- Man is the most creative of liars.
- Be weary of people who say their formative years are behind them.
- Being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets.
- Authority without experience is fraud.
- We are what we say we are not.
- Achieve unconscious competence or don’t bother.
- Si j’avais l’occasion, je ne te ferais jamais aucun mal.
Je vois les nacres nuant sur la nuit et,
Le nectar nébuleux d’un temps rêvé,
Qui nourrit le néant au fond de mes pensées.
La mer maudite mélange
Les longs mugissements de mon âme
Avec les martèlements maléfiques.
Le frappement de la marée
Encage mon esprit,
Envoûte mon cœur,
Enlace mes souvenirs teintés.
The summer heat was weighing in on the apartment, as the sun beat down all day and warmed the interior. Anthony came running up the stairs, hardly breaking a sweat, taking the steps two at a time. He didn’t stop to look at the numbers as he wound his way to the fifth floor.
“Look, I’m sorry,” he said, banging his fist against the cold wood of the door. He rang the bell, tried the lock and searched for his phone in his pocket. Not one neighbour came to see what the fuss was about. He sent a quickly drafted message: ‘parle-moi en, je t’en prie’. No response. “Please,” he took to the door, “I didn’t mean to do it. It didn’t mean anything.”
Inside the apartment, Janet was carefully opening a bottle of wine. She could feel Anthony’s voice in the apartment, she could see his message on her phone, she knew they had to talk. She drank some wine, sat down and thought about men and their innocent cruelty.
‘Si je dois partir, je comprends. Je suis désolé, mais au moins parlons-en,’ he sent another text. He heard the phone ring inside, a silence and then footsteps calmly coming towards the door. Anthony stood back, ran a hand through his hair and readied himself. The latch came off and a small streak of light spilled onto the landing floor. She didn’t care to open the door fully; he could let himself in.
He left the apartment, his head feeling fuzzy, confused—relieved. He almost stumbled on the last few steps, but managed to grab onto the handrail. He walked down to the bar just around the corner, where he and Janet had smiled so often over the past year and a half. He sank a beer, and then another one. Then remembered he had some friends going out that night.
Forty-five minutes later he’s necking shots at a bar just by Pigalle. The wallet is out—fuck it, he says, it’s a Friday night. You know the feeling he’s going through. The moment you just want to forget that you are actually alive in a body; you want to become that cloud in trousers again, not just another sack of meat caught in the trap that Father Time left out in woods.
Was that man looking at him a bit funny? He’ll have to see to that, as he drained his glass before setting himself to confront a rival. ‘Tu regardes quoi, mec?’ ’T’es bourré, mec’. ‘J’suis pas bourré, mec.’ ‘Nique ta mère,’ came the blow. In an instant, Anthony launched a fist in his interlocutor’s direction, who ducked it and swung one in his ribs, standing back to see what his opponent would do next. Anthony was not satisfied. Trusting in the backing from his friends – who had already left for the next bar – he threw himself at the stranger. They wrestled around the tables for a moment, before the bouncer came over and separated them, threatening to call the police.
Anthony wakes up early on a Saturday morning,
Hears the calling of the birds.
But senses the fall waiting for him
at the other end of his coffee cup.
Getting to work and taking the metro.
Faking enthusiasm for the route ahead
He leans over crowded seats,
Breaking his promise not to make eye contact.
His pace is hesitating
As he sits himself down.
Walking into a bar to date a woman.
He’s had to come far,
And perhaps this is fate.
Forget about the songs of love and hate,
And celebrate the union of
this very Universality.
The metro leaves the terminus at midnight, crossing another as it begins its wild journey into the night.
The bright lights, ceramic blue and white, snatch against the tunes darkness of the wild night.
All around are little homes and warm dreams of orange flow and frankincense and heavy wine. Here my soul pervades the carriage and the rubber seals relax a little their guard.
But, snap, bang.
The stopping of the train. And a few moments of peace.
The flashing lights to determine the stop and away we go with the swinging rhythm of a freshly rolling metro train.
Spotlights on concrete walls, like traitors being shot in the night. Here we go again, one says to the next.
Rattle, rattle, rattle, slow down, break.
Announce the end and take a box. This is the last note.
The ads look into the sour space, questioning our presence.
Modern day gods of a millennial generation. You have to keep going until the end, my friend.
Look at the homeless, eating the scraps of yesterday’s chicken dinner, asking for pennies they know they won’t get.
