Postcards from Paris

by Cassie Ingaben

Jardin du Luxembourg: Five


It's not easy to push the sailboat right in its middle, the stick is so long and crooked, so I poke the boat on its sails, which is not good because it sinks sideways, then bobs up again, and so I try again and I catch it on its back, its stern I mean, which sends it rearing up just like the big horses in the Gallery's paintings at home, but it doesn't push it forward much, and then I try again and I hit the little cabin in the middle, where you're supposed to, and the boat sails smoothly on, and I jump and shout and my stick falls in the water, so I have to catch it, but it's far away and I am getting my new sailor tunic all wet, and then it's so slippery I almost fall except someone is tugging me back by my trousers, and I look up and it's Nanny Céleste, and she's scowling and scolding me, yes I can see my sleeves are sopping wet with green mud, but the stick is still in the water so how am I going to push the boat, it's just bumped against the duck house and it's turned and it's sailing back to me like a real pirate sailboat, I like pirates, my tunic is new and it's almost like a real pirate shirt, with a ruffly bow at the front, so pretty, I can see how Nanny Céleste has a point, even though she's always scowling so what's the difference, I mostly ignore her, except she's very strong so she's dragging me away from the fountain towards Mother, which is really not good at all, so I complain loudly but it's not working, she's not even impressed by my pirate curses upon a thousand Spaniard scoundrels. As Daddy says, women just don't understand.


Mother is sitting up in one of those metal chairs where people lie down to sun themselves, when it's sunny like today, and they shine with sweat and get all covered in dust, and then they complain they got burnt, I always get burnt if I stay in the sun too long, so Nanny Céleste puts a goopy cream all over my face, but Daddy says it's all right, I don't want to get all wrinkly and nasty, he says, and he winks at Uncle Bobbles, and they laugh, and Mother puts her sour face on, just like she does now, and then she smoothes it into her tired face, and says: "Can't you play quietly like your sisters do, Dorian?"


Well! Last time we came here Margaret pushed me in the fountain, and then the three of them said I'd slipped, but I never slip, I'm not clumsy like them, but Mother never believes me anyway, and then I threw Margaret's doll in the water when Mother wasn't looking, and Margaret screamed and pulled my hair and called me "little pansy" which she does a lot since she heard Nanny Mary say that, but I am not sure what flowers have got to do with it, maybe I should ask Daddy, but he's always with Uncle Bobbles and Uncle Price and Uncle Doot, and I am not sure I should ask when other people are there because I'm sure it's a bad word like "shit" or "hell" or "fuck" and I'm not supposed to know those, but I do, and when Mother is around Daddy always says I should speak politely like a Lord, but I know he is laughing inside and when Mother leaves he winks at me and I smile back, and I make up more pirate curses.

Mother sighs again, and pushes me back towards Nanny Céleste, who starts scrubbing my tunic front with a hankie, but it's not even where it's dirty, she's just making up for Mother's sake, and then Mother says in a low voice but making sure I hear it, "Goodness, this place is becoming so vulgar—we should have gone to Parc Monceau instead," which is what she always says to make me behave, because there's no fountain and no sailboats in Parc Monceau, and even if you can run and sit on the grass you can't push Margaret and Elizabeth and Anne in the dust—not that I usually manage, since they're bigger than me and they always gang up, but I still try just for the fun of it—and then Mother closes her eyes and turns her face away, so I can steal her purse in revenge, and Nanny Céleste is not looking too carefully either, she's staring at a very pretty young man, and I take a good look too because he looks so pretty he might easily be a pirate, and I'd hire him for my ship, and I'd be the captain and we'd sail all over the world and have such fun together, and then Nanny Céleste sits down and sighs—adults sigh a lot—so I run to the ice cream kiosk and use Mother's money to buy the biggest ice cream they have, and I almost manage to eat it all before Anne finds me out and pushes my face into it so I stick the cone over her head like a Punch's hat and we all scream so much that Mother asks Nanny Céleste to take me back to our hotel, and I get to ride on the bus which is even more fun, except I think I had too much ice cream so I get sick just before we get off, which is actually much better because it means Nanny Céleste doesn't have to clean the carpet, but she is not seeing it this way, grumpy old pansy, and so she sends me to my room, and I sit down to colour my pirate ships book, which I think is the loveliest part of a lovely day, even if I got no biscuits with my tea.




