue Saint-Jacques at that place is called Rue Petite Pont; but that changes somewhere around Saint-Séverin. And from there on, Rue Saint-Jacques wanders off at a more or less perpendicular angle to the river.
The clarity of Lisa’s assertions notwithstanding I was uncertain what I was supposed to be looking for. At least, I decided, I could banish the ghosts that had been planted in my imagination by the banquette conversation of the previous evening.
Or maybe Lisa’s idea would turn out to have some truth to it. Maybe I would hear the voices of the spirits that her friend Jacques had claimed to sometimes hear, and be able to add to the story that I had started the previous evening
It didn’t seem very likely, but I set off down Rue Petite Pont and by the time it had become Rue Saint-Jacques I was filled with a spirit of open-minded adventure.
The surroundings were initially like many of the places in Paris through which I have walked. And it was easy walking, the terrain being nearly level.
That began to change once I crossed a major Boulevard – Boulevard de Port Royal. The terrain began to rise and Saint-Jacques seemed to be following an uplifted seam of land, gradually ascending to a higher part of Paris. It had changed in name also. It was now Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques. Faubourg means something similar to suburb and where streets get that word added to them one knows that one is outside the ancient walls of Paris.
The rise in the ground continued. I came to a confusingly major intersection of streets. It was the type of intersection that, until I have acquired the familiarity of numerous encounters with it, always befuddles me. It took me years to figure out Etoile Charles de Gaul, and years more to navigate the intersection in front of Gare Montparnasse. I stopped and stood and stared. I hadn’t heard any spirits to that point. Since I had been at it for nearly an hour, I wondered if it was worth continuing. The intersection that I was looking at had all the aspects of other similar ones I have encountered. Those have always led after their encounter to – sometimes hours – of aimless wandering to no apparent immediate or personal advantage. The only ultimate good things that have ever come out of those wanderings has been that, sooner or later, I have found something I could identify from the map, or that a Métro stop rose up out of the kludge of streets, like some phantasmic Brigadoon. Any Métro stop is always good news; one can get on at that stop and figure out from the map how to get home, no matter how many transfers it might take.
So I was pretty well on my way to giving up when I noticed something written on one of the arrow-without-tail-feathers direction signs.
“Parc Montsouris” it said.
“Park Mountain Mouse?”
“Park Mouse Mountain” I said, reversing the words.
It didn’t sound any better.
“Better”, I guessed, wasn’t the right word.
Maybe the “right” word would have been a string of words, shouted something like Peter Finch shouting over and over, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”. In my case the shout might have been “ I’m confused as hell and I want you to quit playing around with me with all this mouse stuff” (I was really either trying to forget what had happened at Deux Magots – or trying to remember what the mouse had told me that I should remember; I didn’t know which).
But I was at the embarkment of a hideously complex Paris intersection. No matter how much I wanted to, doing nothing wasn’t in the cards.
What was in the cards was that, as I tried to see what might be the name of the major cross street, I saw what it was. It was Boulevard Saint-Jacques.
I felt exonerated. My apparently misspoken street name to Nels and Lisa had basis in fact.
And I wondered if my exoneration might be some kind of sign – the confluence of two Saint-Jacques having been discovered by someone on a mission to see if there were, as someone that he had met in a Bistro had asserted, voices or spirits on that venerable way.
It was a lot to think about.
So I was at the indecipherably difficult to comprehend confluence of a bunch of Rues and Avenues, and one Boulevard, with a sign that seemed to be baiting me: “Parc Montsouris”; and I felt as if – considering the various events I had experienced since entering Brasserie Lipp twelve or so hours earlier – I were being subjected to some cosmic practical joke.
At the moment that that thought crossed my mind the situation got immediately worse.
“Jacques will lead you” clearly sounded in – my head? Or was it in my mind? Or was it in my spirit? I had no idea, but hear it I did. Or I would have sworn that I that I had heard it.
I couldn’t help thinking about Lisa talking about the spirits.
And that thought, and the oddness of it all – all of the events which had conspired to bring me to this place at this time - seemed to make resisting going on to Parc Montsouris an impossible thing to do. I couldn’t help being drawn into the spirit of the situation, no matter how self generated that spirit might have been.
So I kept going. I was intrigued by the thought of going to a park named Mouse Mountain, or Mountain Mouse – whichever.
The segment of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques that I then found myself walking entered into what seemed like a canyon. On my right was a wall that looked as if at least a part of it might have been built by the Romans. It had that Roman trademark: it was made of chunks of stone – limestone in this case - all ingeniously fitted together without mortar. Such walls all over the former Roman Empire still stand. The Tower of London is a good example. The wall I was following down on my right side was probably twelve or more feet high, and at its base was a distinctly more modern looking foundation of what appeared to be crudely poured concrete. That concrete made up about four feet of the total height of that wall. I wondered if some Roman wall had been somehow excavated underneath and backfilled with more modern, and probably inferior, engineering.
