Day 4: Letter to a friend
The light at this time of year stretches seductively far into the evening—even at 9:30 or 10, a honeyed lucence falls on everything—it leaves me drunk with wakefulness, my nerve endings silkily keyed up, and wrestling around on the bed, unable to sleep. Then I wake too late in the morning and scold myself for getting to work haphazardly. Unrepentant I.

Today I went to the Musee Jean Moulin, where I learned anew how important propaganda was during WW2. Now we have pedestrian advertising, but then both sides, Allies and Axis, sought to gain entrance into hearts and minds. And did you realize how many French were conscripted to work in Germany, to feed the industrial war machine?

When I returned home, Mme Durand waited at my door. Had she been inside my apartment? Weirdest feeling, like octopus tentacles writhing, that she had! Her stern face gave away nothing. She said, “I have too much pain today with my hip.”

“I used to be a healer, shall I try to help you?” I asked, holding up my hands, palms out.

She muttered something in French which I translated into a directive ordering me to keep my *!@# * hands to myself. She thrust a brown-paper-wrapped package at me. “You will take this to the Gare du Nord and deliver it to Francois at 4:00. Do not be late.” Then she bustled into her apartment and slammed the door before I could query her further. Who is Francois, and how will I find him?

I took the package inside and examined it without opening it. Darned if it wasn’t the package given to Mme Durand by the argumentative couple. To my inquisitive fingertips, it felt like a painting in an elaborately carved frame. I must confess—I took the painting to the window and checked out the tape that sealed the edges—Wanted to know if I’d be able to unwrap and rewrap. Curiosity etc. But the tape was firmly applied. I couldn’t get inside undetected, and the coy light through the paper revealed only the indistinct ridges of a frame.

Jean-Sven heard me leaving at 3:30 and rushed down to inform me that he was taking me to dinner. Angelique has a gig and she’s rehearsing today. “Wear something sexy,” he said, his blue eyes smiling.

“By sexy, you mean clean?” I clarified. I’ve been writing a lot, so I’m usually in stinky yoga togs, and throw on whatever’s at hand to go out. This is my writing space; personal grooming is, while not exactly optional, certainly pared down to a minimum.

Jean-Sven gave me a look of pure exasperation. You’d have to be half French and half Swede to look that disgusted. “A dress, one that is superbe,” he commanded. So I am glad that the Wayward Countess advised me to pack the long red silk sheath. “One never knows,” she said. Indeed.

I arrived at the Gare du Nord promptly at 4:00—you remarked once that I was extraordinarily punctual, it’s an old, bad habit of mine—I wasn’t there for two minutes when a man bumped into me. He murmured something in Hebrew and took the package. He winked and vanished into the crowd. I was left standing with my mouth agape. I hope that was Francois!

On the way home I wandered into the Luxembourg Gardens, and an exquisite, soul-ravishing Chagall show. His works were burned by Nazis and shown in their “Degenerate art” show.

Now I’m sitting at my little desk, gussied up enough to please even the most exacting Franco-Swede. I’m posting my latest missive and waiting for Jean-Sven, whom I shall remind about my marital status. You are probably entirely unaware of these notes, which come to you so fondly and so gratefully for your part in this. If you even care; you are so very well defended, and have forgotten that we are not all that way. Some of us are open. Well, til tomorrow, with my warmest thoughts.

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