Ile Saint-Louis: Ten


"I can't believe it! I can't believe you did this! I'd warned you, Theo, there's no money left, and yet you had to go and do it!"


"But Helen, darling, you haven't seen it—"


"I don't want to see it! We don't have the money for a flat in the costliest area of Paris, of all places! Margaret's school fees are overdue, and you know that!"


"The fees will be paid, the school knows they always get paid—we can sell one of the paintings, God knows there's some ugly ones in the Gallery—the flat was a bargain—on the île Saint-Louis, facing south-west, full view of Notre-Dame—"


"You're impossible! You're just an irresponsible, selfish child—and you're raising your son to be just like you! But I won't stand here and watch you ruin us all! I'm warning you Theo—"


"What's Dorian got to do with all this, Helen? He's just a child—"


"Ah! Just a child! Do you know what he was up to last Friday while you were out flat-shopping with your little friends? He was making eyes at the baker's son down at the village! And this was after I caught him stealing boiled sweets from the back shelves!"


"For God's sake, Helen, he's just ten! Boys that age go through a phase where they think shoplifting is fun—at worst, the baker would have boxed his ears and asked us to pay for the stuff—it's not like he stole the Pope!"


"You just don't understand we're becoming the talk of the town, do you? The baker might disregard stolen sweets, but surely he won't take it so lightly when his son is being debauched—"


"You sound so middle class, Helen! Dorian was simply trying to make friends—he's got nobody his age to play with."


"Of course he doesn't—we're persona non grata with all respectable society, thanks to you and your, your vice—"


"I knew this was going to be about my lifestyle, of course it had to! Look, I though we had an agreement—"


"Which you came up with right after I found you out—"


"Which you agreed with—"


"What else was I supposed to do, walk out? Walk out with three children and starve, while you fritter away your money on Parisian flats and boyfriends?"


"You have four children, may I remind you. And you never complained when I sent you to Paris at the Bristol every bloody year for months on end! A flat would actually save us money in the long run!"


"Except that's not a family flat, it's a two-room garçonnière for you to indulge in your filthy habits!"


"Right. You want to win, you win. The flat is for me—to get some peace away from your hysterics. I'm ruining my son, and wrecking our finances. You're right, as always. Happy now?"


Dorian silently pads away, over the noise of smashed china, back to his room. The rows are always the same. He sighs and takes out his art history book, the one about Paris, flipping to the pages about architecture, finding the map with all the extant medieval buildings highlighted in pink. The île Saint-Louis is chock-full of them. Dorian remembers how they'd gone there often, two summers ago, because of the Italian ice-cream shop said to be the best in Paris. The small-windowed houses were all leaning sideways as if tipsy—the book explains how those old buildings, never perfectly square to start with, had subsided over time, their walls now visibly slanted, making a stroll along the narrow lanes almost dizzying.


Dorian sighs again. He wishes Daddy would take him to his new flat; he'd ask John to come along—he'd explain nicely to Mr Hobbs that the bakery could do without his son for a few days. They would get ice-cream—chocolate for John, strawberry for himself—and then he'd show John the city. They'd walk across the bridge to Notre-Dame, the back view so much better than the front, then along and across the Seine, long leafy boulevards until Parc Monceau, where you can lie on the grass, as close as your blanket is small, and watch the clouds for shapes. Then he'd take John back to the Sainte-Chapelle, to see the stained glass windows as the evening sun sets them on multicoloured fire; and maybe they'd pop in at the Conciergerie to see the waxwork of Marie-Antoinette before her execution, her hair turned white as snow overnight—John would love that.


And maybe, as they walked to the great Ferris wheel in the Tuileries, Dorian would find the pluck to hold John's hand. John would be completely surprised, of course—Mother is so wrong about "debauchery." There is nothing debauched or low in John. And as what he feels for John— it is just like Roland and Oliver at Roncevaux, blond and dark heads together, fighting to the death, in the picture in his poetry book.


