It’s Sunday morning again. Sunday morning, and I have an answer to my question.
Everything about last night was different. The secret cavern of La Mexicaine de la Perforation. Being in a special, hidden place like that right under the middle of Paris, to watch a movie. The movie, Rumble Fish. The feel of Chantal’s hand in mine. The couscous and white wine we shared together in the Perforation Mexicans’ underground cafe. The ride back to Chantal’s in the taxi, drunkenly cuddled together in the back seat. What transpired after we got to her apartment.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the white wine so much as the absinthe that followed it that made the biggest difference. I’d never had absinthe before, and I think I owe where I find myself this morning to it, in pretty large measure. But I’m not complaining, not for a moment.
It was my decision to go through that door, but it was Chantal who held the door open. So we can both take responsibility for what happened last night. And getting me the answer to my question.
So what happened, you ask? You just want to know everything, don’t you? Even things I might not be ready to share. Let’s start by saying this: I awake this morning, the light streaming in the windows, finding my arm laid across Chantal’s chest. When I open my eyes I see her eyes, those green almond-shaped orbs, looking back at me from where she lies, just beside me. Her eyes seem more happy now than penetrating, as they’ve seemed in recent days. Amused, even. We’re both naked in her bed.
“Bonjour, chérie,” she greets me. “Bien dormi?”
I blink my eyes, and then smile. I know she’s playing with me. Of course I slept well. When I slept.
“De beaux rêves?”
Yes, I’ve had beautiful dreams. How could I not? Wasn’t the whole night one big beautiful dream?
“Oui, Chantal. Des très, très beaux rêves. Et toi aussi?”
“Oui, moi aussi.”
Our lips meet for a morning kiss. I don’t think either of us will be at the cafe by 8 as is our usual Sunday habit. It’s already past 8, a hair shy of 9, I see from the clock over Chantal’s shoulder on her nightstand.
That’s how it started last night, too. With a kiss. We got back to Chantal’s place, both probably too inebriated for our own good, from the wine and the absinthe, very much past midnight. Chantal fiddled with her keys before managing to unlock the door and usher me through it. Once inside the door, I couldn’t resist taking Chantal in my arms. I had a stupendous evening to thank her for. I looked into her eyes, those deep pools of green, our lips so close. I didn’t have to say or do a thing. Chantal did the speaking. She knew just by looking.
“Are you sure, chérie? It’s a big step, you know. It might change things between us, though I will still be your boss and you my little bird at the piano, no matter what.”
I had the question, my question, turned around on myself, and I didn’t have to think about the answer. I pressed my lips to Chantal’s, my tongue caressing them. That was my answer, an answer she accepted and returned, and at last I felt for myself the kind of pleasure those lips of hers were made to provide.
That’s how it started, with a kiss, just inside Chantal’s door. But it didn’t stop there, and it didn’t take long for us to shed the sensible, dusty flat shoes and the slinky, clubby dresses. To find our way to Chantal’s bed. And in the hours that followed, to find ways to make each other feel good, good like neither of us had felt in a long time, with our lips, and our tongues, and our fingers, and our bodies.
When we finally bid each other bonne nuit with a good-night kiss, before we drifted into that impenetrable sleep that follows lovemaking like that, I had just one thought on my mind: Chantal, my lover, my mother, my friend. All of them, none greater that any of the others. I had my answer.
Now, in the light of day, once we break our kiss, I work my way down Chantal’s body with my lips. I want to kiss, to taste, to cherish every part of her, to let her know how special she is to me, how good a lover I can be to her. She does not resist as I pull aside the covers, laying her bare, so unfathomably beautiful, all curves and mounds and valleys in the morning light. She lets me have my way with her, accepts the gift of my pleasure, incrementally presented in a peck here, a lick there, a gentle bite in that other place, my efforts rewarded by the cry of her orgasm as I bestow the final gift between her thighs, which she has allowed to fall open to my loving intrusion.
“Oh, mon dieu, chérie. Tu es incroyable. Merci, pour ça. Je te remercier, tellement, tellement, tellement, ma douce.”
“Mon plaisir, chère Chantal. Vraiment, my pleasure.”
“I won’t argue with you, but let me say it was my pleasure, too, you naughty girl.”
“Naughty? Am I naughty, Chantal?”
“Mais oui, absolument. But in a very good way.”
I can tell by her smile she is content, pleased with me.
“I shouldn’t tell you this, Chantal, but I have been wondering whether you looked on me as a lover, too, or just as a silly girl to look after and who plays the piano naked for your customers. I’ve wondered about this for a long time.”
“And I shouldn’t tell you this, chérie, but yes, for a long time. From the beginning, en vérité. From the first time I met you, I have wondered what it would be like to take you as a lover. But I felt it was up to you, what happened. So that makes Chantal a very naughty girl, too, n’est-ce pas?”
We smile at one another like two kids caught with our hands in places they shouldn’t be, and have another kiss, sharing Chantal’s ambrosia on our tongues.
When we’re up and have taken a shower together, and engaged in more of the intimacies shared showers are good for, we put on little short robes Chantal has and she suggests we stay in and have a coffee and some pastry in her kitchen. She’ll go for her bread later, when I’ve left to return home. And with mention of my return home, the subject of Sid inevitably comes up.
“Will you stay with him, chérie? You don’t have to, you know. I’ve already told you so.”
I wish Chantal hadn’t raised this question again. It’s hard enough dealing with Sid, hard enough to sort my feelings after a night and a morning such as we’ve shared, and her question just makes it harder.