On my left, across Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques there was stack after stack of eight- story, flush-to-the-street apartments. Although much higher than the twelve foot or so wall on my side of the street, the net effect of those apartments was that of closing that side of the canyon and becoming a co-equal participant with the Roman wall in being a canyon down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques.
It was as if the centuries between them had decided to co-operate in the canyon illusion, and as if they themselves had so decided. Or perhaps it was as if they had decided to co-operate in revealing the fact that this trace had actually once, in times out of mind, been such a canyon.
That segment of Saint-Jacques was beginning to have an up-hillness to it.
Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques was clearly skirting a major mass of higher land – one might want to call it a hill or ridge – but it was also rising into that hill or ridge at the same time as it was was skirting it. A voice that sounded almost like what I perceived to be mine was saying in low tones “Rue Saint-Jacques in ancient times was a major animal trail skirting the lower part of a gradual rise leading away from the river.”
I pressed forward feeling a sort of exhilaration due to the additional effort required by the gradual rise of the land.
The exuberance of the exercise began to make the queasiness of the mousiness of the situation seem to be worth the trouble.
Somewhere not far ahead, I could see that the “canyon” was going to empty into a place of green, a place of trees, and a place that continued to rise off into the distance ahead of me in the general direction of Rue Saint-Jacques.
“It must be Parc Montsouris”.
As I came to the terminal point of the canyon, ahead of me, across a fairly wide avenue was an area of green and trees and late season flowers. The area from my vantage was of indeterminate size, but it was obviously big – very big. It stretched up the avenue to my left and up the avenue to my right. I was at a sort of point or a corner in the land that was the area of green and trees and flowers. At the tip of that point was a wide gated entry area. The gate was open. The gate was made of wrought iron, or some other robust-looking blackly durable kind of metal. Its vertical members all came to spear points painted with gilt. As far as I could see on either side of the gate, up the avenue to my left and up the avenue to my right the green-treed area with the late season flowers was enclosed by a guardian fence made of the same metal as the gate. Like the gate, all of all its vertical members that terminated in pointed, spear tips painted with gilt. The fence looked to be about ten or twelve feet in height.
When the light changed I crossed over and passed through the gate.
Immediately to my left, several hundred feet away was an arm of a small lake that stretched off to the left and disappeared around a kind of bend in the land that was at the base of an abrupt and impressively extensive rise in the land behind and above the lake. That rise in the land – a hill, or mound - like the fenced boundary of the park, extended as far as I could see through its complement of trees and bushes, to the left and to the right. It was a central prop in the theatre of the Parc with the flanking fences serving as a sort of gilt tipped gallery of sentinels. The lake was a kind of chubby crescent skirting the base of what was probably the “Mont” of Montsouris.
Not knowing what the overall lay of the land might be, and not having an agenda to pursue if I had had any idea of the terrain’s configuration, and being one who always has liked lakes, I took a left turn after the gate and began to walk the shore of the small body of water.
As I had thought at first glance, the lake had a relatively level shoreline on the side that I was walking. It was a shoreline whose levelness continued from the path I was on out to the thickets of bushes and very old and very large trees that shrouded the inside of the Parc where the iron gilt tipped fence established the Parc’s official terminus.
Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques outside the fence, outside the Parc, across the boulevard, continued that optical illusion of apparent flatness, belying the fact that it pitched gradually downward back toward the river. I could vouch for that pitch having just had a brisk and heart rate incrementing ascent up its spine to the gate of the Parc.
In stark contrast to that side of the lake was the other side. There was a walking path hugging the shoreline of the lake on that other side. At its outer edge the land began an immediate and abrupt rise. That rise stretched the entire shoreline of the lake, embracing it closely – immediately beyond the path - at all points along the interior concave curve of the chubby crescent. The lake was probably in existence due to springs imbedded in the Mont, that were running downhill to the Mont’s base, where there must be a depression deep enough and fat enough to become the chubby crescent that was the lake.
The path along the shoreline on my side of the lake – the side that stretched apparently flat and level to the fence and beyond - hugged the outer, convex, curve of the crescent. As the path passed beyond the shoreline of the lake it continued to bend beyond the outer tip of the lake’s crescent and it began to rise, becoming a part of the Mont. That rising land area, with its path topping, became the left flank – as I was facing it – of the Mont. Thus the Mont must have had, I surmised, a summit somewhere more or less directly above the center of the crescent, and must stretch in a declining sweep of land back into the direction of the rising path. Where the right flank of the Mont might be I couldn’t tell, but I surmised that it must be at an angle in the Parc such that a perpendicular through it, intersecting the Mont’s horizontal axis, would neatly bisect the gate into two neatly equal chunks.