Yes, John would be surprised at first, but then, once his confusion waned, shyly pleased. He'd smile, and squeeze Dorian's hand back, and they would understand each other, and be always together, and roam the world to see all its wonders, and fight together—


But it's just a fantasy. Most likely, John would hit him if he realised Dorian's intentions. And anyway, Daddy would not take him to Paris. He might like to parade his lovely lad at his parties, and he might agree to all that Dorian did, stealing included, but ultimately Daddy's real interest is in the high life and the men in it. Dorian knows what a garçonnière is—he'd looked it up—exactly the place where Daddy would not take him, being too absorbed in his Paris getaway with whoever his current interest is. Dorian is stuck at home with Mother, silently pining after tall, handsome John, dark-haired, strong and oblivious.




Gare du Nord: Fifteen


It's dark, and the station smells of urine and metal shavings. He looks around, in the echoing emptiness where a few passers-by hurry towards the lights of apartments, restaurants, underground entrances. Cars speed by, too fast and on the wrong side of the road, so that he's almost run over as he crosses away from the train station.


Cheap touristy restaurants spread all in a row, bouncers shout at him: "Viens petit— huîtres et champagne, pas cher! Petit anglais!"


The smell of seafood wavers between disgusting and irresistible, and Dorian realises he's very hungry. He has no francs—actually, he has no money at all. Really, he should have planned things better. But that was the whole point, wasn't it? He hadn't planned at all—one doesn't really plan to run away from school. One only knows that one can't take anymore, and bolts.


So he turns away from the garish restaurants into a side road—more of an alley, actually. There's an overturned garbage bin, and it's starting to rain. He doesn't run—there's no point, where would he run to? And yet he almost bumps into a man who steps out from a doorway and cuts into his way.


"Eh, toi, fais gaffe!"


Dorian stammers an apology. The man is middle-aged, and massive, and smiling now.


"Ahh, you are English, yes?" The man's smile grows as Dorian nods. "I always like to practice my English—but I don't get to do it often."


There's a pause, and they look at each other, and it's understood. The man pushes the door open and beckons: "Inside here."


Dorian steps into a rancid hallway—creaking stairs, the woodwork once handsome but now stained and ruined. The banister is sweat-sticky, and he hurriedly snatches his hand away. The man huffs noisily behind him as they go up. Fifth, maybe sixth floor? Then they're up, all the way to the chambres de bonne. The door to the communal toilet on the landing is ajar, the porcelain bowl reflects a stray beam of faint moonlight, gleaming briefly off the small skylight, just before the clouds hide the moon away again.


Breathing heavily from their climb, the man unlocks a door, gesturing briskly. "Viens, rentre." One smallish room, one window, one table with one chair, one bed, one feeble naked bulb raining down a trickle of light. The man locks the door again and shoves the key under the mattress. He moves close, grabs Dorian and turns him around. Dorian feels the familiar terror invade him—he can't stand it, he's going to scream, he's going to run—he's going to love it.


The man pushes him on the bed, then starts to take his own clothes off. Terror peaks as the now-naked man tugs Dorian's trousers off—he has an idle flash of misplaced hilarity as he's still wearing his school uniform, and then the thought is lost in a fog of panic. The man's paunchy weight is over him, pressing him down; smell of sweat and fusty clothes and musk.


As soon as Dorian feels the man's prick poke him the terror flips into violent arousal, lust flooding him so that he screams. The man grunts, "arrête, petit con, tu vas réveiller les morts," and slaps his hand hard over Dorian's mouth—he can't breathe, the shame and the fear and the manic excitement rush up through his spine to his head—he flops around, jerks violently, and he comes and comes and comes.




Later, Dorian opens his eyes again—the moon is still there, only much higher now, and it stopped raining. The silver light comes in through the window and shines off the come on his belly, slug tracks. He's all sticky between his legs, and he's very cold. The old man is snoring, flat on his back, sagging flesh and shrivelled dark genitals.