Or at least some of them won’t. Others are crafty, a big pocket of heavy coin, begging poverting, making a way to live. Like we all are.
Stop. I consider the alarm sounds; the machine turns once more. I look ahead at the overhead lights, illuminating title heads that migght one day have been decapitated.
We live in a violent era. And I say welcome.
Line 4, 28th February 1935
Friday 26th October, 2018
I first met Cinna at Le Voltigeur, which means a type of soldier that is very mobile. There is a tree in the middle of a makeshift square and four or five watering holes surround it. Paths lead up from Père Lachaise; Place des Fêtes is just up a cobbled street and stairs where I once met Aphrodite; and the writing office used to be down off one of the roads. Of course, at that time, I knew nothing of this. And even now this area stands out only vaguely in my mind, because I have not lived here.
At this moment, I’m meeting someone else and the bar is closed; the awning is covered with moss and the beat up reality of the place appears an evidence. I remember being astounded that someone could dare drink two coffees in one sitting – I had been in a job where we regularly drank up to ten. An understanding over coffee and spider charts; and what things we have accomplished since!
Marva’s Way has the same beginning as On The Road and so far a portion of it has been dedicated to growing up in black communities in Alabama and Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s. While Cassady was enjoying his privilege by obliterating his mind, this woman was trying to get on in society.
The shocking results that the American education system was in decline from the second half of the 20th century are discussed and solutions are sought. I wonder if there is a link between the two – the counter culture of reckless selfishness soaked into the mainstream in the 60’s; and it’s pernicious effects would not be truly felt ’til the 1980s.
And I wonder what the state of the nation’s education is nowadays.
The Party’s Over
Never insult Paris in the presence of a burly Parisian.
Saturday 27th October, 2018
Walking from Passy to Châtelet via the Tuileries follows the Seine. Adèle made a music video there; in the 1920’s people seemed to have an equestrian statue fetish; Asian photographers are selling clothes and/or bridal services; Europeans are photoshopping girls. I stop in the Gardens to write a few lines, a grey cloud over the Louvre and the heavy presence of Culture hovering like lead.
The room of the intimate pub was crowded with both locals and tourists enjoying a pint of beer on a Friday night. The exterior of the stone walls of the small town and the lack of lamplight in the streets contrasted with the gaudy red and blue of the pub’s interior and the bright lipstick of some of the older patrons.
“I’ve never really been a cat person. I was much more into dogs; they’ve got more soul and loyalty than a cat. I’ve never been into cats.
“But about a year ago, this cat started coming up to our flat, looking scared and hungry. It would scratch at the door, wait for us to open it and then sit there, almost looking sorry that it had disturbed us. We started giving it some food and milk and whatever it is that you are supposed to give to cats and it carried on coming round to see us.”
Some living spaces are different to others; in big cities, there are huge tower blocks which nowadays risk going up in smoke. Others are like small hotels, with carpeted landings and room numbers. In the country, where much bigger houses were built, it is often possible to divide this house up into three or four small flats. With their natural stone walls, they can be rather elegant, though one’s business is usually much more exposed.
“There was this guy living below us and we believe he had a few issues. You know, heroine and all this lot. Actually, on occasions I would sign for packages that came from the Dark Web and I’m pretty sure they were for crystals or rocks. Once, he came out of his room as I was collecting the post, snatched a package from my hand and ripped out a bottle of cough medicine and necked it right in front of me, before thanking me for getting the post and excusing himself back to his apartment.
“The cat kept on coming up to the apartment and me and my partner were feeding it more and more regularly. So, one day, I decided to speak to the guy about it and see what was what. I mean, the cat was clearly unhappy where it was, it was thinning and its pelt was mangy at times. I went downstairs, knocked on the door and went in. He was in the middle of sharpening one of his knives, but stopped as I entered the room. ‘Hey man, how you doing? Want a cup of tea?’ I didn’t and went right to the point.
“‘I didn’t even want a cat in the first place; I can barely look after myself, let alone another of God’s creatures. My dad used to keep a load of cats on his farm, but then he died about two years ago suddenly – heart attack while riding his quad bike. After the funeral, a few of us went to the farm to sort things out and there was bunch of cats that used to kill the mice in the barns to stop them getting at the chickens and scaring the cattle. There were five of them and five of us had come to look at the place. Someone said, ‘we should all keep one’. I said it was a stupid idea and the others looked at me and asked what should we do with it otherwise? I said, we’ll drown it in the well in the courtyard.
