On the Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine Montparnasse there is an apartment that would have been walking distance from where Hemingway lived nearly a century ago. The home is tidy and decked out in a leopard skin motif, with a few odd pieces of art on the walls. An abundance of curiosities from the 1950’s and early 1960’s adorn the tables and shelves. There is also a large collection of books which have never been read but serve as ornamentation.
Living in the apartment is a small elegant Croatian woman I befriended after she drifted to Paris having fled the death and destruction in the Balkans. Since escaping the oppressiveness of her homeland and her orthodox father, she has submerged herself in the world of chic.
Her name is M. Nothing more then a single letter. Perhaps she had a more conventional name in her past life but in Paris she is simply M. One night after I pressed her on the subject she proved it to me by showing me her French driver’s licence. M’s bureau is laden with fine fragrances and an abundance of the latest luxury beauty products. Her wardrobe comprises of couture by the finest designers in France. Her surroundings are decadent and opulent, an opulence she can no longer afford.
A few years ago an adulteress left a note in M’s mail slot admitting she could no longer keep secret an affair she had been having with M’s husband. M’s world crashed to the ground. Following an arrest at Le Printemps Luxe for shoplifting, her fragile mind fell into the comfort of sex, cigarettes and Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne. When M crashed she crashed first class.
She receives an allowance from her now ex husband, who has since had his lover move into the penthouse he once shared with M. However the allowance could not support the lifestyle portrayed in her current surrounds. When I visit I never ask how she can afford such luxury as the salary of her job is modest. I once asked jokingly if she was prostituting herself and I was soundly dismissed. I never breeched the subject again.
I enjoy the visits to M’s apartment, her conversation and presence is always exquisite. I enjoy the flirtatious play in our words and the comfort in knowing that nothing sexual will come from our interactions. It is a safe feeling for both of us.
The one thing always missing from M’s apartment is food. In this “isle” of plenty the refrigerator remains empty. There is rarely anything to drink but a few beers and the shelves of the larder are bare. The only nourishment readily available is cheese. It is always of the soft or semi-soft variety but there is never even a crust of bread on which to smear the stuff .
On two occasions I brought some groceries on my visits. I arrived at M’s with bags full of fresh fruit and vegetables, crusty baguettes and bottles of wine. She seemed very appreciative of my offerings, assisting me in stocking the refrigerator and the barren shelves. Afterwords we enjoyed a bottle of Chardonnay and cheese spread thickly on warm bread.
A few days after the second visit I made with groceries, I stopped at M’s place on my way home from work. We began our playful dialogue and soon I thought I might enjoy a bite to eat. To my amusement I found that there was no food in the apartment. Nothing but cheese. The larder was bare once more. When I asked M where all the food had gone she replied she had given it away to an elderly woman she passes on her way to work. Apparently the old woman does not like cheese.
I found a bottle of wine standing alone in the refrigerator, and as we shared a glass which soon became a few, we laughed and flirted through the night. When I put on my coat to leave I excused myself for a moment to use the toilet. Instead I crept into the kitchen, opened the fridge and stuffed rounds of cheese into my coat pockets.
Returning to the lounge I kissed M on the cheek, as was our custom, she returned the kiss and wished me a good night as I stepped into the Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine.It was a wonderful evening but I will not return.
A man has to fucking eat.