A Bout de Souffle - Breathless
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Filmed in 1960, Paris looked the same as I knew it in the early 1970's.
My cover is an homage of sorts to Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse:
And to Diane Johnson:
Now that you got this far, would like to entertain you with a chapter from Amour Anarchy, a Memoir:
AMOUR ANARCHY A MEMOIR
Romance, Paris Early 1970’s
Paris, je ne t’aime plus...
Ah! Paris quand tu es debout
Moi, je t’aime encore
Léo Ferré, from the album, Amour Anarchie
I studied literature and architecture at la Sorbonne in Paris.
I studied literature and architecture at la Sorbonne in Paris.
My parents lovingly bestowed a meager allowance that allowed me to reside in a women’s dormitory amid the trendy and touristy neighborhood known as the 14th arrondissement, or the 14th district. Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements in the shape of a spiral from the middle of the city outwards.
I had a boyfriend, a true bon vivant from Tehran named Mitri. He was older than me, rented an apartment and owned a car. Mitri made no bones about having other girlfriends. He had two others: Number One who was a published poet and Number Two, a registered nurse. I was Number Three. No exaggeration, he referred to me as Number Three.
He told me, “Je t’aime quand même tu n’es que numéro trois.” I love you even though you’re Number Three. He also said, “Je peux mordre tes lèvres,” I can devour your lips which gave me paroxysms of joy.
I was crazy about him.
One night he picked me up from my dormitory. Just before we drove off, he let me know he had to fetch Number Two.
“She lost her wallet and house keys. I have to drive her home.”
Curious as to my competition, I didn’t object.
He navigated through heavy Paris traffic on boulevard du Montparnasse, cursing in French, throwing his hands up in frustration and honking the hell out of his horn. At long last, he came to a stop on a side street. There she stood, arms folded, foot tapping the pavement in impatience.
Number Two was stunning. She had long, straight, jet–black hair and bangs that fell like a silk curtain framing her face. Her eyes were lined in black kohl and lips painted scarlet red. She had a raw and vibrant sensuality that I, a Polly–Anna, so squeaky clean, the dark–haired version of a corn–fed Midwestern blonde, could never pull off.
He swerved to the curb. She opened the rear door and slid into the back seat. Then noticed me up front.
She had a conniption. “Who is this?”
“Number Three,” responded Mitri.
“What? You brought Number Three?”
“Better than Number Five, right?” he said with a smirk.
That remark triggered a tantrum. “Now you have five girlfriends?”
He burst out in laughter. “When do I have the time?”
She carped at me, “Why do you allow him to treat you like that?”
From the front seat, I twisted around. “Why do you allow him to treat you like that?”
She screamed at Mitri, “Your behavior is really inexcusable.” Pouting, she stared out the window.
I tilted my head to address Number Two. “Est–ce que tu te connais?” Do you know yourself?
“Quoi? What kind of statement is that?” screamed Mitri. “It’s not French!” For emphasis, he slammed hard on the brakes so as not to damage the car in front which had stopped short.
She yelled at him in French, “Ouais, oui, certainement. It’s a philosophical question she’s asking. What do you know of philosophy?” Mitri studied law. She peered at me. “You’re rather young to ask something like that.” Sitting back, she reflected for a bit. “Je suis bien dans ma peau. I know what I want. I have a good job and friends... I’m wondering, though, if I want him.”
He said from the front seat, “Bon. Now both of you are discussing philosophy. And me.”
“What do you expect?” she retorted, indignant. “You pick me up with your other girlfriend. How should I act?”
They discussed me as if I weren’t there. Uncomfortable, I fidgeted in the front seat.
Leaning forward, she asked, “Do you feel lost? Is that why you’re delving into those types of questions?”
I nodded. “Je ne suis pas bien dans ma peau, I don’t feel comfortable in my skin. I find things puzzling and don’t understand a lot of what I see. Or hear. Or do.”
“Alors, that’s because you’re young.” With eight years’ difference between us, she spoke with authority. “It’ll all come together the older you get.”
He tossed the cigarette butt out the window and lit up another. Fingers twitching in anxiety, he honked the horn.
“Merde. Damn traffic.”
From behind, Number Two sighed. “She’s a nice girl. Mais une fille, but a girl. Mitri, how could you?”
He snickered. “Not as nice and innocent as you may believe.”
She snorted in derision. “Eh bien, what’s with this nonsense of rating your women? We do have names. But calling us by numbers, Numéro un, deux et trois? Why do you do this? Do you realize how insensitive you are?”
He glowered at her from the rear view mirror.
She spat out, “Sometimes, Mitri, you’re an immature fils de pute, an asshole.”
He perked up. “You’re saying this on account of you’re Number Two.”
I laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m Number Three.”
“Bah alors.” She crossed her arms in defiance and didn’t say a word, succeeding in using her muteness as an oppressive weapon. It felt like eternity before we got to her place.
Mitri parked on the pavement under a tree.
“Allons–y,” he said, Let’s go.
They emerged from the car and walked up the street. I tagged along. Number Two pressed the building’s entrance button which released its lock. Entering a large vestibule, she knocked on the first door to the left. She explained, “C’est l’appartement du concierge.” An unshaven man wearing a wife–beater shirt came out, dangling a key on his index finger.
“Merci,” she said and snatched the key.
We mounted five flights of stairs until we stopped before her apartment. After a few twists of the key, she pushed the door open and stepped aside to allow us in. Wavering, I stood on the threshold while Mitri brushed by me.
“Entrez,” she said. “You came this far.”
To my surprise, her apartment was lovely. An antique Japanese kimono adorned the wall in the sparsely furnished living room. She added similar finishing touches to her bedroom as well.
“Où t’as foutue les clés?” Where the fuck are your keys? asked Mitri.
Dashing back and forth in her heels, a reverberating clack on the parquet tiles, she exclaimed, “Je les ai perdues! I lost them!”
I stood in the middle of the living room, not knowing what to do. Mitri, familiar with the apartment, ambled into the tiny kitchen and retrieved a bottle of water from the refrigerator.
“Do you want anything to drink?” she offered. I shook my head no.
Mitri and I left soon afterwards.
On the drive back to his apartment he smiled, grabbed my thigh and said, “Just for you to know. You’ve been promoted. You’re now Number One.” He laughed. “And Number Two is now Number Three. That’ll teach her.”
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