I walked the entire periphery of the crescent, from the level side, around to and along the side from which the Mont sprang upwards and continued out to the wide level area immediately inside the gate. Along the way I saw Mallard ducks, Canadian geese, a large tribe of Paris seagulls, lots of goldfish lurking barely below the surface and a blue heron on the prowl for some of those goldfish.
It was an extremely pleasant walk. The plaisance of that walk almost made the fact that I had just walked halfway across Paris, down Rue Saint-Jacques, in search of – something – something that I had not found, to be not so vexing. I had not found something, that is, unless one counted the voice at the intersection, and the oddity of the name of the Parc. I moved on to the right side of the Parc, well inside the gate and toward what I believed must be the right flank of the Mont.
I hadn’t really believed that Jacques of the Lisa, Nels and Jacques triumvirate, had said he had heard things, or if he had so said, I didn’t believe that he actually had heard anything.
But the idea had been so entertaining, that I couldn’t resist the quest.
For some reason I felt drawn to that right flank.
As I continued along that path what must have been that right flank sloped off at a forty five degree angle to my direction of travel. Straight ahead was the right-periphery-of-the-Parc-hugging-iron-gilt-tipped-fence that I had seen when I had been outside across the avenue. Some distance inside that fenced periphery and up, and at the edge of another path – this was an area that was apparently the down-most, but still elevated part of the right flank – was a spectacular sight. It was a large, spreading, rather tall and quite rangy tree. It looked as if it might have been more at home on the Veldt.
But that tree was not on the veldt. It was on the lower right flank of the Mont and through its green leaves shone myriad spots of orange.
It was a large persimmon tree and it was beautiful.
I stood and looked at it for an extended period of time.
Finally I broke the spell of the persimmons and started up a branch of the path that seemed best suited to gain access to the Mont by way of his right flank.
As I walked up that branch of the path the land began a significant rise. I could see something that looked like a stone tower slightly to my right – the path was veering left – and an obvious elevational distance away from me.
“That must be the top of the Mont” I was thinking, when, on my left, an extremely charming expanse appeared. It was a little play park for children. Even at the early hour that I had gotten to the Parc there were already families out in it with the children gamboling and chirping, all over the paths.
And there was a little area dedicated to them and their parents. It had a variety of spring-driven animal toys, mounted in concrete stanchions. There were a number of cozy little areas with clusters of concrete legged benches for parents and children to stop and rest, and, perhaps eat glaces on hot summer days. And there was a huge blue green-needled evergreen providing shade.
I stood there and watched the activities within that area.
But then I turned to continue up the Mont. As I did so, I saw something that I was unable to imagine having not seen before I had become engaged with watching the charming children's area. I couldn’t imagine not having seen it before because it was directly across from that children’s area. And the thing was so “something” in the context of the mission that I had set out upon that morning that I could not imagine not having seen it immediately upon nearing its location on the right side of the path across from the play park.
But I had missed it somehow.
It was a metal building about twelve feet square. It had a segmented steel sliding door as a front. It extended from a place underneath the overhang of the roof down to the outside counter that jutted out horizontally about two thirds of the way down from the roof. That sliding door was closed. The building was about as tall as it was square. I could see, even from across the path by the children’s park, where I still was, that it sat on a square cobble stone pad, a pad that extended three or four feet beyond its own edges. It was enclosed by a low iron fence. Everything was painted green. There were words on the top left: “BARBE A PAPA CONFISERIES” and to the right: “BOISSONS GLACES”. It was a refreshment stand. It was closed at that moment. I went across to it to examine it more closely. I was drawn to perform that examination by the firm feeling that this might be the “something” that Nels and Lisa had sent me in search of.
In the middle of the top of the external overhanging front face of the roof, that area from inside and beneath which the sliding door went up and down, between “BARBE A PAPA CONFISERIES” and “BOISSONS GLACES” was printed “UNE SOURIS VERTE”. The dot above the “I” in “SOURIS” was a small stylization of a green mouse.
The sun was not too high in the sky yet. It was behind Une Souris Verte, and slightly elevated to its upper right. The building was beautifully painted for an industrial strength creation. The paint was a dark, really pretty color of green. It was glossy to the point of being attractive but not to the point of being garishly shiny. And the paint was either a first-ever coat, or someone had done a massive job of preparing the metal for a re-paint. The surface was completely, immaculately smooth, and that smoothness only enhanced the glossiness of the surface.
All of that smoothness, glossiness and dark greenness apparently gave the sun, at least at its then current angle, some assistance toward casting a magical spell of light. Because the whole building, and, really, its entire enclosure, including the iron fence seemed to be shedding light outward as if some inner glow from the thing was in need of escape.