“‘They wanted to keep the cats, so picked them up and left. I stayed with this one and proceeded to the well. But then it looked up at me with them big eyes and stared at me, obviously frightened and suspicious of where we were going. Part of me wondered whether this was my dad’s favourite. Against my better wishes, I buckled and kept the cat. But as I said before, I’m not capable of looking after myself, let alone another of God’s creatures.’
“Well, me and my partner had been talking about it and we said that a cat could be good for us. So, there and then I offered to take it from him, not condescendingly, but as a way of helping him and the animal out. He accepted graciously and said he could contribute a bit to food. I said it was alright and took the animal in. This was about six months ago.”
Tables in busy pubs can be prize possessions and the bar area was now spilling over into the drawing room. The talk of the week was buzzing, more and more pints were being poured and the walls seemed to shiver gently with pride at containing so many conversations at once.
“A few months after taking in the cat, and it’s doing fine. One day, though, we get a knock on the door – it’s him and he’s holding two 12-inch hunting knives. Christ, I think, but the guy says ‘I’m going away today for sometime and I wanted to give you a present’. I remembered that he had quite the collection of knives, so I calmed down a little and let him in. There we were, me and my girlfriend, having a cup of tea with a man who’s given me a hunting knife and is carefully inspecting his own. We tried our best at polite conversation, but it was all a bit much, if you know what I mean.
“‘I’m being taken away today to a place where they’ll stop my addictions. I don’t think it will work, but I suppose if you’ve got the opportunity, you may as well give it a try.’ And with that, he stood up and walked out the door, not without stopping to say goodbye to the cat he almost drowned and saved.
“Honestly, that guy was such a gentleman and so switched on. Bloody drugs, but I suppose if you’re like him and gone through what he’s gone through, shooting up, smoking rocks and drinking syrup are the only things you’ve got left. Such a gentleman; the next guy to live in that apartment was a pedophile from Northern Ireland. But…”
And with that, the two young men drained their pints, getting up from the table as they did so, and walked out into the Yorkshire night, leaving their table for some avid bystanders who were enjoying a nice Friday night out.
In the oldest park in Paris, Le Jardin des Plantes, visitors can buy a ticket and see the exotic animals in the zoo. It is not up to this writer to cast a judgement on the act of keeping creatures in cages for the sensorial delectation of humans; in this piece’s reality, it is what happens.
The hot sun beat down on the soil in the park and the flowers seemed to droop in desperation. The visitors sought shade where they could, though some more daring folk went to smell the flowers or inspect the scientific labels. Some had seen on their phones that there was a chance of rain later in the day, which was hoped for by some in the park.
The animals were mostly moping about the dry earth, looking for shade where possible. There was a supply of water, but the heat had made them drowsy. Except for the monkeys, who were unusually alert. They were communicating much more with each other, shouting and scrambling about their adventure park.
The visitors that were gathering around the monkey house were staring intently at the sight, remarking on the singularity of their behaviour, but also perturbed by the slightly menacing air that the scene had. The monkeys were bearing more of their teeth when they opened their mouths, and mother monkeys seemed to be keeping an eye on their children more severely. This seemed like a leadership contest and a victor might be pronounced before the watershed.
An American family came out of the reptile house and stopped by the monkeys to see what was what. In one spot of the large enclosure, a pair of monkeys, perhaps younger than the others, had snuck off to a different area and were acting amorously together. The father and mother giggled at each other, looked at their children, squeezed each others’ hand and left the zoo, not seeing that another male monkey had come and beaten off the other for the female.
They sat together on a bench, taking out their sandwiches, remarking on how hot it was. They checked the map to see where they had to go next. After a few moments, it became clear that a group of ravens were interested in their food. Two had come directly up to them, while three more lay waiting behind the bench, making the father turn his head. They were surrounded.
“Just give them some bread and let’s get out of here,” he said abruptly. It was clearly not just the bread they were interested in, and when the family got up to leave, one of the slicker birds flew in to take the map, snapping at the father’s fingers as it did so. “Goddam bird!” He said with a curse. “Come on, honey, it will be fine; look, we can ask that couple on the bench,” said his more rational wife, taking the initiative in her own suggestion, though not without some frustration; she did not like the idea of getting involved with ravens, already flown off to their lofty shade.
The monkey house was simmering in the afternoon heat, with seeming arrangements being made and teams formed. There was the occasional screech, but they were mostly keeping the peace. One of the tourists outside managed to snap a picture of two monkeys confronting each other. He added it to his story immediately.
