My Reading at The Catskill Art Society

I participate from time to time in a local story-telling group. We go from venue to venue, reading stories for FREE written with a common thematic context. The caveats are: (1) they must be in first person, true stories; (2) within the framework of the theme; and (3) limited word count which ranges from 500 to 850 words.

Last night, I read at the Catskill Art Society ("CAS"). This is a big deal. 

The CAS is to us in Sullivan County what PS1 is to Long Island City. In other words, we have true, cutting edge artists on exhibit. For those of you who don't know, despite the ails of Sullivan County which I have described ad nauseum, it has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful areas of New York State. Due to its proximity to Manhattan (only 100 miles away), a lot of famous actors and musicians reside here. Then you have those of us who aren't famous, but equally and perhaps more talented who live here, free from the noise of NYC to create. {I like to count myself part and privy of this group whether true or not.}

The acoustics in the performance space nearly annihilated me due to my rare neurological diseases. Right before the reading started, my eyes teared up. 

I turned to my friend, Jonathan Charles Fox, former actor of the tv series, Fame (among many Hollywood movies), now reporter, writer and radio star up here and said, "I can't take it any more. I gotta go."

"It'll start any minute now. And when people are quiet, you'll be okay."

All right, the guy's prescient. 

I started the evening with a small piece, "It's Best to Leave the Past in the Past," an excerpt of my autobiography I wrote while visiting my friend in India. It was well received by the overflowing audience. As a matter of fact, the evening was a success.

For those of you who weren't present, I hope you enjoy this post although it sounds much better in my nasal, Queens accent and Mamie Eisenhower voice:

"It's Best to Leave the Past in the Past"
by Maura Stone

"Parles-tu encore le français?" Do you still speak French asked the disembodied voice on the other end of the phone.

"Bien sûr," I responded.

"Bon," he said. "C'est moi. It's me. Mitri." The last time I saw Mitri was exactly twenty-five years earlier in Paris.

"Méfies-toi, watch out for that guy," warned my concierge back then. Four years older than me, he cut a sophisticated, dashing and handsome figure. "He loves the ladies."

He was definitely a player. We broke up when he abandoned me in his apartment late at night to run off with another woman. Trust me, that was foremost in my mind when he identified himself.

"How did you find me?" I asked.

He replied, "I looked you up."

I spluttered. "What if I had married and had a different last name?"

He laughed. "Not you. You were always independent."

That got to me. He knew me better than I knew myself.

His voice faltered. "Do you want to meet for dinner? I'm here visiting my brother. He'll drop me off at your place."

Two and a half decades is long enough to bear a grudge; I accepted his invitation. When the buzzer rang, I flung my door wide open to see... an old man. Totally bald. Thick bags under his eyes. Despite the defeated stance, his body appeared in good shape. I stared, searching for the good-looking, brash and confident man I knew with the wild, unruly black hair.

His jaw dropped. “Dis donc, Maura, tu n’as pas changé!”

I laughed. “Oh non, I’ve changed.”

His eyes glowed. “Pas de tout.”

“Entrez,” I said. We sat on my living room sofa.

With eagerness, he pulled photos from his wallet. “I married a nice French girl who converted to Islam. We have three children. My son, a devil, is five."

“You're a lawyer?” I recalled he was in law school.

“Ahhhh, non. I’m head of the Chemistry Department at l’Université de Lyons. I went through a very bad patch.” A cloud passed in front of his face.

Noticing the dramatic change in mood, I got up. “Come, let’s go. I hope you like Chinese-nouveau-American organic food." That had to have been the most difficult sentence I ever said in French.

We hailed a cab and in minutes were seated at Zen Palate. I couldn’t refrain from staring into that weather-beaten face seeking the young man who captivated me enough to accept his nonsense, torments and other girlfriends.

Over dinner, he raved, “Excellent choice. Merci bien! Dis-moi, tell me about your life.”

“I’m a banker. My life isn’t very interesting. But, I enjoy myself.”

He shook his head. “I doubt your life is boring. You always managed to get in trouble when you lived in Paris.”

When he smiled, I recognized that impish look. Suddenly, the years stripped away. And magically I was transported to cafe Le Select with mon pt’t ami armed with his ever-present pack of unfiltered Gaulois cigarettes, sipping expresso coffee, watching pedestrians walk by. “Ah, you found me. Enfin!” he said, his eyes twinkling.

We shared stories and memories when we were both young with the future ahead of us. Animatedly, we interrupted each other with light banter that became boisterous when I brought up the time I stripped the gears of his car.

“Aha! You finally admitted it!” he crowed. “I knew it!”

“What about your propensity for stepping in dog shit?” I recalled.

He shook his head. “Alors, certain things never change.”

I laughed. “Remember that list you compiled of all my faults?” His eyes crinkled up. How he loved to tease me!

After he paid the check, he said, “My brother’s picking me up at your place at ten. Tu vois, this is the first time I ever came to America and the first thing I did was look you up. I wanted to see you.”

Smiling at the compliment, I suggested, “Do you want to take the subway back? There’s nothing like New York City mass transit. I promise I won’t get you lost.” I slyly referred to the one time I got lost on the Paris metro.

Arm in arm we walked to the Lexington Avenue line, chatting away about Robot Man, certain ex-pats who I named "les singes" and the cafes we frequented. On the subway, we sat next to each other.

Quietly, he stated, “I remember the pornographic magazine you brought over. And in bed-”

“Mitri, please,” I said with discomfort. Suddenly, I returned to the present time seated next to an old man. My nostalgic feelings of a long lost love evaporated.

“Non, I have to say this," he insisted. "You were the most exciting woman I ever was with. I always think back to those days.”

Nonplussed, I had nothing to say. There was nothing to say. Fortunately, it was our stop. By the time we arrived at my apartment building, his brother sat waiting in a car at the entrance. We kissed good-bye three times the Parisian way.

He may have gotten closure, but I was left with sadness.


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