I stood there and stared.
The greenness of the thing was reinforced by the shrubbery immediately surrounding it and, more subtly, by the backdrop of huge trees, which were still in a surprisingly healthy state of greenness for December.
I was, for some reason, happy to be looking at the thing. As I continued to look, I gradually became aware of a different color from amidst all that green.
From where I stood in relation to the small green building, the building presented itself to me as being slightly rotated on its axis. (I was not standing face on to the front of the structure.) I was looking simultaneously at its left side and its front. That front side was on the right side of my field of view. On my left was the left side of the building. I was at the apex of the triangle that those two sides constituted from my point of view.
In the part to the left there was another color.
It was gold. Or it was golden. Or most probably, as I narrowed my point of view into that small area, it was brass.
Like the green, the gold color was glowing in the backlight from the partially risen sun. I walked up to a place as close as I could get, held back from being as close as I wanted to be by the low iron fence, and looked to see what it was.
It was, as I had thought, a chunk of brass. It was the handle, faceplate and lock of the door that was on that side of the building. That must have been how the proprietor of the place entered his place of business and rolled up, from the inside, the vertical rolling front access door so that he could pass his glaces, boissons and such to his customers. I use the description “chunk” for the handle, lock and faceplate, because, while being extremely horizontally svelte, probably an inch or less in width, and not over six inches vertically measured, with a gracefully simple lever handle, the relief of the apparatus measured from the surface of the door to its face was probably three quarters of an inch. It was a graceful set milled out of a chunk. Both grace and mass were a part of its appearance.
And it was beautiful deep yellow, burnished with enough texture to keep it from being shiny, but not enough for it to be dull; and it glowed.
As I looked at that golden latch I felt like a child, or like a primitive from some other place or time.
I looked at it for some – indeterminate – period of time. As the sun became less of an oblique angled backdrop to the scene and as the golden glow became more of a beautifully golden piece of brass set upon a marvelously smooth and deeply green palette I realized that I had an urge to touch the thing.
The brass was so damn pretty that I wanted to touch it.
By pushing up as tightly as I could to the iron fence – it came up to my mid stomach – and bending over, I was able to put the tips of the fingers of my outstretched hand on the lever. It felt nice.
Nice is a vapid word. But elevating a trivial experience in a Park in Paris named Mountain Mouse to some cosmic level by saying something such as “and when I touched it, I became immediately aware of the things of which Nels and Lisa had spoken” would be a bit too much.
But something did happen.
I apparently had put enough inadvertent pressure on the lever that, since it was unlocked, it rotated.
And the door opened.
And I looked inside. There wasn’t much to see. That was because the sun couldn’t get around the corner of the building and illuminate its guts. The sun had to stay where he was, and where he was wasn’t conducive to seeing inside the little Souris Verte on that December morning.
So I crawled over the not very high fence and went in.
It wasn’t what I would have expected. Not what I would have expected at all.
I was somewhere else, and when I looked back in the direction from which I had come – the open door with the glowing brass handle mechanism – I was still in that somewhere else. The place from which I had come through the door was no longer there. In its place was a somewhere else. That somewhere else looked as if it were contiguous with the place into which I had just entered. That place appeared to be partway up a fairly significant outcropping of a massively upturned piece of the earth. It was a major ridge, and I was in its approximate middle, laterally, and at an approximate halfway point up its relief, as best as I could tell from trying to see through the cover of forest, and in the declining light of the day.
And the Souris Verte building, the door with brass latch, the iron fence and all the other components of the building and its compound were gone.
In their place, I was out on that ridge.
And it was cold.
And, I realized, I had been able to see through a massive forest with ease.
And I realized that that ease had come about due to the fact that the trees had no leaves. The trees that had been there moments before had had leaves, but the trees where I was now didn’t have leaves. There were many more trees where I had found myself than there had been where I had come from moments before. And, as big as those that had been there moments before had been, these were massively larger.
They were mostly oaks.
It appeared to be the dead of winter. It appeared to be the dead of winter on a cold, but beautifully clear late afternoon.
I wondered where and maybe when that afternoon that I had just entered might be as it went through its gradual wind-down to darkness.
Not knowing what else to do, I started to climb the rest of the way up the ridge. If I got to its top, so I thought, perhaps I would be able to get some idea of where I was, and perhaps I would be able to see where I was in relation to the rest of Paris.
It took a grueling three quarters of an hour to reach the top. It should have taken less time. It would have taken less time if I hadn’t gotten myself rim rocked and had needed to retrace the whole way back to where I had started. The second attempt almost ended in another rim rocking, but I was able to sort my way around it.