Dorian knows how to be completely silent, when he wants to—how to dress up quickly—how to quickly rifle through the man's clothes for his wallet (650 francs)—how to pick the door lock open—how to run away as fast as he can into the Parisian night.




Le Marais: Twenty


The warmish, sticky glop of his cocktail is a firm reminder that he's slumming, but he's drunk enough to find it hilarious, and downs the cleaning-alcohol-with-sugar in one go. The dance floor is big and low-ceilinged, and Dorian knows that the multicoloured lights and his sequined shirt are doing wonders for his hair and figure. Bracelets jangling on his left wrist, he threads through the crowd, Moses parting the sea waters, arch smile his shining scythe.


He ignores both imploring and predatory eyes, moving forward for the pleasure of never stopping, searching for a target. There. An older man, sitting back in a side alcove, surveying the dancers. Alone. Dorian sits next to him, letting a languid stretch of limbs do the talking. The man's homely eyes light up and let his appreciation show. They share a sharkish smile. The old man sits up, raises his hand to Dorian's side, kitten-petting velvet fingers on green trousers—without warning, Dorian grabs the man's wrist and twists it away. Only one of them is smiling now, and the man stares, confused.


"Are you here to chase or be chased?" he spits out.


Dorian purrs out a sneer: "Definitely to chase, darling. Had enough of the other."


He throws off the man's arm, gets up laughing, and abandons him without looking back, heading for the meat market in the bogs.




Dorian comes out of the stall, sniffling hard—oh, but it was good stuff, kicking in cleanly and almost immediately—giggling, then half-tripping over a waiting, kneeling form. There is a blank fumbling moment, then the soft feel of hair under his hands; Dorian pushes it closer against his groin, feeling his spine beginning to curl deliciously backward—he bites his lips hard, shoves the head away: "Not yet." The music is too loud for speaking, so he just pulls the man up by a shoulder, effortlessly for it's a tiny young waif. A token protest, and the man lets himself be manhandled, splayed belly down on the sink counter, and mounted forcefully. Dorian sighs, pushing home, in time with the booming bass line from the dance floor and the counterpoint caterwauling from the man below him—a red-head, Dorian notes idly, the usual feeling of detachment coming over him as he smiles at his own reflection in the mirror, haloed by a fuzzy warm glow, stronger than the harsh neon glare in the lavatory.


Other people flit by through the mirror, passing or watching, wobbly as the gritty feeling up his nose peaks, goes straight to his groin—Dorian looks down at the pale expanse of freckled back, shoulder-blades flapping as if trying to tear free of confining flesh and fly away. The man is making, warm noises, freckle-dappled; rhythmic vibrations from his middle meaning he's saying something, which Dorian ignores; a fumbling hand gropes Dorian's right arm, pulls it downwards to brush against a hot, fat dick begging to be squeezed. Dorian laughs, "No darling, not yet for you either," and keeps fucking, looking again at his own reflection in the mirror, wild beauty, darkened irises of wanting, wanting to go on forever, endless electric energy promising eternal ecstasy, yes it can be that—must be that—all-powerful, almost enough, almost forever.




Mariage Frères: Twenty-five


It's such a dreary November day, there's nothing but having brunch—well, tea—no, supper. Anyway. James is mopey, Dorian thinks; must feel the weather, so a treat is in order. Mariage Frères should do, not as smart as to embarrass poor Jamesie, and yet bearably good service. Yes. Now, what to wear.




The taxi quickly takes them to Ternes, and they dart inside to avoid the rain. Well, Dorian darts inside, and Jamesie waddles behind, all muffled up against the elements. It's strange how he seems to feel the cold keenly sometimes, while other times he braves the elements in his threadbare suit. They go directly downstairs, past tourists and by-the-pound buyers, and are led to a suitably quiet corner table. White-gloved and quite handsome, the young waiter gives Dorian the menu and a soulful gaze, promptly returned with interest. James puts back on the scarf he'd just discarded, shivering. Definitely, tea first. Something strong and warming, Russian or spiced blend, or maybe Imperial vanilla. Of course, flavoured teas are so coarse underneath, even Mariage Frères is not below using their second best as long as the taste is muted by the scent; but Jamesie might like the sweet aromas. Yes, here it is: chandernagor. And of course, a three course meal, starting with pâté and green tea toast.


