maugerite sits in the garden behind musee rodin.
she loves coming here and visits at least once a week. her favorite spot is to the left, near the statue of john the baptist. if it is winter she usually sits closer to the fountain, where she might find more sun. if she comes to seek solace in the garden and it is crowded with noisy tourists, she walks back to les invalides and sits in her favorite spot there. (facing the building, to the right, there is a fountain surrounded by benches. she likes to face west.) it is usually quiet there; the hedges and trickling water somehow act as a muffle to the loud city traffic. with her back to the foreigners waiting to see napolean's tomb, she can imagine she is in the country. she also loves to watch strangers visit with their families while they push them in wheelchairs along the dirt paths. she thinks that this must be their escape from their sick, maybe dying, hospital-life reality, but still wonders how they find joy in any moment.
she clings to the their small happiness.
today the museum is not crowded, and after paying her one euro entry fee, she stares at le penseur for a full minute before she heads to the cafe, descending along the tree-lined dirt path. the trees, with their reaching branches create a narrow path, and for a moment she feels she has left the city. she sits for a while outside the garden cafe , enjoying a coffee and pastry in the sunshine. she tries to read a book but her mind wanders to the contrast of the blue sky with the green leaves. she thinks she can smell the roses, too.
she wanders along the perimeter of the garden and finds her favorite place, next to the statue of john the baptist. thankfully no one else has chosen her bench today. she retrieves her sketchbook from her satchel and starts to draw the thinker. she only sat near the statue the first few times she drew it, and now uses her memory to create the likeness. her art teacher told her that this is good for the mind and the hand connection. no glancing up to distract from the strokes. as she draws, using her pastels, this time trying to emulate munch's interpretation, she realizes that the thinker's strong features resemble sammy's, her latest lover. she had spent last week with a new stranger, again, but this time in the south of france. she revealed some about herself, but still lied about major details of her life. she told him she was un prof, for example, at la sorbonne, of all places. sometimes she tired of telling everyone that she lived from her inheritance like a spoiled rich girl, like someone living in another era. she never wanted a career, doesn't live lavishly, and loves taking care of grand-mere a couple of days a week. her days are always full, and she hasn't enjoyed any job she has tried. she doesn't need a job to find purpose.
maugerite has always found it difficult to keep friends. her parents died tragically when the family was living in kenya, and because of this, she finds it hard to open her heart to anyone. the closest she has come to true intimacy is with the opposite sex. having been raised by grand-mere, she missed out on having a father figure in her life. occasionally she will become attached to someone, usually an older man. eventually, usually quickly because she becomes vulnerable so easily, she glimpses a possibility of abandonment and she detaches herself. she likes americans because they don't stay around long, and aren't as demanding as french men. her lack of a consistent date, however, doesn't diminish her confidence. she possesses a surprising aplomb for a single girl living in paris.
being in her early thirties, she didn't find it too odd to spend time with sammy. he was in his early fifties and it made it easier knowing she would leave in a week. she has dated younger men as well, but usually finds them sophomoric in most ways. she has a friend, joseph, who she sees sometimes. occasionally they will go out for a proper dinner or to the opera or for a picnic, but most of the time it is just sex. she finds his strong, young body and youthful energy refreshing.
the closest she has come to a normal relationship is with an american, nic. she like to call him nicolas and loves to see the skin around his eyes wrinkle when he smiles. nic lives in the states but comes over twice a year. in the summer, he stays for longer, and she finds it perfect to be with him for this short time. they don't correspond during his absence; he calls her when she arrives. he didn't call this summer, and she was still considering yesterday that she might call him.
instead, he called her this morning. her heart fluttered to hear his voice, but she managed to restrain her excitement, and was thankful her blushing wasn't evident through the phone. they planned to meet this evening at their favorite restaurant, san remo. the pizza there is so similar to the pizzerias in italy that it is like une petite vacance. she likes to walk the mile down avenue niel from the arc de triomphe alone, so they planned to meet at the restaurant at eight.
she had four hours to kill before dinner, and wanted to distract herself from being nervous. she decided to head to the champs-elysees for the cinema. she loved going alone and watching people's reactions as much as she did the film. she engrossed herself in the drama, and soon it was 19:15. she touched up her makeup and hair a bit and then called grand-mere to say goodnight.
she enjoyed watching the beginning of the sunset as she strolled, and noticed the chill of the coming of autumn. she felt a bit sad as summer was nearly over, but had a feeling she might enjoy this fall more than ever before. she thought she might forget herself and allow anything to happen. nic had never stayed in paris longer than twelve weeks, and she didn't think she could stay away from allowing herself to fall in love with him. arriving at san remo, she took a deep breath and walked in. when she saw nic she lost that breath, and had to remind herself to take another. he looked so much more handsome than last time, and appeared more carefree than she'd ever noticed. they greeted with kisses and neither one's smile ever even began to fade.
she requested a bottle of burgundy from her favorite area in burgundy (beaune) and relaxed as she sipped her first glass. they waited a while to order la salade de roi-soleil and a quatre fromage pizza. they made their dinner last a whille, and had another bottle of the gorgeous, earthy wine. nic kept his hand on her bare leg under the table. when he had touched her skin for the first time that night, she gasped with pleasure. embarassed, she masked it with a quick laugh and quickly changed the subject. usually they ordered a dessert and coffee, but the anticipation of more made them leave their dinner early.
nic had made reservations at l'hotel chopin. they had always stayed at a hotel, as maugerite felt it less intimate than her flat, and nic felt it more special. she had only allowed him to visit her home once or twice. this helped her to keep part of herself from him. tonight, as they undressed one another slowly with their wildness restrained, she looked at him differently, and allowed her gaze to return his. as they took one another, as she gave herself to him, she knew her search for a man would end. no more breaking hearts, no more quick exits, no more short nights in hotels. this was the final time. she slept more soundly than she ever had, letting nic hold her all night long.