All of that took time. And time, it was turning out, was daylight. And taking time, and therefore taking daylight, meant that as I gradually ascended for a better view, the ability to have that better view was equally gradually being taken away by advancing darkness.
By the time I had reached the top everything below me was shrouded in a cover of darkness unlike any I have ever encountered. It was not that there wasn’t any light, now that the sun had completely set, and was on his way to the other side of the world. It was, instead, as if some light absorbing substance had settled upon all things below me, absorbing every last tiny shred of visibility that should have been there even in darkness. I had never seen darkness to which my eyes didn’t “get used to” allowing some degree of penetration, or allowing some level of seeing.
But I was on top of a ridge that was lost below in that kind of darkness. It was a darkness that my eyes weren’t getting used to.
Since the stars – I had never seen so many; the milky way alone was a brilliant smear of light across the sky – were out they shed something resembling light on the top of the ridge where I was. That rendered some limited ability to see what was immediately around me. As the moon rose it added its light.
And that was a good thing.
It was a good thing because it looked as if I were going to spend the night up there, and being able to see, albeit only marginally, I was hoping would allow me to make as much of a good thing as it was possible to make out of, what seemed to me to be, a really bad situation.
Absently I reached into the pocket of my jacket and felt something. I had forgotten. I had put my little LED flashlight in my pocket on the way out of the apartment. I have no idea why I did that, but it was with a good deal of thankfulness to the fates that I discovered it.
There was an absolutely huge oak. I had seen it from below when it was still not dark, when I had first set out to scale the ridge. It must have been fifteen feet or more in diameter, if such a symmetrical term as diameter could be applied to a thing that was gnarled in manners that are almost beyond description. Gnarled though it was, the trunk nonetheless was closer to a circle than it was to a triangle, or to a star or trapezoid, so diameter was the size elaborating description that seemed to best apply.
By the time I got to the base of the tree, darkness had completely descended on all that was below me. But up there in the star glow I could make out the splay of the tree’s roots. With my little flashlight I was able to see much better, albeit in a very narrow field of view.
There was enough room between any two of the roots, and enough elevation on any of them to provide some degree of shelter if not comfort. It would be like lying down in an open ended triangular box, with sides about two feet high.
The ground was covered with deep layers of fallen leaves from the current and apparently endlessly previous seasons. While not exactly bone dry, I was able to scoop up armfuls of them and fill the area between my two chosen roots with stuff that was at least soft, and not outright wet. Apparently it had been dry and rainless for a spell.
I crawled into my makeshift bedchamber, face up to the Milky Way and turned off the LED. It wasn’t until I had been lying there for a while that I realized I had made an unfortunate, mildly uncomfortable choice of location for my bed. It turned out that I was on the windward side of the tree. I knew that because not long after getting all tucked into the leaves a chill wind commenced. It wasn’t particularly strong, just a mild nighttime breeze. But it was chilly, especially to one with only leaves for bedclothes. But it wasn’t uncomfortable enough for me to stumble around in the dark and try to re-create my bed on the opposite side of the tree.
So I stayed put. As I sometimes do - and always for no apparent reason - I started singing to myself. And the choice of song had an equal lack of apparent reason.
I’ll build me a castle
Way up to the sky
I’ll find me a rainbow
Find it bye and bye
“Why did I choose this song?” I wondered. Then I remembered the YouTube clip I had seen on the airplane.
I contemplated how strange it would seem to anyone in the area to hear someone singing in the middle of the night on the top of a ridge in the middle of nowhere. “What if someone heard me?” That elicited a deep belly laugh. “You really are going nuts!”
I sang the rest of the first verse.
As I look in her green eyes
At her wondrous black hair
With the red glinting highlights
I can’t even dare
“Why did I sing the pirate words?”
“Maybe they are better?”
I pondered those questions as I continued humming when the darkness surrounding me was invaded by a portion of even darker darkness. It was as if a veil had dropped into the space my eyes were trying to probe as they stared into space. The veil didn’t fill the whole area. It was a sort of blob of more intense darkness than that which occupied the rest of the space.
And I had a sudden overwhelming feeling of being watched. The feeling was so intense that it drove a sharp pang of fear through me. Without thought, but on reflex I grabbed the LED and pushed the butt switch. The light came on but it was in cycle mode so the thing threw a high frequency stream of intense blinks of light.
Then the feeling of being watched passed as did the illusion of the veil of darker darkness. Feeling somewhat sheepish I turned off the LED and burrowed as deeply into my leaf bed as I could. I began to feel a little warmer. And I began to drowse. I must have finally gone to sleep.
And I guess I dreamed.
Or it must have been that I dreamed. Although the events leading up to my having gone to sleep on a pile of leaves between two immense roots of an even more immense oak tree would seem to, in their own right, qualify for dream – or nightmare – status already. But those had all started from a reference point in the real here and now. This dream lurched out of nowhere.