Dorian raises his eyes from the menu: "Darling, I thought a spiced tea would be just the thing, cloves and cinnamon—" and stops in puzzlement. James is staring at his own menu, and tears are quietly sliding down his cheek. He's perfectly silent and composed; no tantrum this. Dorian blinks. Cued by the sudden silence, James looks up, and quickly wipes his face with a clumsy sweep of his sleeve.


Slowly, tenderly, Dorian raises his hand to James's cheek, lightly touching the renewed moisture there. "It's all right, dearie," he whispers. "It's all right, Jamesie. All right." The soothing chant seeming not to have any effect, Dorian tilts James's menu sideways and points at the genmaicha. "Look here, darling. This tea's got cereals in it, tastes like popcorn, it's delicious. And they have chocolate cake with gold powder on top. You'll like it, yes?" James's visible eye moves slowly down the menu. A single huge sob seizes him, and he covers his mouth with his hands, shaking with the effort to contain himself; then he slumps on his chair, spent, eyes glazing, lost in some inward place.


"Dearie, would you like me to get you an impressionist painting? They always sell so well, and you know I wouldn't mind at all. Or, how about we visit the Paris sewers, they're open until late?"


Still unseeing, James points at the menu. "This is 415 Francs, which is 40.8335 Pounds, which would buy dinner for seven people and a baby for five days, or maybe even six days, if you're careful, which we always were—" He stops suddenly. "I'm sorry, Milord. Sorry."


Dorian gets up and puts his arm around James's narrow shoulders, rigid with tension. "Let's get back home, darling. I'll make you tea—I know you have spare PG Tips. We'll steal the milk and sugar portions from the bar for you, yes?"




Musée du Louvre: Thirty


Slanderous rumours notwithstanding, when at the Louvre I am not to be found committing narcissism in front of Leonardo's Saint John the Baptist. Granted, it is one of the most stunning works one can imagine—the dreamy delicacy of the shading under the eyes, like dark gossamer blown by the wind; the hint of mischief upturning the corners of the full mouth—but I am digressing.


Yes, I'll freely admit I have spent more than a few winter afternoons in the Long Gallery: but alas, the combined power of over-exposure and plodding tourist crowds can do so much to turn one off. These days, I'm most likely to be on the second floor, rooms 30 to 39 of the Flemish collection, to be precise.


Say what you want about the wonders of Italian school royal blue and magenta purple on gold leaf—or don't, I've babbled enough about them myself in the past—these days I'm haunted by the mysterious timeless serenity of impossibly warm Northern sunlight pouring through windows or evening clouds, spreading over splintered tables cluttered with parchment and pewter cups, or flowing around inscrutable cows in a still field.


And if you ever go to room 38, there is a small oil by van der Heyden, Le Herengracht à Amsterdam, which squeezes my heart with its unreachable peace. I wish I could step into the picture, transfigured by calm, slow joy—or if I can't be thus perfected, to die there in the half-deserted Louvre room.


Sometimes I think I'm growing old.




Sainte-Chapelle: Thirty-five


It's early evening, and the molten sun pours its light through a magnificence of glass, turning the cold marble pavement into a holy dream of fevered colours. The Magnificat rises like a crystal scythe, angel voices matching their sound to the light until they can reach no higher; but then the light thickens more golden, and the voices yet higher. Then the prayer is over—one last exquisite shaft of sound, and the memory of the final note slowly wanes and is still.


The small audience breathes deeply before clapping, briefly caught in sacredness; but all things must end, and so their hands rend the silence. The choir becomes again a group of bowing and occasionally clumsy people: there is a shuffling of bodies; the stridency of idle chattering; the obscenity of a laugh; and then they all leave. Except Dorian, who still sits unmoving, gaze thrown to the huge Sainte-Chapelle rose window, as resplendent as the sun glowing through it, bathing him in light.