“Excuse me,” seemingly not noticing the intense conversation that was going on on the bench, “but you can tell us where Notre Dame is?” The couple paused, looked at each other and the man with a strained but understanding temper pointed them in the right way. “Thanks very much, sir, and have a great day” said the father, shaking his hand. If Frank was in any other mood, he would have appreciated the moment. As it happens, he found himself in a delicate situation.
“You know, I think I love you more than I love her,” resuming his early thread. “I don’t know if I would care if she found out.”
“Well, that’s exactly what she’s going to do. I told you; she’s got someone after us. And I think he’s in this park.”
“That’s nonsense, Sandra would not go to those lengths, I can assure you. If she suspected a thing, she would be straight on it, no holding back.”
“She’s been watching me, I’m sure of it. On my way back from work the other day, a car followed me for a good three quarters of an hour. I’m scared.”
“No need to be scared; Sandra’s a perfectly rational and compassionate woman. She knows we’ve been unhappy for years now. I don’t know how we’ve coped.”
“Yeah, but hearing that you’re abandoning her and the children for a woman fifteen years younger might just push her over the edge.”
“Do you have to remind me of this?”
“You told me you loved me.”
“So do I.”
It is at this moment that Frank catches in the corner of his eye a man with a camera behind the trees on the other side of the park. He curses, considers running after the man, but decides to wait it out in the shade. He needed to drink something, but he felt stuck on the bench, glued to Imogen. This is it, he thinks, it ends here; the game I’ve been playing and the lies I have told. Here it all finds an ending.
In the monkey cage, two powerful males have risen to the top, casting to their own sides supporters, depending on where the interest lay. Or this is how it seemed to the tourists who were riveted by the exceptional energy that this group of monkeys was exhibiting. Anymore and it might end up trending.
Frank wondered where his wife had found the money for a detective and, more importantly, when he or she had started following him. But as he said, he couldn’t find the energy to care for his wife anymore and sat on the bench, he slumped his greying head on the shoulder of a woman who had been carrying him for ten years. She wished him luck on business trips and heard all the stories of the children; she was the supportive partner he thought he had never had.
Imogen looked up to the sky and saw that it had gotten darker, heavy with urban precipitation, one large stomach ready to burst open. “Come on,” she said, “let’s get out before the rain breaks.” The get up from the bench, turn right towards the exit by the large greenhouse and that is when they see two figures, one more familiar than the other. It was Sandra and her brother.
“How could they have possibly known?” Frank said to under his breath, but loud enough for Imogen to hear. “I told you; she had someone on us,” she retorted. Well, this is it, Frank thought to himself, I must tell her in front of her brother. He’s not going to like this at all, the angry little brute.
Sandra had been tipped off by her sleuth of the whereabouts of her husband and lover. She had known about it for some months now, slowly digesting an extramarital affair that lasted almost two decades. Now, she was to meet her rival, and confront them both. She lived it as a tragically proud moment in her life, comforted by the presence of her brother who had agreed not to intervene unless necessary.
“Sandra…” Frank said, seizing the moment to speak. But she brushed him off and went directly to Imogen. “So you’re the woman who thinks she can scab off my household?” She asked cooly, but with a definite menace, not malice, in her voice. Imogen felt the stare of a betrayed woman look her up and down, she could see the studied, bitter resentment on the face of the woman she envied deep down, and was on the brink of capitulating.
Back at the monkey house, the tourists were having a field day. The two male monkeys who had been squaring up to each other were pushing each other in the enclosure. The troops around them were howling, waiting on tenterhooks for the moment, and it was strange to see that such a racket had not attracted the attention of the guards. But they didn’t care; teeth was going for flesh, and punches were being made.
“Look, Frank,” Sandra turned on him, “I don’t want to make a scene out of this. Come on, let’s go and get out of the rain and discuss this elsewhere.”
“I’m not coming with you,” snapped Frank in a tone that was not his own. “I’m staying here, with Imogen, the woman I have loved for the last 20 years.” Sandra buckled at the knees and was about to fall, when her brother came and supported her. Imogen seemed to snicker at this woman, just then so proud, cut down by Frank’s words. The brother noticed and with violence said “wipe that grin off your face, you whore.” “Don’t you speak to my fiancee like that.” “But you’re already married to me,” came a mumble. “Or else what, cheater?”