I found myself in a place that appeared to be a small level plateau, with a small clearing on its top. There appeared to be in the center of the clearing a dwelling made of sod and furs and sticks, held in place by numerous flat stones at its base.
There was a hole in its top out of which wisped a tendril of smoke. Apparently this dream had allowed me to get to the source of the tendril of smoke rather than running me all over hell’s half acre as had the previous dream that had brought me to this place and then dropped me at the bouquiniste. .
From somewhere behind the dwelling someone emerged.
It was a woman.
And, contrary to what would have been expected from such a primitive site, she was not a hag or a rustic.
She was a beauty.
Not that she would have been described in any sense to have been modern. But she was beautiful in a way that would transcend any time or any place. And anyone who might have had the privilege of describing her would, I am certain, have used the word beautiful.
She was wearing a light beige garment that could best be described as a muumuu that lacked a muumuu’s shapelessness. The curves of the woman were revealed because the garment was more form fitting than a muumuu. But it was a one piece garment. It appeared to be made of something that could have been cashmere. That jangled. A woman in a cashmere garment coming from the back side of a hovel made of skins and sticks and rocks seemed almost too odd even for a dream.
But that was what I seemed to be seeing.
She had hair that had the look of having been recently washed and cared for. It was the deep black with red chestnut overtones color of hair that I had first noticed to be a hair color when I had first come to France. I had probably seen it previously somewhere else, but it had never been in enough dominance for me to have taken note of it.
In France it had been dominant.
And this woman had that color of hair.
That hair was gathered at the back by a comb of some sort. It looked, from my not very advantageous viewpoint as if it might be made of flint. I was able to know about the stay that she was using for the gathering of her hair because as she bounded – with alarming vigor – toward me, her hair swung back and forth around her face – front to back and front to back. It abetted her beauty.
And then she was immediately in front of me.
“We don’t have long” I heard in my head.
She had not opened her mouth. I had “heard” the words as I had always heard my own thoughts; I had always talked to myself in my head. But I had never had the experience of hearing someone else’s thoughts in my head.
“Pardon?” I said.
“The leaders are going to come from the Island tomorrow and take me to the killing place.”
I didn’t know what to say. So I tried to think.
“What would Pop Eye do"?”
“Pardon?!” she thought.
“The leaders – who are they?”
“The ones from the island. The ones who sent you away, who cast you to the water to meet your fate on your own without the protection of the tribe.”
The dream was clearly out of control even by the most extreme standards of making allowances for the wild ebbings and the wild flowings of even the most unhinged sort of dream.
“They listened to your story and decided that it boded Ill - that it was evil - and so that it boded ill for the tribe for you to remain.”
“Are you sure it was me?”
“And you were banished with nothing but your boat.”
I sat down on a rather large rock outcropping and looked at her. A tiny breeze blew some of her hair across her face. She brushed it back with her left hand. Her index finger had some kind of twist of what looked like white leather, but leather that was very thin and finely cured. It appeared to be more like silk than like rawhide. It was sort of a ring. She turned abruptly in the direction of the dwelling.
“Please, you must follow me.”
She lifted what appeared to be a very beautifully tanned white toned skin, which I hadn’t seen in my first look at the structure – perhaps it was of the same type as the index finger adornment; it appeared to be far from primitive in finish and quality. It had been covering the entrance to the dwelling. The opening was slightly vertically higher than she was tall. She stopped momentarily with the flap lifted up toward the smoke hole, looked at me and smiled. The smile would have been a sort of non-sequitur if it hadn’t been composed of such an element of – I could only call it – relief (“relief from what?” went through my mind the moment I perceived it) and, somehow the communicating of that relief to me via the configuration of that smile had seemed completely, appropriately natural to the situation. I couldn’t even begin to conclude what that “situation” might be, but the smile seemed appropriate to me at some much deeper than conscious level of observation.
She disappeared into the dwelling.
I continued sitting on the rock trying to make myself wake up. She may have smiled with a look that made some deep seated sense to me, but it hadn’t banished my wish to be elsewhere, and perhaps elsetime. I had to, for the sake of whatever grip on what I considered to be reality that I still possessed, continue to assume that I was in the midst of the most richly and imaginatively staged dream of my life.
I couldn’t really be seeing, feeling and doing what I seemed to be seeing, feeling and doing. I just couldn’t be.
But I was.
The flap had dropped when she had entered the structure. It suddenly popped back up and open.
“Please, we only have a few hours.” And she smiled that same smile again and gestured for me to enter with her free hand, which was the hand without the adornment.
So I obeyed her.
