I sat there. I was thankful for clean shoes. I never thought that I would ever think something as vacuous as that, but that is what I thought. If I could, for once and for all, wake up from this dream – this nightmare – I could go back to having the more high level sorts of thoughts to which I have chosen to think, over much of my life, that I ought to be accustomed. But, given my current state, thankfulness for clean shoes was good.
I heard the clock in Hôtel de Ville striking two. I had been – somewhere – for almost four hours. I went to the casement and felt a slight breeze wafting up from below. There was a scent of blood on it. Hôtel de Ville looked like a fairyland castle from its place across and down river. It was lit up to a burnished gold. The river at its feet glittered with a shattered, burnished golden response to l’hôtel itself. But all of that was just stuff. It was just time killing irrelevancy that allowed me to pretend that things were as they had been before, that things were as they had been when I first came to this apartment and first reveled in the beauty of the river and its surroundings.
But things are not as before and they are never going to be as they were before.
So what now?
The answer to that question was obvious. “Calvados, I said.”
I had not, in my urgency for immediate relief to my hunger, done any grocery shopping. I had gone to Le Départ and that had been that. Events had taken their own personal, self directed course from the moment of my crossing on Pont Saint-Michel to the moments – briefly ago – of my return here.
There is a little store run by some really nice Arabs on Rue de Seine at Rue Visconti. It is almost always open. The one thing I knew that I had to have was calvados. If that store was open I was golden.
I crossed over Pont Saint-Michel, down the quais and down Rue Guénégaud to Rue de Seine. The grocery was open.
“Marhaba Monsieur !”
“Marhabteen a vous Monsieur !”
“Je voudrais des calvados, sil vous plais. “
“Tres bien monsieur.”
I retraced my steps to Quai aux Fleurs.
The entire walk back from the Arabs had been beset by an increasing feeling of vague uneasiness. I had the feeling that there was a thing that I needed to do, that must be attempted, without which whatever was going to happen next would be incomplete.
The closer I had gotten to Quai aux Fleurs the less vague and more clearly specific the feeling had become.
I didn’t know why but I knew that I needed to get down to the river.
At that point, just outside the door and across the quai from the apartment there is a set of stairs that go down to river level.
I hid the calvados in the poubelle that the City had provided at that location, hoping one of the myriad wandering vagrants who police those garbage receptacles with frequency and vigor would not find it before I returned.
But such was the intensity of feeling that I took the risk.
As I started down the stairs I had that now familiar feeling of slippage. I had the feeling that the stairs behind me, each as I vacated it for the next one down were disappearing. And as I passed the midpoint of the descent I saw a glow across the river and to the left in the direction of Le Louvre and in the direction of Pavillon de la Trémoille.
The glow was set against a backdrop of darkness such as I had only seen a few times before. Most recently I had seen it after entering the area behind the door on my floor. And the stars were there.
I started shouting, “Adrianna, Adrianna, Adrianna”
A voice said, “You can’t change it. You have already tried and have already failed.”
An intense feeling of relief engulfed me. I had no idea why being told that I had failed caused relief, but it did. Perhaps a deep sense of having tried was the source. I had no idea.
And things began to shift again.
The feeling of slippage passed with unexpected swiftness. I was standing on the cobble stone quai at river level, down from Quai aux Fleurs. Hôtel de Ville was glowing to my left and the red tail lights of cars, even at that early morning hour, flowed along the arterial across the river from me. Everything was as it had been just before I had come half way down the stairway. The glow and the primal darkness and the stars were gone.
I climbed the stairs back to the upper quai, retrieved my calvados; the street people had not had time to find it. I crossed the street, keyed my entry code and ascended the four flights to the apartment.
As I approached the other door I resisted the urge to re-enter it. It had returned to its normal glow.
“Why not?” I thought.
“Why?” came immediately on the heels of that thought.
So I took my calvados and went back into my apartment.
And, with my glass of calvados I opened the journal where a Plan de Paris had been placed as a bookmark.
I started reading again.