With that, Frank launched himself at his brother-in-law, who in defence had to let Sandra fall to the ground. Imogen could be heard shouting in the background, as the two men wrestled on the wetting dust around the tracks, their grunts becoming more proclaimed, the two women shocked by the scene in front of them. All of a sudden, there was a gunshot. The clouds broke, an immense downpour of rain. Frank became weak, falling to the floor, clutching his heart. The brother stood back and watched life wrinkle out of a man. The women were escorted away in metal coats, as heavy drops ricocheted off the metal. The police blues flashed their usual melody. The zookeeper puts away his rifle and watched the monkeys return to the old status quo.
To love another is one thing; to love yourself is another. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Korean proverb.
Besides the city, a young farmer was tending his rice field. The year was to supply a rich harvest and more could be given to the Confucian temples further down the track. The farmer’s family were eating a humble breakfast, while in the horizon the vision of the city rose its head. The people did not know then what damage pollution could inflict on the environment. This was the moment of human expansion the most profound and the most deadly.
The farmer finished his morning routine and went in for lunch. A gentle drizzle was soaking the dusty road and cattle hooves stove the dirt, revealing healthy soil. His mother poured out a full bowl of soup and sat down herself opposite her son. “Are you going up to the city after all?” Came the question from the mother. “I still need to think about it”. The two carried on with their meal in comfortable silence. “Are you still with that girl?” Yuan nodded.
For three evenings a week, Samira danced in a show that was customary in the area. Yuan would watch, keeping a respectful eye on the others as well. He knew most of them, as the village usually had a small concentration of personalities. After the shows, he would wait for her and accompany her home, stealing kisses whenever he could.
“But I’ve heard you’re moving up to the city,” she said this time, dodging easily his gauche, trod out gestures. “Yes, I hope to have enough from this harvest to invest in something up there, Seoul way.” As they walked along the sidewalk, Samira thought to herself about what this could mean for them and the future he had been promising her.
“We’ve worked together as a team before, surely we can do it again?” She asked, thinking of a plan to make this work out. Yuan did not feel so confident and with a heavy heart held the hand of a woman he would love to love.
Six months ago he had sworn to her an absolute faith, after a series of trying months, during which both parties had fallen out and learned about the other. They sat back at Samira’s apartment, taking off their wet shoes, her mother making tea in the dimly lit parlour. Their house was on the border of the farmland and the concrete high risers, so stark was the difference between the two areas. “We can earn enough here,” she pleaded with him. He left at 3am, kissing her head, stroking her neck and saying that he will always love her. She stayed up and wrote him a letter.
“Yuan, I will wave you off by the shore and kiss your hands as you leave; I will see your boat fade into the horizon, with me wondering when you will walk again on these pastures; I will kiss the very memory of you on my mantlepiece and stoke fires, thinking how nice it would be if you came into the room with your usual cheerful smile. But if you wish to hold good the deal you made to me, of loving me always and honouring our pact, then I want no other woman to taint your bed.
“You go away and leave me to the threats and calls of the locals, as I lead a troupe of girls across the stage. Your presence kept them from getting too excited, but now with you gone God knows what sort of excitement the men will have. Though I have learnt to protect myself over the years, you never know what can happen to something you are not watching.
“I see what you are doing, don’t try and pull the wool of my eyes; you are yearning for greater things, with youthful ambition. Do I not satisfy you enough? Do you search bigger game in a bigger arena? Or are you looking for a cage to hide in? While you race off into the horizon, ever faster, I will stay here and deepen my connection with the land, but I will always be faithful to you.
“I can see you now, being an intellectual in the streets, earning money sitting down, and joining the right crowds; you have a cousin there you can stay with. I will keep entertaining people; that’s my job and evidently yours is to be the star of your own show. I remember times when you have held a good crowd around you with a strong story. I don’t doubt you will do this elsewhere.
If you want, you will be able to find me by the shore, tending my nets that I put out every morning to catch a little more for lunch, a trout or pike, that come swimming too close to the shore. You will find me there and I will be waiting for you. But respect my wishes, if you truly agree to this pact.
“Fare well, dear lover, and take to heart my words.”
She sealed the envelope and left it on the desk by the front door. She slipped out and got a taxi back to her own apartment. It felt like an age until Yuan woke her up in the morning, excitedly, and asked if she want to come with him and they could go on an adventure together. She sat there, stupefied, wondering if he had read the letter.
“Il faut bien servir à quelque chose…”
… said Paul to the man standing at the bar. They clinked glasses and took a long swig of what each was drinking. It was at this moment that a boy of about five or six came running around the corner of the bar, dodging in between the chairs of the tables by the large windows, overlooking the cobbled streets of Barbizon. He was playing some game with his sister – it might have been tag – and she was laughing by the knees of her father, who was playing his own adult game at the bar.
