Saturday, August 15, 2009

Arrondissement 18: Montmartre

Every night, he walked through her wall. And left by the door, before morning dawned.

“Will you stay this time?” she asked.

He touched her face in response.

“What do you do by day?” she said into his palm. “Who do you hold?”

He loosened her hair from its bindings.

“I only live for the night,” she said, as his mouth took the pulse of her neck. “When the gypsy starts his song, that is when I come a—”

He found her lips, and stopped the words. But couldn’t still the thoughts behind them.

The next afternoon, she slipped through the streets of Montmartre to track him. He must have a name, and friends. She imagined him working an ordinary job, doing ordinary things. He saved the extraordinary for her. But it wasn’t enough. She wanted the sun, and the moon. Her days felt too dark.

She couldn’t find him. Nobody knew a thing. He was a ghost without a scent, the cross-hatched alleyways a map without a destination.

That night, he eased through her wall again. After the gypsy started plucking that shimmery guitar.

“How do you do it?” she demanded. “I need to know.”

He looked at her, and smiled. With the trust of a child for his mother.

“You already know, my love,” he said, and took her once again.

Outside, a bottle shattered on the streets, as men stumbled from the adjacent bar to work out the violence in their hearts and loins. The gypsy’s guitar fell silent. A woman screamed. Coarse laughter haunted her echo, and danced with it under the moon's shadow.

The new lights of Paris never touched the dark hill of Montmartre.

He moved inside of her, but she only felt the emptiness to come. She knew then that she could no longer hold him far, or near.

The walls of her mind closed in.

The next evening, she waited outside for his arrival. The gypsy squatted next to the bar’s entrance. She edged closer to him.

“Will you play for me tonight?” she said.

He did not look at her, but he chimed a single chord.

She bent down, and slid the gold pieces from her pocket. “These can all be yours, if you stop your song on my command."

She leaned in, until she smelled the gangrene on his breath. "And if you never return to Montmartre again.”

The gypsy closed his eyes, his fingers sliding into a minor lament. But he took her gold.

Her lover came after midnight. From behind a tree, she watched him greet the gypsy as his leg melted into her stone.

She stepped from the shadows and slashed her finger across her throat.

And the music stopped in Montmartre.

Back in her room, she examined the thick wall. It bulged slightly in two places, roughly her shoulders' height. As if he were reaching to find the darkness's end. The pink flesh of one hand burned through the cold, hard masonry.

She pressed her cheek into its palm. Her lashes crossed his lifeline.

“Darling,” she said, closing her eyes.

“My darling.”


Note: the city of Paris is divided into
twenty arrondissements, or neighborhoods.
I will write a vignette for 7 of them.
Any requests?

Also, the above sculpture in Montmartre
honors the writer Marcel Áyme, and his story
about the man who could walk through walls.


the walking man said...

Fabulous! I'm glad that gold is no longer coin of the realm, that is one hell of a way to keep the old man home.

Charles Gramlich said...

Dr. McCoy's greatest fear. To materialize inside a wall forever.

Sarah Hina said...

Mark, thank you! :)

She is a bit diabolical. I started my last Paris series with obsession, and turned it up a notch this time.

Charles, I didn't remember that about Dr. McCoy, but now it rings a bell.

Catvibe said...

Geeze Sarah, that's no way to trap a man! :-)

In a way, this vignette reminded me of the story of Eros and Psyche, but in Paris instead of Greece. He would come every night as long as she didn't figure out his identity. There is something in that kind of story that is archetypal. And in this too, metaphorically speaking, how often has this happened, where a woman needs to trap a man into the stone to keep him where she wants him. And the music stops there. Wow. She has him, but the music is gone and he is frozen. This is kind of a chilling tale! I can't wait to read more!

Requests, hmmmm. Rive Gauche? Feeling inseine.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work! Many beautiful images. I also liked the wink to H.P. Lovecraft. A mystical blanket tucked over the city.

I also found it especially poignant that to possess him, she had to destroy his unique power. But what a disconcerting power. To penetrate her walls at will. As breathtakingly haunting as that would be, the imbalance feels like a terrible risk. But the power she wants over him is a step too far. The high of that first (and last) touch will now fade.

Margaret said...

Sarah, what a superb vignette to start off your series. It mesmerized me!

How could she be satisfied with only the moon? Every woman would strive for the sun too. But what a price she had to pay. Will she be happy now? I doubt it very much.