I had to squeeze by her and brush up firmly against her to enter, since she was holding the flap up for me to make that entrance. The material of her garment was every bit as soft and yielding as I would have expected from what appeared to be cashmere, or if not cashmere, its functional equivalent. And it exuded warmth. It was warmth so profound that it was not merely a tactile sensation. It also carried a taste-like, and a smell-like component. The taste was apricots. The smell was bachelor buttons. The composite was magic.
I pressed past her.
The interior was bathed in a soft glow which was enough illumination to see the sparse furnishings of the place.
But the prominent item that I immediately saw gave me an explanation for and a validation of the fabric of the woman’s garment.
On the farthest side of the roughly circular structure that I had entered, bathed in the glow that illuminated everything, but also backlit redly by the glow from the guttering fire was a loom. It was made of irregularly shaped sticks – stout sticks, but sticks nonetheless – and was held together by rawhide (at least it looked as if it were rawhide) thongs that were deployed in an almost industrial age level of uniformity and intended durability: where they held structural members in place and together they consisted of multiple winds. It looked as if they all had the same number of winds, perhaps six, and were tied off doubly, with the first tie being a square knot securing the winds, and the second being a redundant loop back around that tie down, and also secured with a square knot. The ends of these tie downs had been snubbed down to very short protrusions. The ties had each, obviously involved much longer strands which had allowed the loops and ties to be made with ease, and which were then cut down to only the amount of strand necessary to retain the tie downs purchase on themselves. I couldn’t help likening what I was seeing to later time things known as rivets, not because there was any visual similarity, but because of the standardized iterative identicalness of that series of fastening mechanisms.
I would not have known what the thing was if it had not been for the fact that I had seen a similar device once in Paris in the Musée des Arts et Métiers. That loom had been a Twentieth Century African tribesman’s creation, and its workmanship had been substantially inferior to that of the device I was looking at, but it had also been a loom. That African loom had made the deep impression necessary to cause me to remember it in a dimly glowing hut in a dream from which I couldn’t escape. I remembered it because it had been in a display case next to a working model of a medieval loom. That medieval device had been gigantic. And it had also been essentially incomprehensible to me, as to how it worked. But I had been at least able to identify its major working parts. To my amazement at the time, the African stick loom had had all the same major components as its gigantic medieval predecessor.
So also did the one I was looking at in the dwelling with the tendril of smoke in the clearing above the river in a dream.
I thought to myself “I wonder what she uses to make the yarn?”
“Dog” she thought back. I had forgotten that she read my mind and I hers.
On the periphery of the structure forty five degrees back from the loom a very large dog-like animal raised his head, looked at me with his orange eyes and said – not thought; said – “woof”.
“That’s Moustache” I heard in my head.
“Odd Name for a dog.”
I scanned the interior of the structure to see what my imagination had fed this dream in the way of furnishings.
I saw the loom. I saw the fire pit with glowing but dying embers. I saw the dog – hardly a furnishing, but certainly a presence. I saw a low to the floor structure that appeared to be her bed. It was directly across from the dog’s area and its head (there were creations that looked to be pillows, so it must be the head) was flush with the outer wall of the structure, and its foot (opposite from the pillow end) extended out into the room toward the fire pit. It was rather large, I thought, for one as small as she.
And I saw something else.
I didn’t really see that something else. It was presented to my conscious as dreams always present things. It was there and it, as far as the narrative of the dream was concerned was the most natural of things to have been presented, no matter how much of a non-sequitur it might be to a non dreaming mind. What I saw, after I had examined the bed was that sort of thing to the extreme.
It was a door. It was a door that glowed through its ancient pressed glass panes, and it was a door that had a cut glass knob. I had an excruciatingly intense feeling of recognition. And then it was gone – both the door and the feeling of recognition.
But it had been replaced admirably.
Again a dream logic segue had occurred.
I was making love with the woman on her bed, under the watchful eye of Moustache. Dreams always seem to cut out useless time consuming transitions from one scene to the next. This one had outdone itself.
That activity went wonderfully on and on and on and then it was over. Then we were finished. I lay with her beside me on the palette and tried to become settled, tried to become rational, tried to separate the real from the imagined. But her presence, her feel, her scent and her sound would not allow such to happen.
I had passed a gate through which I was sure I would never fully return. Dream though it seemed and dream though it must be - judged by any normal measurement - I nevertheless knew it was no dream.
Better said, I wanted it not to be a dream so intensely that “wanted” got replaced by “knew”.
We sat up side by side, arms loosely around one another. She handed me something and thought “take this. You are going to need it sooner than you may realize.” It was a piece of flint.
Then she moved even closer to me and ran her hand along the side of my face in a caress that was soft and warm beyond anything that I had ever experienced. Except that it had a feeling of deep and ancient familiarity. And it had a feeling of rightness.
