Monday, April 03, 2006

Rue Charlemagne

That summer I bounced through a variety of unsavory housing options before finally crashing at Brigitte's. The room I'd had as a junior in college had not changed despite having sheltered a half dozen students since I'd last slept there. Brigitte ran the Creche on the first floor and the apartment was part of her compensation. My room was tall and narrow, with large picture windows that looked on the alley below. This being the old part of Paris, groups of avid walkers on architectual tours meandered under my window daily, admiring the narrow twists and ancient, asymmetrical buildings that Haussman in his infinite wisdom hadn't touched. I wrote my thesis to the background music of lectures on Louis XV arches and pre-revolutionary waste management systems.

A typical Euro-anachronism of a cybercafe awaited my daily visit half a block from Brigitte's apartment. As the place was generally filled to bursting with acne-cursed high school boys playing computer games, I would have to wait patiently for a computer, and so I would, sipping soda or reading some Salman Rushdie novel (I was obsessed that summer). My time would come and I'd pony up my $6 for a half hour at a lumbering computer. Outside, a wall constructed by Philip XI remained, half crumbled, to shore up one side of an urban soccer field. Lycee Charlemagne faced us, its neo-classical overhang sheltering greasy, skinny Parisian high school students sucking down their cigarettes before/after class. Sitting at those computers, looking at the wall and the school, I'd feel the collapse of time that I'd felt hundreds of times while living in Europe. It's something we don't feel in America, sometimes for better and often for worse. Here's what I mean:

The United States in its present manifestation (the only collective memory we allow ourselves to ruminate on, the prior events too skeleton-in-closet-like) is 229 years old. That's not so old. 12 or 13 generations. Our history is packed with checkered stories, but in span of time it's a blink of an eye. Thus, the 80 years allotted to any one of us seems enormous, and is. In my 80 year lifespan I will see my country morph and change, and we'll have progressed quite far along its arc of history. That's exciting, but also dangerous because it's hard to learn history lessons when we don't have much history to begin with. Children playing football in the shadow of the Roman Forum, however, have a more proper understanding of themselves in time. A better sense of the lessons of Ecclesiastes, if not of history. Their 80 years will not change much. Italy will be Italy. The America I die in could be, and will be, a far different place from the America I was born in, however.

But I digress. On a hot September afternoon, I left my doings in Brigitte's apartment and went to the cybercafe. My inbox contained an email from Nico, but that was not unusual- he often typed me missives aiming to berate me, or humiliate me, or beg me to come back, or any three or four of a number of other negative emotions he felt like sharing. In this email, however, Nico's warped appendage where a hand should have grown broke through the monitor and sacked me.

"I should tell you," he wrote. "I went in for an AIDS test a few weeks ago. It came back positive. We have AIDS. This must be your fault. What were you doing in Senegal?"

There was more to this email but I remember only those crucial sentences. I believe I grew very dizzy. I left the computer on, email open, and ran to the nearest telephone booth. I dialled Nico's work number and left a series of increasingly frantic messages. Where was he? Why hadn't he called? Why would he give me this information in a casual manner in a casual email?

I remember standing in the phone booth, phone card in hand. I had just begun over the previous few weeks to look forward to things. I was heading back to America. I was going to live in New York. I was going to apply to law school. Suddenly everything wavered like water. I was HIV-positive. I had to be. My life would be shortened, and painful. The seconds dragged their feet. I tried Nico again, and again, until my phonecard ran out. I felt old.


At 10:52 AM, Blogger tandymartin8093271543 said...

Get any Desired College Degree, In less then 2 weeks.

Call this number now 24 hours a day 7 days a week (413) 208-3069

Get these Degrees NOW!!!

"BA", "BSc", "MA", "MSc", "MBA", "PHD",

Get everything within 2 weeks.
100% verifiable, this is a real deal

Act now you owe it to your future.

(413) 208-3069 call now 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger PB said...

Interesting and well written.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger adam brown said...

Hello I just entered before I have to leave to the airport, it's been very nice to meet you, if you want here is the site I told you about where I type some stuff and make good money (I work from home): here it is


Post a Comment

<< Home