“Chantal, I told you. Yes, I’ll stay with him. For now. He has his good points, and I’m complicit in what we do together.”
I explain to Chantal how I feel I’m really a whore, no different from any other whore, not her girls, not street hookers or escorts, not any one else. She can’t really argue with what I say since she understands it. All she can say is that I can find someone better than Sid to be a whore to.
“You know, Rosie, there are men who will buy you nice things, take you on trips, even pay for your school, and they won’t beat you like Sid does or make you do the things he makes you do.”
“But what if I like the things Sid makes me do? I’m an excitement junkie, you know? What if I even get pleasure from the beatings? I know it sounds perverse, but something in me gets off on them. I’m the masochist to his sadist.”
“Whatever, Rosie. Pleasure, yes. This I can understand. But the abuse? There is too much of that, and that is something else. As I told you, you are a big girl. The decision is yours. It’s not for me to make it, but you know how I feel about it.”
“I do know, and I appreciate that, Chantal. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’ll always be with Sid. I really don’t know. All I know – okay, I think, anyway – is this isn’t the time to change horses.”
We both laugh a bit at the thought of Sid being a horse.
“Well, just do it before the horse throws you in the river.”
We laugh again at the reference, even if it isn’t funny.
“What do you think, Chantal? Is Sid more like Rusty or The Motorcycle Boy?”
We both laugh again at my reference to the main characters in Rumble Fish. It was the perfect film to see, for both of us, and just at the right time.
“He certainly is not Motorcycle Boy, I’ll say that, Rosie. At best he might be a glorified Rusty.”
We laugh again, but I feel disloyal speaking of Sid this way. It’s then that I realize something.
“What’s the date today, Chantal?”
“It’s dimanche, Sunday, of course.”
“No, I know it’s Sunday. I mean the date, the day of the month. It’s the fourth, isn’t it?”
“Oui, c’est ça. It’s the fourth. Ah, yes. It’s your national holiday, the Fourth of July. Happy Fourth, ma petite amie américaine.”
“Yes, it’s that, merci. But it’s something else, too, Chantal. This is the day I met Sid. Four years ago, on the Fourth of July. I was hitching on the freeway and he picked me up. Do you realize that? It’s my anniversary with Sid.”
“Je vois. Un jour très important. Félicitations, chérie.”
I can tell there is a double edge to Chantal’s words. She’s not one to be jealous, and it isn’t that. It’s just how she feels about me and Sid.
“It’s Independence Day, Chantal. And ironically, when I met Sid, it was both the beginning and the end of my independence.”
Her eyes look sad now, as they have not all morning, and she reaches a hand across the small table to take mine in it.
“Chérie, life is but a series of trade-offs. We make one decision, we shut off another. We gain our freedom in one place, we give it up in another.”
“We open one door, we close another.”
I finish Chantal’s thought for her, and her hand tightens on mine, her eyes fix on mine.
“C’est ça. Précisément.”
We sit silently for an extended moment, letting all this sink in.
“Life’s funny, Chantal, isn’t it? I met Sid on the Fourth of July, and now this, with you, with us, on the Fourth? I couldn’t have planned it.”
“No, you didn’t plan it. Neither me. But there it is.”
“I wonder if Sid even remembers. I’m sure he remembers how we met, picking me up on the on-ramp to the 405 on that Fourth four years ago, that I know, but whether he remembers the date? Knowing Sid, I’d be surprised. I’ve always had to remind him.”
“And does it matter to him?”
“Not really. Not like it matters to me.”
“You were young, chérie, non? Just 12?”
“Twelve and a half, as I liked to say. Yes, I was young. But I was no ordinary 12-year-old. I had already hitchhiked across the country by then, across the whole of America – can you imagine? – from Southern California to New York City, on my own. And somehow survived. When I met Sid it was my first time out of the cage my parents put me in when I got back. Not a real cage, but it was like being in a cage, how they kept me at home.”
“You are very special, chérie. Do you think it could be any jeune fille I might have sit naked at the piano and play for my customers? Non. C’est uniquement toi. Mon petit oiseau Rosie.”
By now I’m almost ready to cry. And while she’s not very sentimental, not like me, I think Chantal is, too.
We reach across the table again, and kiss. There is nothing else to be said or done. Just kiss. At least I’ve gotten my anniversary kiss, even if it’s not from Sid.
When we resume our composure I change the subject.
“Sid is going to take me on another trip during the summer break in a week. That should be interesting. Sounds like a very exotic place, though he hasn’t told me where it is yet.”
“All well and good. Just come back in one piece, chérie. Exotic can be dangerous, too. You have done some amazing things, c’est vrai, but your luck can run out.”
Now the mother Chantal has emerged. How much she sounds like my Aunt Carol, talking about luck. It’s not something I believe in. Not really. But I listen to what she says.
“Yes, I know. I’ll be careful. I’m sorry, Chantal, but I’ll have to take some time off from playing the piano for you.”
“That is the least of my concerns. You know you are free to do what you need to do. En plus, it gets too quiet around here in the summer, like everything else in Paris. So go enjoy.”
Chantal, the friend. The friend who accepts me as I am.
“Will you miss me, Chantal? Will you? I mean me, Rosie, not just the little bird at the piano?”
She answers by reaching across the table and kissing me again, more deeply still, once more letting me feel the pleasure those lips of hers are made to give.
The lover Chantal, kissing me, kissing Rosie. Her Rosie.
Yes, I have my answer.