“I am afraid” she thought. “But I have you.” Neither of those statements made any real sense, but neither did they lessen the feeling of rightness.
She looked at me with a look that elevated those feelings to an even higher pitch. The total combined package brought an even deeper feeling of knowing this was no dream. I had seen that look before – many times.
I just couldn’t remember where or when.
“This is where we began” she thought looking at me from as close as it is possible for one person to look at another person and not be touching that person’s face with one’s own face. She had green eyes. The green eyes opened another feeling of extreme recognition. That new feeling dredged back the feeling of recognition that the door had generated and became linked with that feeling in a manner that caused that linkage to become a fleeting shred of fact. That fleeting shred seemed as if it should somehow be deeply meaningful.
But I couldn’t focus on it.
I really couldn’t focus on anything.
And it was hard to comprehend what it was that my companion was thinking to me because I was hearing someone saying increasingly adamantly “bon chance Monsieur; bon chance Monsieur”. And there was a pudgy brown hand thrusting a man’s gold wedding ring into my face.
I was about to angrily brush past her – the pigeon drop lady – when she faded from existence and I awakened with a startled snort. The partially finished glass of calvados was still on my bed stand. It was, I could see on the face of my digital alarm clock, 0942 and 21 degrees Celsius.
“What the hell” I said, and reached for the glass of calvados. As I reached I knocked something off the stand that I hadn’t seen. It hit the floor with a quite solid, almost sharp sound that said that whatever the thing was it had some heft to it.
I reached over and down scanning the floor for whatever it was. When I saw it there was a feeling of a shred of fact or facts becoming a meaningfully concatenated complete feeling of some sort of reality.
The fact was that the thing was a chunk of flint. That was the shred. The reality was that the dream had been, in fact, real.
I picked up the flint and examined it. It looked like a normal piece, the same as could be found on any of the non-paved gravel paths of Paris, or anywhere else in France. On my I-am-a-totally-sane-and-normal-human-being level of self perception, I had no idea where it had come from. But on another, less sane, and increasingly important level of consciousness, I had every idea of where it had come from.
That duality of knowing and not knowing where the flint had come from was both engaging and unsettling. On balance that duality converged into a desire not to think about it anymore. It converged into a desire to completely forget about the flint and everything that I could, if I wanted to remember it, connect to that flint.
I wanted out of the reality of the dream. I needed to be out of the reality of the dream. I would do anything to get back to the other side of wherever it was that I had slipped.
But I kept staring at the flint. And a vision of green eyes as close to mine as could be possible and still be separate passed across my mental picture place. And there seemed to be other images about to follow when I put the flint back on the night stand and took a sip of calvados.
As calming as not thinking about something, combined with the wonderfully apple-scented draught of calvados, both in combination, were, I couldn’t repress a mind spray of thoughts of other things. I couldn’t avoid thinking about the events after I had left Brasserie Lipp the previous evening, parting company with Nels and Lisa.
That parting with my banquette mates had been almost as eventful, in retrospect, given the things that I was choosing to forget, as the entire prior discussion had been. That parting, brief though it had been, added an increment of something that contributed to my difficulty to forget.
As we had been reaching the obvious conclusion of our chatty follow-on to the Rue Saint-Jacques discussion there had been a brief lull when none of us was speaking.
That silence was broken by Nels.
“Or maybe Seattle.”
He was beginning to occupy for me a middle ground that almost never manifests itself in my life. It is a middle ground that lies between a person who is irritating and a person who is fascinating.
How could anyone have such single minded and single threaded concentrated devotion to a hobby as to keep processing data long after the subject that the data pertained to had been passed by in the face of larger and deeper topics?
But apparently he could because he was.
Lisa was next. “There is a display of artifacts from the Stone Age at the Louvre. Amazing how important flint once was.”
A few more words passed; we paid our checks; we exited; and we went our separate ways.
“Odd how, at the time, that comment had been at best an interesting non-sequitur, at worst it had been an abject inanity” passed across my mind.
I took another sip of the calvados, looked at the glass, thought about getting more, and decided to postpone that decision. I didn’t want to start being a morning drinker.
The encounter at Deux Magots, after I had left Lipp, on top of the walk down Rue Saint-Jacques that I apparently had dreamed rather than having actually taken, and that walk’s various also-dreamed side-trips was disquieting beyond my ability to ignore. It strained beyond my ability to apply the just forget it approach to dealing with those occurrences.
I could not help calling back the events of the late previous evening. I could not help thinking about them and wondering the what; wondering the where; wondering the why of them.
Really, I couldn’t help wondering how.
I reached for the calvados, looked at the flint, and then looked beyond the flint.
There was a second piece of flint almost on the outer edge of the stand.
I felt a twinge of pain in my left hand middle finger. I looked and wondered about the dried blood.