Since Dawn of Time’s first chilly mists were devoured by a greedy, rampant Orange I have been collecting the apt recollections of those poor wretched souls about to lose their minds to the unforgiving void. By preserving such memories I ensure that upon departure at least a snippet of the mort being is not lost to the nothingness.
Mostly, there is little of note to gather up. Just random details of new-borns, love lost, torn petticoats and fine sand between toes, yet every so often as I gather up such memories I unearth a golden nugget. Such was the case with Lily. She was Parisian insofar as I was aware, of advanced years and was cursed with a wilting mind when we met. By then she had become a bedbound glorified wizened carcass in a spick and span care home within the Quartier des Invalides.
Before the war a then sweet, wily Lily wore the ballerina’s tutu, danced in the grandest of venues, yet come the days of ‘needs must when the Devil drives’ she became a hip waggling, leg kicking streetwise showgirl who favoured skimpy costumes decorated with spiky pink dyed feathers performing her art in a seedy, yet not without a certain panache, Revue within the 9th arrondissement. For a while she was the talk of the night-time revellers, her cancan on the raised dance floor ending in the splits deemed legendary by one and all. She counted Chevalier himself as a former lover!
I listened intently, captivated by the antique ivory framed racy, almost erotic photograph she had of herself in her heyday upon the bedside table, as with rattling breath and muted speech she recounted the tale of that part of her life she treasured above all others. Uniquely in my experience that time was when she lived her life as a dream when in a short-lived coma following an unfortunate ponderous tumble from the floodlit stage back in 1939. With eloquent words, given her condition, she uttered thus;
“Initially a nightmare, my dream, out there in the ‘somewhere, everywhere’ heavens above, under the accursed extra-terrestrial bleakest canopy of violent intent, a giant shock wave storm held sway over all that was known and unknown. In the rusting wrought iron and peeling leaden painted ruins of last season’s insolvent fairground I was a redundant fortune-teller, speaking clichéd platitudes to deafest ears clowns, long lost to the rogue taxidermists witless alleged craft. Then, as I worried for my sanity, my very being even, within the blink of an eye, a paradise was mine for at the far perimeter of this place I noted an elegant timber doorway with ironmongery furnishings and a key intact.
Upon opening the door I found myself in undulating pastures green. Sitting comfortably in the Vale of Near Distance a snow-white marble château of immense proportions. It was in that château, abandoned it seemed, that I discovered in dreamland anything was possible. Young obedient handsome fellows to waltz with me until dawn’s first light, bathing only in champagne bubbles, saddle horses to carry me hither and yon, a scarlet macaw to discuss the politics of the left with, even a chandelier sturdy enough to swing naked from as the fancy took. Most of all though I could be the eternal prima ballerina. From romantic to classical I was mistress of all styles. I recall I even danced that silly Harlequinade, me Columbine and…” Lily suddenly and surprisingly paused at this point, turned her life weary head my way, stared into my quizzical eyes and continued, “…you, you were the Harlequin. What a wedding night we had,” she sniggered, “I could have happily stayed in my coma with you forevermore. Never once did I think we would meet again, at least not in this terrible debilitated world, yet now here you are looking so well, so young, with me time ravaged and at death’s door. What must you think?”
“I think Lily, you are the most beautiful creature that ever lived, I remember you as if it was just yesterday.” Of understandable necessity I lied, for the here and now was the only occasion we had ever met. I afforded her a kiss upon the forehead, then at her sleepy eye’s behest, a smacker upon the lips before taking of my leave.
I shed more than just a single tear for Lily when journeying back to the place of primal chaos I call home. What is life if not an extravagant aspiration?
Footnote: A version of this tale I blogged back in 2016. In truth I had almost forgotten it existed. Only when stuck for words working upon a recent project a recollection drew me back toward this particular post. Good fortune smiled for it fitted like the slipper upon Cinderella’s delicate foot thus saving the day. I live in hope that it still stands alone.