Aﬀaire de Coeur by Vincent Barry11 Dec 2017, Posted by Poetry in
AFFAIRE DE COEUR
“So when did it begin?” she says, cocking a queer eye at me.
Rubbing a fleshy ear, I say, “Does it matter?”
The truth is I can’t say exactly when. The other truth, I’m thinking, is, “This is the beginning of the beginning of the end.”
“It’s just that, of late,” I try to explain, with a spasm of apprehension, “I have found myself— in the sense of . . . discover—”
Hand to mouth I admit that it was when Édith—
“Édith!” she goes, drawing her brows together. “And others? I know there have been—” Jane, Barbara, Dalida. . . .
Then, with a misgiving heart, I blurt,“Sometimes at night, a strange—” “Buzzing,” she cuts in, nerving me to sudden alertness.
‘Yes, but how —!” “I heard it.”
“A strange buzzing in the ear—” yes—, “that sounds like paroles, paroles?” “Pa-pa-,” I patter.
“I looked it up. It’s French for—”
“Don’t tell me, don’t tell me!” I beg, shutting my ears. “—‘words’.”
“‘Paroles, paroles,’?” I mutter, unable to still the ringing of her words alliding with my thoughts. Then, “No, no, I don’t want to know—that’s the whole point! . . . Of late I find myself,—”
“Discover—so you’ve said.”
“—but only in French—in music in French.” The way she fixes me under inquiring eyebrows makes me hasten to add, “Take, say, ‘Autumn Leaves’—the song.”
“The song.” Then, matter-of-factly, she rattles oﬀ, “Roger Williams. . . . Nat King Cole. . . , ” before throwing in Eric Clapton and Eva Cassidy.
I dismiss the names with quick, palsy head-shakes before saying, “Montand, ‘Les Feuilles Mortos.’”
“Montand?” she goes, looking hard at me. “Yves Montand.”
“He was a singer before—” I let the rest of my sentence drop.
She ponders. I challenge. Pick a song, any song, as if I’m doing a card trick.
She draws a long breath. Then,“‘Beyond the Sea,’” and adds dreamily, “Bobby Darin.” “Charles Trenet,” I counter.
“Who?” she says.
“Pick another,” I say with a pride of stagecraft.
A short pause follows before she says, suggestively, “‘If You Go Away.’” I wait patiently for her to name the artist.
“Shirley Bassey.” My arm moves sideways as if pushing something away. Her voice drops, almost imperceptibly shaking, when she says, “Dusty Springfield? . . . Neil Diamond? . . .”
“Piaf,” I say flatly.
“Hmph!,” she sniﬀs, her unfocused eyes drooping, “Édith again.”
“‘Ne Me Qiotte Pas’,” I say. Then, making a clean breast of it, “Her ‘L’hymme a l’amour’ makes me—”
“What?” she cuts me short. “Makes you what?”
“Brave,” I say, in an unfamiliar deep chest voice.Then, surprising myself further, “Brave— brave enough to say, ‘It makes me cry.’”
After a marked pause she pleads, “And Corey Hart? Surely—!” I don’t answer.
“Surely,” she says, her “grief muscle” tensing,“Sinatra— ‘My Way’?” “Mireille Mathieu,” I reply without hesitation,‘Comme d’habitude.’” “Mireille—?”
“With your wide set eyes,” I add, trying to ease the blow, “and your red and wet lips.” Her head tilts sideways with, “Joe Dassin’s ‘Indian Summer’?”
“Only his ‘L’été Indien.’”
“Never ‘Indian Summer’”? she wobbles, exposing more of the carotid.
I don’t respond. I can’t. I can see it’s too hurtful. Instead, “And always—”
“Don’t tell me—” she breaks in with raised hand and head, that shows, surprisingly, a mouth wreathed in a sharp-eyed smile.
A long meditative pause ensues, during which, alchemically, the fretful lines of her face fade and her previously distressed eyes turn imaginative. Then, gazing at me with the full flush mien of revelation, and in a voice languid with visions, she continues, “holding a cigarette.”
And this moment, this already part of the past beatitude of a moment, yet still kindled by the flash of a future aflame in her eyes, beggars belief that it’s the beginning of the beginning of—
“Always!” I go with springing hope, of holding a cigarette.
A pause, before from her, evenly: “Like—like, Delain,” and my heart gives a wild leap, and I cast, tremulously, “Or Camus.”
A nod, another pause, before she goes in the same cadence,“Or Gille Deleuze.” Then, “But-but, mon cher, you don’t smoke.”
She’s right—I don’t.
No matter, I say, “Only Gitanes or Gauloises if—”
“You can get them,” she completes my thought with laughing eyes.
After a nodding lapse, “A deep wound,” leaks from her, “a yearning.” Then, soulfully, “Something popping up from past into the mind that— ”
“Only French can touch,” I say.
Then from her, “I never knew you knew French.” “Not a word,” from me.
“And you’re not curious?”
“They would just get in the way—.” “Of course,” she agrees, “the words.” “Their senseless rattle.”
“Paroles, paroles,” she says tenderly.
“The senseless rattle of the words,” I say.
“They get in the way—the words do, of—,” her restless eyes betray a search for the mot juste before lighting upon, “the nameless.”
And I return, “The ineﬀable.”
Which she meets with, “Like a morning on a beach,” and I rejoin, “Or a long, wind-blown dress,” and from her, “Or a wave that—” and I can hear it drawling in the murmurous beat of my heart as I complete her thought—“will never reach the dunes. . . .”
A smile wrinkles her nose and makes her eyes look even larger than Mireille’s, when she says, “The inenarrable,” and then,“the perfume in the air.”
And all I can say—who knows why?—, “A spinning black eagle with ruby eyes tearing the sky apart.”
Then, it’s as if prayer seals our lips. . . .
“Well,” she at last breaks the holy stillness in a churchlike voice, “there’s nothing for us to do but—”
I hang suspended, pop-eyed, as if beholding an apparition, before she muses, “—pull down the moon and dye our hair blonde.”
And I know she’s right, . . . and that it’s not at all—.
About the author:
After retiring from a career teaching philosophy, Vincent Barry returned to his first love, fiction. His stories have appeared in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad, most recently (2017): Dime Show Review, Mulberry Fork Review, Adelaide Literary Magazine,The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Broken City, The Fem, Dual Coast, The Fiction Pool, Subtle Fiction, FictionWeek Literary Journal, and Star 82. Barry lives with his wife and daughter in Santa Barbara, California.
Art: Tobias Staaf, @staaftobias, Ornskoldsvik, Sweden