8

Where the author spends a few days In Paris, learns that her father has died and goes to Normandy for the funeral.

My hotel room is on the fourth floor without elevator. Hadn't I told Alfredo that I had a broken knee? The first thing I do after opening my suitcase is to light the white candle and place it next to the upturned glass of water by the door.

I call Alfredo to tell him I've arrived. He offers to meet me place du Tertre. It's when I'm on my way there that I realize that Montmartre is really a hill (I had forgotten), that it's all uphill to the place du Tertre at the top, which doesn't make my walk on crutches easier.

I see Alfredo from a distance and he sees me too but he doesn't come to meet me. Under the mid-day light his eyes are obscured by a thick frown, his arms are crossed against his chest, he doesn't smile, he looks very worried. He takes me to his apartment and introduces me to his girlfriend. I ask him about his music and how all the other musicians I used to know are doing. He answers without elaborating. It seems that cuban music isn't doing too well in France. He turns on the TV to CNN and the conversation is halted.

The next day he comes to visit me. When he sees the glass of water and the candle by the door he looks frightened and asks me why I'm doing this. "It's for protection." I answer. Then I ask him if he could help me get a new passport, consid- ering I have no address in France and if I ask my mother I'm sure that she won't help me because she'll want me to stay in France. He agrees to ask his girlfriend to write a letter saying that I share the apartment and live there. The lease is in her name. With the letter I endeavor to get a new passport but something is missing and I can't obtain it. I've had my picture taken at a Photomaton. "You look like death warmed over," I observed uncomp- rehendingly when the wet strip came out. I tried a second time and I looked only slightly better.

With a five thousand francs deposit I also open a bank account to hold the inheritance money I expect to receive. I'm told that it will take three weeks for checkbooks to be available. I walk down the rue Lepic to the Boulevard de Pigalle which is the music stores district, in addition to the better known red light district. To my astonishment, every time I take a walk with my crutches, in the space of one hour several persons ask me for the time or for directions! Why do they ask ME rather than anybody else?

I also feast on French food, sit at the terrace of bistros, served by waiters dressed in black and wrapped in giant white aprons. Sometimes the service is very friendly, sometimes it's very rude and in both cases I think "Ah! It's so typically Parisian!" At a terrace where I go for my morning caf‚-au-lait an old man starts a conversation. I'm eager to chat with a compatri- ot but a bit weary too, ready to clam-up if the conversation turns too personal. He says that he's a painter and would I accept to be his model? I wonder whether or not he's serious. On September 19 I call my studio in New York. Arturo tells me that my father has died on the 14th at 6AM. It was exactly the date and time that my plane touched down.

I immediately pack my suitcase, check out of the hotel and take a cab to the St Lazare terminal where I board a train to Normandy. I get off fifty-five minutes later at the station of E. I have made this trip so many times between 1972 and 1982! And the memories are not so much bittersweet as just plain bitter.

The Café de la Gare is still there, unchanged except for a better color scheme, light grey with red new chairs and light fixtures. I order an express and call my parents'house. "I'm at the E. train station," I say to Sophie Picart, sister number 3. "Brigitte! Ma chérie! I'm coming to pick you up right away! Papa's funeral was this morning and all the family's there! We're just finishing lunch!" She doesn't come alone. Her firstborn son, about sixteen, and second born daughter, about fifteen, are with her. They get out of the car and walk toward me with their arms raised, apparently impatient to embrace me.


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