Thursday, November 17, 2016

Shakespeare & Co. - 'CAUSE JIM IS ALIVE!

Maggy and I arrive at dusk to the graying necropolis, and follow the little spray-painted markers to find two young girls smoking dope, sitting Indian style on the memorial, facing each other.  One of them is weeping.  They're American, dressed nearly alike in flowing dresses fanned out about them. The young girl with the joint wears a white T-shirt and beads with a silly wool hat. She is really striking. The other, the one who weeps, has on only a Levi jacket appliqued with skeletons and Grateful Dead roses. The jacket isn't buttoned but once and she's exposed.  She leans toward her friend and kisses her. It seems only friendly until the one in the beads extinguishes the cherry of the joint, places it in a shirt pocket, and kisses her friend as well, but harder and on the neck.  She puts her hand on the other's little breast. Still the one continues to weep. 

When we approach, the girls are indifferent to our presence until we exchange American hellos and find that it's easy to smile when one meets a compatriot.  Even the crying one smiles, in spite of her woe. She's crying, the other explains, because of what the world is like. Jim's head is gone. Someone's chipped away the marble bust or taken it whole to a place where it shouldn't be. My tears have all been used, but I share in her sorrow.  On the rough marble where the head once was, someone’s written, "'CAUSE JIM IS ALIVE." I point it out to everyone, and everyone feels better. Later Maggy will share with me the details she perceived.  I only noticed nipples, as if all girls don't have nipples, but Maggy instead will ask me later, "Did you notice that the one in the jean jacket tried to commit suicide?  Did you see the scars on her wrist? She was more than just a cutter." I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't noticed, although I do know that her nipples were very pink. At least I have my priorities straight, right?  I say, "Are you girls lovers?" and Maggy pokes me with an elbow as if to reply don't ask, but they both nod.

I point out my initials to Maggy and the lovers, and say, "This is mine."  Ellen's, of course, is missing. She'd carved a big E on Jim's ear. I feel okay about that. I'm glad that it's gone. Maggy and our new friends add to the random collection of graffiti and symbols. I light the joint that's been given me, and a few minutes later the colors I see are so much more like Crayola crayons. Cool. The day finalizes itself amidst distant black silhouettes of buildings and towering tombstones in excellent symmetry. Cool. I find myself dancing around the sepulchers, singing, "'Don’t you love her madly?'" I'm trying so hard for Maggy's sake, and sometimes it's even easy. "'Don't you love her ways?'"

The Dead Head in the Levi jacket tightrope-walks on the edge of a marble bench, and sings as well. "'Don’t you love her as she’s walking out the door?'" This verse could very well be symbolic and monumental and reeking with Ellen, but really, I'm fine. The gravity of loss has shifted away from the loss of Ellen and I feel nothing for her at this moment, but victimized.  For now though, I'll truck like a Grateful Dead bear, dancin' 'round Maggy who's carving her initials beneath mine.

The girls will leave Paris in the morning. We part friends, but we don't learn their names.  With Maggy there's always an adventure, always new friends to meet. I realize that where I see breasts, Maggy sees people. I should try even harder for her. When Maggy asks if I noticed the scars I say, "I think she's better now." I quote a poem to Maggy, who is so good for me: "'Come away, O human child!/  To the waters and the wild/ With a faery, hand in hand,/ For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.' It's Yeats,” I say. "The crying one reminded me of it."

Maggy sings, "'Look away, look away, look away, Dixieland.' Sorry, I don't know any poems." Once again she's told a joke. She's quite different than I had thought. I had thought her deadpan.

I hadn't comprehended it at the time, but we didn't go to Pere Lechaise for Maggy. Maggy went there for me; to bring me back to an Ellen spot; to keep me from shying away from Paris. We wander the streets now as Ellen and I had done, as if it were Maggy and I who had stayed in the Latin Quarter at that very American hotel without the bidet. And yet Maggy isn't one bit squeamish about washing out my stinky underwear at the bidet in our apartment.

- from Shakespeare & Co.