The children breathed life into the greying décor, and a couple, no older than seventeen, sat and wanted to hold hands, because it was cold, and looked into each other’s eyes while all around them darted the stares of newcomers who had just sat down to take a hot chocolate. Two plates of food were carried out by a waiter of the brasserie, delivered to a patient table and set upon like a winter feast.
With his most recent professional accomplishment, Paul was spending his time gambling in so-called PMUs, which gave him the time to unwind. Usually on the horse and chariot races, in this bar there was only the bingo to while away the time. This he did with consummate professionalism in a hobby, going out for smokes and drinking half pints of cheap beer.
A man with a hat on his head had walked in a few hours ago and was standing to the left of Paul at the zinc. He wore this hat to keep out the cold, but when it was summer he wore a hat to hide a scar on his head. When he came in, he ordered syrop au citron and thought about the times he was living in, and being artistic he had to plenty to consider, standing at bars in brasseries, wondering what the hell is going on.
He said hello to Paul, who respected his seniority and asked him what was what. He replied that he was a painter, trying to catch the minutiae of a village with two centuries of printed history. A fine task, said Paul with little reflection, for he was occupied with what his next professional engagement might be. No rest for the wicked.
All of a sudden, one of the children fell over a chair, having misjudged the amount of space to give a chair leg, but did not burst into tears. The father put down his betting pencil for a moment, ready to pick up the child if necessary. The couple stopped their chitter chatter to see if the boy was alright, and even the local drunk turned an eye from his beer to assess the scene. Yet the boy simply looked at his knee, rubbed it and ran off to rejoin his sister.
In conversation with the painter, Paul admitted to taking a little break from his work, omitting that he had recently been charged with obtaining information about the forthcoming French elections and had needed to interview some very high personalities. He had come to the countryside to take some fresh air and to march among boulders in this ancient domain. The older replied that he lived there, exhibiting paintings in the village’s largest gallery. Paul could not help but be impressed.
The man had a bag by his side, out of which – like some terrible cliché – a brush and palette stuck out. Paul was intrigued by this and asked him to show him what he had in there. “Si vous me payez une bière”, replied the older man.
Paul considered. He could see the people around him and did not want to disturb them. In this little corner of France, they talk about guns between themselves and the military. Ostensibly, they do not support art that is not nationally their own. But in Barbizon, there is something more, Paul had learned, and the locals do appreciate the artist. In their own way.
“Allez-y,” said Paul and the older man removed from his bag a sketch book and soft crayon, which the older man was very well accustomed to handling, as well as dealing with the curious eye of the public. Why do you think he drank so much? He had painted all over the world, from Japan to the west coast of the USA and thence further East always, in some spiral to refind his birth place and to rest his ashes in his homeland. He was stuck in Europe.
He and Paul continued their conversation over a cigarette outside and noticed that it had started snowing. Paul thought of the final story from the Dubliners, remarking on the universal nature of art and its ability to combine the high and the low in one story. “Vous êtes un méchant”, said the older man.
This pricked Paul’s attention, who then questioned him. But instead of saying anything about it, the conversation became political. As Stendhal would say, the pistol was fired in the theatre; the older man asked whether Paul thought Sarkozy was going to win the elections. He did not exactly, so Paul gave his own two cents and they both returned to their beverages at the bar.
“C’est l’heure pour moi, je crois” said Paul. “Avant de partir, je vous fais votre portrait”, replied the older man. Flattered, Paul accepted, thinking his witty conversation had earned him the honour. After all, passing through an artist town, one has one’s portrait done. He stood at the bar, still like a shark, and surveyed the room around him.
When the portrait was done, proudly displayed on the bar, the other clients looked at it, looking at Paul and mostly nodding in approval. Paul could not tell if they had done this before. Even the couple holding hands in a tight embrace broke their attention to snatch a glimpse of the art of Barbizon. Paul felt both intimidated and proud by this moment, and so he asked for the bill.
When it came, shortly before his taxi back to the station, he offered the older man a beer, who accepted it. He clinked his glasses, threw the rest of his beer down his throat and strolled out of the café. The couple stood up to pay their bill, silently nodding at the artist, and opened the main doors into the snowing night. The father ushered his children along, telling them to stop playing, and left the brasserie. The artist finally sat back on his chair, raised his glasses and said to himself “Il faut bien servir à quelque chose”.