Klaus likes churches, thinks Dorian; but maybe he'd find this one too bright and airy to qualify for either sleeping or brooding, or even praying. And yet this small chapel has been Dorian's dream of a perfect place of air and liquid light since when he was a child—long before meeting Klaus, Dorian'd dreamed of taking his beloved here, sharing the living spirit of the stained glass windows, swim in the radiant weightlessness of the lacework treasure chest built to house the relics of the Crown of Thorns.


Of course, now he knows better about who his true beloved is, and more about the crown of thorns.


Time passes until, in the rich silence, the sunlight starts to fail—few precious moments left before it goes. Dorian's mind fills with Leonardo's words, how painting excels because it does not fade as music does as soon as it is born. It endures, and keeps all the appearance of being alive—though in fact it's only a flat surface. It can preserve the transient beauty of mortals and endow it with a permanence greater than the works of nature, for these are the slaves of time, even when death has destroyed nature's original, painting preserves the image of divine beauty.


No, Dorian cannot, will not think of death. Of Klaus dying. He won't. Klaus is in hospital, yes—and yes he was shot, and it was close, but he's on the mend now, soon he'll be back to work. His precious work, the work that gets all the love and dedication Klaus won't give Dorian. The work that gets Klaus's life, to be lived or died for.


The final flickers of sunlight pass away, and the temple of beauty becomes a sad, greying armour of spindly girders ringed by puppet-like glass saints. Painting does not fade, but sunlight does. Dorian closes his eyes, and loses his fight against yet more words, those from the poet he most loves, which now flood his mind. Suns may set and rise again: for us, once the short light sets, only the sleep of endless night remains.






L'Hôtel, 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts: Forty

Humming a small tune, Dorian steps out of his room, and follows the circular corridor spiralling down the stairwell. The round hollow shaft of the building, old rose blush and pale apricot, is a fresh delight in this sunny day, the rays from the skylight making his descent like an underwater dive through a pale coral reef. And it is a dive, he thinks, as he reaches the deep-set spa pool in the basement. The aquamarine shimmer, the humid chlorine scent, the soothing noise of gently splashing water over the cave-like silence. He gets out of his clothes, pins his hair up, and makes his way into the warm bath, sighing. Civilised.


Dorian wakes up from his half-slumber, cat-alert at the noise of padding feet. It's just another customer, though—no, two. He smiles as the men walk naked into the water, obviously a couple, yet obviously admiring him. He preens discreetly, or as discreetly as he can. The couple's eyes form a silent invitation—time for him to go; besides he's shrivelling up completely, so he gets up and leaves them, making sure they can ogle him from all angles as he leisurely wraps himself in his bathing robe.


Considering his deshabillé, he takes the lift on the way up; it's always a delightful moment, stepping through the solid wooden door into the faded, powdery turquoise of the tiny padded cabin, capitonné buttons almost a shade darker—they probably get replaced more often than the fabric; if it got replaced at all since the nineteenth century. He walks into his room—he's got the suite again—and begins the serious business of getting dressed for the Opera.


Later, he walks downstairs again, enjoying the change in the light as the sun marches on, bedwards, and he steps left through the bar, into the conservatory-like dining room. For once, Dorian is early, so the head waiter hurries up to meet him.


"Milord, your tea will be ready shortly. Would you like to wait in the bar for a while?"


Dorian nods, and goes back to the tiny bar room, smiles at the picture of the Hotel's chief patron, and picks up a random book from the mahogany shelves. He's never been disappointed; this one is an obscure baroque drama, eerily appropriate in view of his plans for the evening. He is wading thorough a treacly mass of overwrought French when the waiter comes back and leads him to his usual meal.


The reflection of the mauve orchids in the water fountain is entrancing, but a glance at his watch tells Dorian it's time to go. Should he take the Maserati, or should he walk? It's only about a mile, even if he must go round the Louvre so as not to see the horrid pyramids in the inner court—but that means he can cut through the Tuileries, and see if the Ferris wheel is up already. He smiles. Walk it is.

