Sequel in Paris

A tired grey morning rain, boarding the elevated train in Chicago, reaching up to grab the strap, standing shoulder to shoulder. She shoots a fast glance as the train lurches forward and our shoulders touch. Decides I’m safe. Leans down to keep scrolling her phone, shakes the red hair from her face. The train slows, a seat opens, I invite her to sit down with my eyes and a nod. She does. And from the packed aisle of the train, no one moves to sit next to her. She looks up at me and with a tiny smile of amusement and with a shake of the head asks the world, “Was it something I said?”

So I sit down next to her. Shoulder to shoulder. Lightly grazing thighs with the rumble and clank of the train on down to the center of the city. She looks up from the phone. I am remembering your smile. Perhaps, she sees me and wonders about a grandfather she never knew as we touch shoulders. What’s the old man smiling about?

Then the train doors swish open and I hear the rain, I’m back in Paris with the water washing down the gutters of the ancient stone streets that flow, like time, down the hill from the gleaming white Basilica Sacre Coeur. I smell coffee that lights up the morning and like Holly Near once sang, “frees my soul and I ain’t ready to grow that old.”

Once again, I am six hours or so from sitting down next to you on the steps of the Basilica, gazing out together over Paris in the mid day sunlight and saying the absolute most profound thing I could come up with at the time, which was, “Wow.”

At which point, you looked over with only enough interest to smirk, “That was deep.”

A few seconds passed, you got up, paused to look at the rippling city in the sunlight below, stretched, and I almost believed, like McMurtry once said, that it really was possible to fall in love with someone while they were stretching.

Being pretty good with the more primal of life’s needs, I remember saying something about being hungry. Probably something dumb like, “Know where you can get any good French food around here?” Then, and this is a mystery I still never have and never will, till my very last breath, figure out, somehow we were in a café, there was wine that amazed, and cheese and fruit and sausage and the afternoon shadows were falling in a way that marked our Paris as the one of centuries past.

We never stopped talking.

My new book had just come out. I remember reading you stories out loud. I remember telling you instantly the truth in the story about how the Blonde had come back with coffee and croissants one spring morning and announced, “Roger? I’m a Princess. I just thought you should know.”

The Princess was soon gone. Vanished except for the way she hovered over so many stories. And now you’re gone too.

Which is why it’s so strange that you keep coming back and filling in what’s between the lines of all these new stories.

But back then? I thought that loving someone enough meant that eventually they’d change.

And of course that doesn’t happen.

So the city lights dimmed. And you stayed, until it was time, for both of us to go.

And as much as I sang and wrote and wrote about all those mysteries you never believed in, I never imagined you’d come back. I never imagined a sequel.

Till right this very second.

The Chicago train swishes into the Grand Station, the red haired woman gets up and wonder of wonders, leaves a smile for her imagined Grandfather, me. She smiles at me and there you are. That smile like a sequel. That smile brings you back.

From the smoky mists that rise from the fires you lit, in a story called “Pale Grey For Guilt” John McDonald’s timeless hero Travis McGee writes a letter to his future,

“ . . . and now and again, when she is asleep and you are awake, and your arms are around her and you are sleeping like spoons, with her head tucked under your ugly chin, pretend it is ‘me’, who loved you.”

Even right here in this story, the young girl leaves the train. And you came back.

Something like hope. When the rain stops on Easter morning.

There is a sequel. You came back.

11 Responses to “Sequel in Paris”

  1. toritto Says:

    Roger – this is simple beautiful. I’m jealous! Wish I wrote it.



    • chicagoguy12 Says:

      Frank–what prompted me to return to this one and rewrite for the upcoming book is that I came across a song I never heard before; Harry Chapin’s sequel to his “Taxi.” It was like finding a buried treasure chest, got me thinking and this came out.

  2. Naomi de Plume Says:

    This is the fourth Sacre Coeur reference today and all from different sources – that must be a message in some way. I believe your beautiful reminiscence and the portrait you paint are an omen that it is a good message.

    I love the train ride taking you from Chicago to Paris in a sudden “swish.” The imagery is beautiful and, as always, the mood is magnetic.

    • chicagoguy12 Says:

      Naomi–4x has GOT to mean SOMETHING! And I don’t know about you, but these days I can use all the good omens I can get. One of the best things about the contract I’m working on right now is that it involves a train ride downtown 4 times a week—which is wonderful writing and reading time. Something about trains and stories go together so well!

  3. boomerbob Says:

    Very nice Roger, very nice.

    I’m a seasoned international traveler myself; why, I’ve been to Tijuana and Vancouver both in my short 63 years. And I have been to Paris (Oklahoma that is), but oh how I dreamt of encountering a beauty with red hair, green eyes and some cute freckles while on a bus, airplane or train.

    Hell, meeting her on the sidewalk of beautiful downtown Shawnee Oklahoma would have been a welcome encounter, but I was so shy in my youth, it was painful just to say hello to a girl, so dreams were my favorite pass-time.

    Now, being an old guy, cute girls look at me all the time and do so too with a smile – for all young girls think old men are sweet, helpless characters in need of a little sympathy.

    Enjoy your writing immensely.

    • chicagoguy12 Says:

      Bob–As you can tell, dreams are my favorite pass-time too! And I’m with you on the sweet helpless characters in need of a little sympathy image–I am sticking with THAT story 100% Thanks so much for commenting, this is a story I’m working on sharpening up for my next book, so I’m posting to these see if by chance anybody reads and reacts and if so, will use that to decide what goes into the book. So this is immensely helpful. Thank you! Roger

  4. The Paxton Pundit Says:

    You have taken me back to Montmartre, as the two sisters alternately narrated and sang in French, one adding a rudimentary harpsichord accompaniment, and the acoustics of the Basilica turned a run of the mill atheist holy for about as long as the midday sunlight. Its mention brings back the same chills.

    I wish I could say my reaction to your post depended on her coming back or not but there’s not enough dial on the Pinocchiometer.

    On the other hand, wow!

    • chicagoguy12 Says:

      Paxton–Thanks so much! For me? It’s all about those chills. And a run the lasts as long as the midday sunlight is more than many.

      As to whether she (or he) comes back? I’ve found the answer to that often comes in tiny moments when I least expect it. Just now, as I finished typing the last sentence to you, The Paxton Pundit, my wife brought the music upstairs where I write because the song on the radio was “Dance In the Kitchen” by the great Tom Paxton. So in between the beginning and end of this note—music and a life came back. Just for the moment of the dance. Chills.

  5. toritto Says:

    Reblogged this on toritto and commented:
    I would like to introduce you to Chicago Guy – he and I once wrote on the same curated blog. He spends his time writing for Huffington Post when he isn’t writing a book.

    His short stores about life and love are marvels – just wonderful reads.

    I envy his talent – and you will too. Drop by his relatively recent WordPress blog. You won’t be disappointed.

  6. Ms. V Says:

    Thanks T. Always enjoy reading Chicago Guy

  7. carol steinbrecher Says:

    Glad to see you referencing a book underway! Please let me know when it is coming out so I can be first in line!!! I LOVE sequels!! This is really lovely.

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