Jane was gone. I must have been dreaming with the knowledge that she had left me, I must have seen it happen in my sleep, for when I woke, there was no moment of revelation. My hand dragged across a cold, empty side of the bed, where she had been, where she must have seen whatever she saw. And I knew already. I would never see Jane, never see Meredith, again. The girl with the green hat was gone.
Naked, in mindless step, I walked to the window and looked over a mist-blanketed city. None of the tin or stone roofs were visible. An ocean of white cloud, calm and duldrumous, expanded and hid everything beneath it, like a sunken Atlantis, cob webbed and forgotten. There was no one on the street. When I turned to face the bed again, I felt my throat choking in disgust. Angela lay restless, white and chalky. All the life was out of her cheeks; her lips were shriveled; the beauty had collapsed into her eyes, like a fallen temple, leaving nothing behind but ruins. Whatever magnet had brought me into her had lost all its force. She was no different. But she was ugly.
I walked to the bed and shook her by the shoulders. She was warm. She was not dead. Her eyes slowly peeled open. Her smile bent like a harp. Her tongue spiked out and in from a corner of her mouth.
“Bon matin,” she said.
“Where is she?”
She placed a hand on my cheek.
“Don’t you remember, my sweety?”
She was laughing at me. As my heart and mind raced in tight unison, as the ground beneath my feet crumbled for a grasp of Jane, the girl in front of me was calm and cool.
“Oh little dove,” she said. “Poor baby. Don’t you recall the scene she made when we came back to bed?”
I had no idea, no memory. I still don’t.
“Oh poor baby,” she said.
I could have murdered her for an answer. I could have strangled those stupid lips into paleness and blue with no hassle.
“What happened was she woke up and I told her everything, is what happened. You wanted me to. You practically begged me to. You’re the oaf who woke her… Don’t tell me… but you really don’t remember?”
“Look,” I said. I stepped forward, still naked, and towered over her as large as I could make myself. I outstretched my finger and placed it on her neck, pointing like a dagger into her throat.
“Tell me where she’s gone.”
She chuckled, she rolled her eyes, she dashed away my hand.
“Oh my baby. You’re boring me, you know. Why be such a bore?”
She removed the blanket and beneath was her naked self – a white girl on a blue bed, bones and hip, and breasts, and death, and nothing in me wanted it. I shivered when she spoke.
“She is gone, princy. She is gone and, trust me, you’ll never see her again.”
She bit her lip. She stood up and, after picking up my jeans from the floor, threw them my way.
“But thanks for a good night, honey baby.”
The jeans landed at my feet. I approached her and took her throat in my hand. I squeezed and she only smiled more. She tried swallowing but couldn’t.
“What did you do? Where is she?”
She smiled. She pulled her self closer to me. She placed her body, her quivering little body, against me and grabbed my cock. She was choking and smiling and there was no squeezing the smile from her eyes. So I threw her against the wall of books, and down came a shelf, down came the Miller, and the Lawrence, and the trinkets and bracelets, and all the wonders of Jane in her labyrinth, her little boat, and the girl, Angela, writhed on the floor like prisoner in ecstasy, a wretch who in the light of day had turned to ash.
I left the chambre bonne on Boursault in tears. My stomach growled as I stepped into the abandoned street. It was early, the sun had only just come up, the air was cold and the taste of fall stuck in the back of my throat like smoke. There was one man on the street as I walked toward the mountains – it was the fat man I had seen days earlier entering the Chinese whore’s. He was going to the same place. I passed him now and his face was chalky, his nose red and scarred. He had shaven recently and the acne on his forehead and neck was bright red and tender looking. He tipped his hat as I passed him , and I heard the tinkling bells of the massage parlour sound behind me. When I looked back the door had shut. He had disappeared inside.
At Marie’s I had not remembered the scene from the night before, when she nearly attacked me with the knife, until I discovered my bags outside her door. I was about to knock but realized there was no use. I owned a large briefcase, and a 50-pound backpack, and I struggled to carry everything down the flight of stairs and out into the streets. There was a hostel nearby up Cauillancours and those dramatic stone steps. Walking with the weight was impossible. It took maybe an hour, but the thoughts of Jane kept me company and stretched every step into an excruciating effort, as if I was treading through cold, wet concrete. Every motion was doomed to bring me lower. My stomach was falling. My head echoed with the illustrious Jane. The night we had met. The kiss and the shaking hands. The maestra in the pyjamas. The girl with the diamond in her fist, scribbling her history into the mirror.
A child pushed his own stroller as I entred the hostel. His mother watched from a café table smoking a cigarette with a fat woman, who might have been her mother. A homeless man begged for change, he reeked of sweat and wine, and his fingers were black and burned.
I was given a bunk in a room with three others. I paid and had only 20 euros left for beer, for smokes, for salami and bread, later that day. I threw my bags at the foot of the bed and tumbled on top of the sheet of the single-sized lower bunk.
Across the room, under a mad mountain of blankets, clothing, books, empty bottles, a few empty packs of cigarettes, was a burned-faced man, not more than ten years older, fatter than me, with a face that had lived in sun, and slept on park benches, as well as dined in palaces and kissed princesses, a young and dangerous face, once handsome, though ugly, though worn. The man peeled off the fedora he had been using to shroud his eyes.
“Close the fucking light,” the man said.
That was how I first met Jason Andrew Potter. This would be the man who saved my depressed soul but gave me a life far more disgusting, far worse. Jason would be the one to show me the terrible and true face of love, of what my heartbreak meant. He would be the one to take me to whores, to salons, to women, and men, to take blood into my hands.
Jason, a writer, a mad man, would teach me to forget Jane and the other.
END OF PART 1