Dorian sits in his usual box, people-watching, which actually means being watched. He winks and smiles at the occasional beauty gazing at him in adoration, his ivory binoculars between a domino mask and a fan for this particular peek-a-boo game. Soon, the lights go out, and Händel's Admeto begins.


Unfortunately, the production is dreadful, a downright odd "modern revisitation"—but Mead's countertenor is to die for. High, creamy voice, coming out of a slender, pliant body, pink lips and a shock of dark hair. Dorian indulges in a brief fantasy of the sounds the man could make in bed, then shakes his head ruefully, chuckling at himself.


The City of Lights does its very best to impress Dorian as he slowly makes his way to the hotel—yet he can't help thinking back to the Admeto. If your husband were to die, and you could cheat fate by taking his place, aware of condemning yourself to hell, would you do it? And would you still do it, knowing that your husband would lose his will to live through guilt, and that you would eventually return from the Netherworld, a maddened husk consumed by jealousy and rage, to haunt him? Dorian never really believed in Hercules' obvious deus ex machinations to secure a happy ending; still, he thinks he knows what he would do.


Stopping only briefly on the Pont des Arts to stare at the glistening, serene reflection of the moon on the Seine, Dorian finally steps into L'Hôtel, and slowly makes for his room. He walks in, and he freezes for a moment, his hand automatically going to the dagger hidden in his left sleeve; then he relaxes, smiles and locks the door carefully.


The shape in the bed is stubbly, tired, unkempt—stirring only enough to glance at Dorian with one slitted eye, then mumbling: "I can't understand how you can sneak up on people with that foppish rose smell announcing you a mile away."


"I assure you, your cigarettes are equally effective, not to mention offensive—I could tell from the door. What kept you so long anyway; I thought the case was closed."


"Fucking debriefings. Haven't slept in 72 hours. Wake me in 30 minutes." Klaus's eyes close, and his breath slows and deepens.


Dorian pulls his bowtie loose, throws his cufflinks on the table, and starts working free of his scarlet cummerbund and braces. Once completely undressed, Dorian slides under the covers. He is very turned on, was since first smelling the tell-tale cigarettes-and-Klaus scent, but he can wait. He smiles, puts his hand over Klaus's strongly, steadily beating heart, and watches him sleep.



Paris, May 2009



Heartfelt thanks to all my editors: Anne-Li, Kadorienne, Zellieh; and to all the friends who commented on various drafts (Cat, Mirna, Alessia).


Comments are welcome: cassieingaben at yahoo dot co dot uk

Language notes:


"Viens petit— huîtres et champagne, pas cher! Petit anglais!"

"Come here—oysters and champagne, not expensive! Young Englishman!"


"Eh, toi, fais gaffe!"

Hey, careful!


Chambres de bonne.

Small attic rooms, originally for servants, now rented very cheap (bathroom on the landing).


"Viens, rentre."

"Come on in."


"Arrête, petit con, tu vas réveiller les morts,"

Shut up, cunt, you'll wake the dead!



In the Sainte-Chapelle, Dorian quotes first from Leonardo Da Vinci's Treatise on Painting; then

from Catullus' poem 5, the three verses coming immediately before the often-quoted:

"Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,

Then another thousand, then a second hundred,

Then yet thousand, then a hundred"



In case anyone's interested, here's the original versions:


soles occidere et redire possunt:

nobis cum semel occidit breuis lux,

nox est perpetua una dormienda.

da mi basia mille, deinde centum,

dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,

deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.

Carmina V-Ad Lesbiam


Ma la pittura eccelle e signoreggia la musica perché essa non muore immediate dopo la sua creazione, come fa la sventurata musica, anzi, resta in essere, e ti si dimostra in vita quel che in fatto è una sola superficie. O maravigliosa scienza, tu riservi in vita le caduche bellezze de' mortali, le quali hanno piú permanenza che le opere di natura, le quali al continuo sono variate dal tempo, che le conduce alla debita vecchiezza;

Trattato della pittura, 3

 

 

Eroica