Sortie, Mon Cher Adam Gallari 21, June 20—
t is summer in Paris, still the Parisian women dress in black, as though any fabric dyed with color was requisitioned long ago for use on the
many flags of blue and red and white garrisoning the corners of the city’s boulevards. Slender sentinels, like those women with their dark, funereal air—unsmiling at times, at other times smoking, their lips pinching rolled paper and tobacco, their faces awash in plumes of perfumed smoke. You assume, naively, that this is how they pass their days, on mornings when the sun has yet to break through the patchwork puffs of interlaced clouds that blow in from over the Channel, Calais, before settling above this gallery of a city, this dynamic museum. And these women, because, yes, there are always women, young and old, some who hobble with canes, clad in skirts hemmed to their ankles that hide milky white legs, skin curdled by time and mapped by the blue rivers of varicose veins. Quiet, they are, in their modesty, one born long ago and distilled through years of practice. They do not understand the little black dress; they are the mothers of Chanel. But those daughters—
Gallari live mannequins of Givenchy and Yves Saint-Laurent— with their trench coats unbuttoned, hanging, draped on shoulders cast back proud. Confident. Threatening, this sexuality spearheaded by the advance of two breasts, the rear echelon of a smile, perhaps a wink, or perhaps there are no reinforcements, no second wave, just a passing incursion—here and gone. Forgotten save for the moment: a sniper’s glance, skilled enough. One shot. One kill. And you. You will sit there as you are. Later you will walk by them as you are. Unknowing. Enraptured, maybe. Maybe instead scared because the language you understand is one of gestures, not the one rolled off tongues into cell phones or adjacent ears or perhaps given only to the wind, these soft consonants, dropped vowels, subtle murmurs that sound like incoherent whispers more aptly offered in the spent bed of two lovers too tired to articulate all that has transpired, all that has still to come. Another invasion, this time from within. Because there is something grand, imposing of places that name their streets not by letters and numbers but after great dead men, as though by simply walking one is reminded that there is something higher to aspire to. Timeless, this majesty, etched into corner stones, carved in relief above doorways, hidden in the eaves of alleys and darkened corridors that give way to open places occasionally, but more often loop back into themselves, swallowing all light, all progress. Collecting souls. But you are not to be consumed, pocketed. You do not have that privilege. You are just passing through, a non-entity, a highwayman spending a night at the inn before you move to another town, another province, another realm altogether. You will not register. You will not be the cause of notice, of turning heads, of smiles and whispers. You will not find the Pantheon. Because the curse of your freedom, is that it is not
libertie—that entrapment, to be entombed among the living so that one day you might walk amongst those chosen dead that live under the golden domes of rotundas, those that live under cobblestone streets, beneath
Volume 7 the haze of clouds that seem to part only when the bells of Cathedrals toll. Their combined power enough to cause even nature to shrink at the request of Vespers, Sexts and Lauds. So you keep your watch by these chimes, these wailings that remind you that you are another metallic drone closer to death. These bells, sequestered from view, invisible save for their sound. Vive le France! shout towers bastioned by gargoyles. Vive le France! sing steeples sanctioning Saints. Because it is flesh, not nations, not ideas, that ultimately die. And then whose bones will remain to champion you, remind those in the chorus to add your name to the roll? Neither bell nor belle, cast iron nor cast glance, troubles for you, because you are already a ghost, mon cher. And here, in a city synonymous with light, part of you knows the time to abscond draws near. Part of you knows that, even before the darkness comes, you are already gone.
Slender sentinels, like those women with their dark, funereal air—unsmiling at times, at other times smoking, their lips pinching rolled pap...