Although I don't know Montmartre, I can imagine it as a dark, shadowy corner of Paris.

I love the last four lines - a perfect ending.

Aniket said...

Its never enough for women isn't it? They always want more? (Okay, how many feet did I step onto? :))

I loved the tale. Spine chilling.
Perfect, well not so perfect for the poor gentleman stuck in the wall, but perfect otherwise. :D

No choices for me. If you can write a love story in two skeletons you can do anything. So keep 'em coming. :)

Chris Eldin said...

LOL @ Charles' comment! But this is chilling. I had no idea what she was going to do to him.
A perfect story...leaves me wanting more, of course. Funny how the chaps are squirming, perhaps looking at their wives and lovers a bit more suspiciously today.
Love this one, Sarah. Another excellent piece.

Sarah Hina said...

Cat, trust me, I'm not endorsing it. ;)

I really liked your comparisons. It's funny, in that even when we think we're being our most unique, we're rewriting the stories that came before. I just loved that sculpture, and knew I wanted to use it somehow. To re-interpret Ayme's story, too.

And I love your request! (I'm inseine, too, after all) Consider it done. :)

Jason, thank you for the kind words. I did want to take her obsession and explore that to its most twisted end.

And while she was the villain here, I do think he was naive to ignore the signs and believe that any woman would be content with what he offered over the long term. He wasn't willing to dig through those last walls to touch her pain. So in a sense, he took her for his own needs, too, while never truly getting inside.

That said, she certainly was a piece of work. ;) There were other choices to put it mildly.

Margaret, Montmartre captures my imagination like few places in Paris. Perhaps because it's a part of the city, and yet an outsider to it, too. So many of the world's greatest artists (Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali) left their marks on its bohemian hillsides. Oh, and Josephine Baker shimmied there, too. ;)

Btw, I have a movie recommendation to everyone who's interested in Montmartre! Amelie. Cat would back me up on this. :)

Thank you so much for the warm words, Margaret.

Aniket, what can I say? We're hopeless. :P

But you know, I think she'd eventually let him out of that wall, if possible. (Some) Women are softies, too. ;)

And I will definitely keep 'em coming. No worries there. Thanks, my friend. :)

Chris, ha! :D

Luckily, Paul really loved this one. Maybe because he knows he has nothing to fear. :P

Thanks so much, Chris. I did find it chilling, but freeing, to travel in the shadows of love with this one.

Catvibe said...

Yes! Amelie! See it!

BTW, totally off topic and nothing to do with Paris, but as long as we're talking movies, '500 Days of Summer' is an outstanding film!

Sarah Hina said...

Paul and I saw it yesterday!!!

We loved, loved, loved it. :)

Karen said...

Sometimes I wish I wouldn't read the comments before I comment, then I'd have something original to say! I want to endorse Cat's observations about Cupid and Psyche and also the idea of archetypal stories. These are the ones that through time resound with us for reasons I believe are genetically or sociologically imprinted within us in some way. (Okay, Aniket: what do you make of THAT? lol) This is a great depiction of true possession.

I love Montmarte, too, Sarah for the same reasons.

Karen said...

By the way, I vote for 4th Arr. - Ile de la Cite - such an ancient part of Paris that contains so may possibilities for stories.

Sarah Hina said...

Karen, yay!! Another request. And such a good one, too. :)

There's something intriguing to me in these kinds of archetypes. It's a thread you can trace across time, and recognize the universality of human emotion and frailties. Our stories may have evolved, but we humans really haven't very much. Art and literature, in addition to so many other wonderful things, makes me feel closer to those that came before us.

Thank you, Karen.

Mairi said...

When I was very young my mother told me that once upon a time we could all walk through walls - it was a molecular thing I guess - but somewhere along the way we forgot how. I never tried it but I worried about kittens for years after, as obviously they couldn't, or wouldn't forget such a thing.
Your story reminded me of Cupid and Psyche as well, and new tellings of old tales always have an extra resonance for the reader.

Sarah Hina said...

Mairi, thank you so much for coming by and for your thoughtful comments. I liked the story about your mother--what a seed that must have planted in your young mind.

And I'm glad you felt the layering of old with new here. I remember a great painting of Cupid and Psyche in the Cleveland Museum. He looked so impish and satisfied with himself. :)

日月神教-任我行 said...