The very essence of romance is uncertainty.Oscar Wilde
The sad cafe iv
A Love Story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm
She Doesn’t Speak French By Holly Hunter On sleepless nights I stroll the left bank in black sequined heels My eyelids are heavy with smoky glitter. Among the art I find you your essence pierces my veins settles in the pool of my heart soft lights flicker their last warning in the sad cafe where like willows, we sway to long-forgotten love songs then you are gone, a Modigliani reclining, never hearing Je t’aime, the only French I know.
Five Years Earlier
Autumn leaves have begun to fall. Late October, London is ablaze in hues of orange and purple. On my bench, by the river, I daydream that I am an adolescent reptile escaped from Kafka’s Die Verwanlung, laid back basking in the sun.
The air is layered in heavy cologne, but men do not interest me now. I am content to casually observe. To my advantage, I know all about them while they know so little about me.
Thinking of you against my wishes, dying a little, dead all the sweet hope of dreams never realized, I imagine my earthly body padded, sat beside yours on a grassy knoll breathing in the scent of lilac and the mossy green River Delta.
In the dark, I am nude but for a shadow across my torso.
You are so near, and to distract me from this burning desire, I let my thoughts linger among Roethke’s “In A Dark Time.”
Years pass, and by chance, we meet at the sad cafe. I sway in your arms like a fragile birch in an autumn tempest. The halo of my eyes glistened, recalling how we gave away what we never really had. We hold each other, knowing that love has died, and we with it.
Renate’s life rotated in the dark of city life as she did her post-graduate work at the St. Thomas Hospital on the Thames River situated across from the Parliament Building. London was her escape from the memories of Paris. Here it was a different life with less mystery and a chance to work with only her thoughts to distract her.
“Welcome aboard, David. I see in your personnel file, you served the Embassy here in Paris before as an assistant to a previous Military Attache.
“I was young and inexperienced then, Sir,” David replied.
“I also see where you departed with high regard from the Ambassador. I find that interesting that you made such an impression.” The current Attache, Colonel Picardin, remarked as he continued to walk briskly from the receptionist station into the secured keep of the U. S. Embassy in Paris.
Doors designed to withstand bomb blasts clanked shut, ensuring David would be a captive audience for as long as the Colonel desired. Thankfully, senior military officers that spied for a living were spare of words.
When their tour of the facility and introductions to his team of embassy support staff was complete, David excused himself from the group confessing he had a date with a cafe near the Seine River. People rarely asked the Deputy Attache questions as it was his mission to go places and meet people of all walks of life, some much more dangerous than others.
“David, one second. I’ll walk you out. Col Picardin lost his amiable countenance and now addressed David with a stern demeanor like a face dancer. This assignment is no stranger to you. It will be hard for you to acclimate to Paris’ slow battle rhythm compared to your work in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Don’t let your guard down. Bad things happen here of a far more insidious nature. Loss of life is seldom, it’s the discount price that is rarely offered in our line of work.”
“Thank you, Sir. I’ll keep my head on a swivel.”
“One last thing, the Officer uttered as he approached the blast door. The women here are the best at getting what they want. Trust no one.”
The words bit into David’s flesh like the talons of an angry raptor. The curse of secrecy meant his honesty could only go so far. This need to only address people without commitment had wounded the only true love he had ever known. He looked down at the pavers and shook the memories from his vision; duty feeds the ego and stabs the heart, he whispered to ghosts. Tonight he would go to the Sad Cafe and wait for Renate. It was their anniversary, so to speak. Today was the day they confirmed their love for each other five years ago. They had missed several, but this time he hoped she would be there and let him explain; no, beg her to come back to him.
He would be here for at least five more years, plenty of time for them to work on restarting their relationship. David knew he would tell her what he does for a living and why he was gone so often without explanation. He let loneliness, fear, and finally, jealousy and suspicion take her mind and crush her heart. How could he let an oath to silence destroy the one person he held most dear?