When she turned around on the Rue Montmartre, when you kissed and held each other and ran off into the night and vowed you would never leave. Ten years later you realise that that is what this is all about: the friend’s apartment in Paris, the cocktails and the dancing, the whole trip designed to recapture that perfect moment from a decade ago. It reminds you of Sartre, of Antoine Roquentin and Anny failing to live up to their own expectations in Tangier, the present crushed between nostalgia and aspiration and the fear that once it’s gone it’s gone and there’s only you.
Here it was though: the firelight on the carpet, her green dress on the back of a chair, the make-up box open on the windowsill. A mascara brush stood upright, silhouetted like a bizarre tree against the Parisian skyline. The scene waited for her, ma belle Marguerite, to animate the room with speech, perfect movement and love. Everything hung, sodden with poignancy, poised to lead you off on a spiral of clever-sounding thoughts if only you would acknowledge them, but not this time. You remain focused on the effort to let immediacy fill you up with the smell and the texture and the taste of her skin. If only she would return.
In a shuffle of keys and carrier bags she enters the room, takes off her hat and shakes her hair out: a glorious lion’s mane of blonde and dark roots.
“Everywhere’s closed, all I could get was a couple of bottles of this white, hope it’s not too grim.” She throws herself on the sofa and cuddles up, her nose is freezing against your cheek. “Mmm that fire’s lovely. Are you alright? Having a little think?” The question reduces the landscape of your thoughts to abstract nothing, but you persevere all the same.
“Yeah, just – don’t you ever worry about us? Worry that we’ll never be as great as the past or our imaginary futures? Nothing seems substantial enough.” Badly articulated. Sounded more consequential in your head. Out of nowhere she slaps you round the head with your copy of La Nausée and laughs. Her irreverence irritates you.
“Quel connard! I leave for five minutes and you start listening to this idiot.” She beats you mercilessly with the book until you both are in hysterics. Looking deep into her gentle, chalky-blue eyes you must, again, swallow your pride and admit she is right. The poignant philosophical angst in your head is, as usual, laughable out loud. Tucked in the crook of your arm, her leg drawn up over yours, she is your voice of reason: the beautiful, spontaneous point of truth that you always return to.
“Mon sauveur you always rescue me from myself, I love you so much.”
She’s tracing patterns on your stomach. “Stop being a twat, it’s like I’ve always said, all abstract masculine angst is basically due to three things: being hungry, being tired or…” she pauses as her hand slips under your waistband, “not getting any.” Her speech punctuated as she kisses your neck. Goosebumps. “Now in Sartre’s case he found himself enthralled by that big, bad feminist de Beauvoir. I bet she gave him, comment dit-on? Les couilles bleus. Don’t go off and write something like him, stay right here and write something playful, something fun.” She lets the word hang in the air and you close your eyes. You aren’t going anywhere, you’re right here with the soft cotton of her dress, the curve of her waist, her heady perfume and the fire filling your nostrils. The blues in her eyes open up to you one by one, from cornflower and grey-blue smoke to the turquoise of the ocean and the inky night sky, until the whole cosmos draws you in. Now is not the time for limp abstractions, now you worship your very own piece of the sublime.
The kiss. The delicate smoothness of saliva allowing lips to touch, to barely touch. Mutual, those soft, moist lips glancing off each other, tongue tips touching. You are conscious that your eyes are still open: the warmth of her cheek, the skin full of taut promise. In your mind’s eye the kiss conjures a clean, white room full of warm sunlight. The furniture is elegant curves, wholly satisfying in their fullness as they sit just out of reach. The refined exactness of the kisses is echoed in the design and the word ‘perfection’ dances like smoke around the room. Again the tips of your tongues meet, you pull her closer and your bellies touch, an enveloping warmth of soft flesh on flesh and suddenly a surge of pure flame engulfs the room, the opposite perfection of all-consuming passion. Her dress is off and your hand runs over the smooth warmth of her body, all over, smoother and warmer until you come to rest between her legs and she gasps that same gasp and you slow down. You savour her pleasure at each tiny movement, building and building until her hips push hard against yours and her body moans to rip off the underwear and fuck her right there on the floor and you’re full of the moment and the lust and there’s no room left in your heads or your bodies or Paris for anything other than this feeling.
Until she speaks.
“Could you fetch a glass of wine?”
Your lips part and you look at her blankly. The sublime drains away.
“Are you taking the piss?” you have to ask.
“What?” Your frantic kisses gradually subside and you roll onto your back. Is it her irreverence for the beauty of the moment or the ache in your erection that really irritates you? As the sublime drains from your head it makes a funny gurgling noise and you chuckle. That’s all it ever was. Not getting any. Les couilles bleus.
In the kitchen, the wine is truly grim. It makes you smile.
When you return, she is sat gazing at the fire. Her underwear has been discarded (your reward) and now there is nothing to obscure the stunning proportions of her back, the silhouette of a soft, round breast. In the firelight her skin looks exquisite – you had never been able to describe it: a kind of rich, golden, honey cream. Good enough to eat.
The way she sits, one leg tucked under her, creates a deep crease between the top of her leg and hip. You had never noticed it before but it seems strangely arousing, two beautiful curves meeting in that channel that leads between her belly and her thigh to that sweet, moist, tantalising… By the time she turns around you already have a full, hard erection, but you pretend to be pissed off anyway.
“I’m sorry baby, are you going to be grumpy because I spoilt your moment of transcendent truth?” She comes to meet you on all fours. You both notice the copy of La Nausée and you mimic Anny’s words.
“You have to make an effort, you do see how beautiful this moment could be?” She giggles and looks wryly at your erection.
“That’s the thing about cocks” she says, kissing its length, “you always know what they’re really thinking.”