A Letter, Untitled

versailles-press6

A certain song in a certain hour always reminds me of that day in Paris, the morning I got sick? Remember? My nose was running all the way to the Palace of Versailles, and you’d given me the rest of our baguette aux lardons for the train ride on over to the bigger train that would take us to Antoinette’s home. I kept sniffling, loud and whimpered, and I caught an elegant Parisian darting sharp eyes at me. But you kept me close and you kept me safe. It rained so hard that day. It rained so hard that we had to learn the word for “umbrella” – parapluie – so that we could buy one from the local shop. I would mutter Rochechouart under my breath on occasion, reliving a flood of pride from when your father had praised my pronunciation. My French r’s were lovely, just grand. The baguette didn’t last long. We were almost there, you said.

~

Versailles was beautiful. I almost cried like I did when the doors of the Sacré-Cœur opened and nuns ushered us into the basilica’s warm embrace. Here, and there, I felt at home. You immortalized our time at Versailles with a photo of me looking into the Hall of Mirrors, just as you’d immortalized me at the English bookshop. I felt so beautiful in front of a wanting camera in your hands. I felt precious, like Versailles. You don’t know this but the moment you took that picture with the mirrors was the moment in which I’d wanted to tell you I loved you, again, for a last and final time, but I had appropriately held back. We found farming cottages dotted on the outskirts of the garden’s groomed monolith so we said hello to the queen’s friendly cows, her pup-eyed goats. Quilts of grass poured into a maze of centuries-old fenceposts and haunted escapes meant to house the gardeners, things the other tourists did not know or want to explore. And we got deep, so incredibly deep into Antoinette’s garden that we’d reached a vineyard of some sort, idyllic greenery you’d find in landscape paintings or children’s books. I thought for a moment we’d catch enchanted ghosts amongst the flowers, the kind we had hoped to catch in a cat-crawled cemetery, immense and gothic, a day before. And I was terrified to disrespect the palace rules, to follow you into forbidden ivy aisles. But you said it was okay and so I trusted you and took your hand and we walked for a forever toward a latticed center. We reached a mossy clearing scattered with broken pottery. No one was here for a half mile all around. Just us. In all the universe, here and above, it was just us. I danced and laughed. We dizzied ourselves, drunk on the freshest air we’d ever tasted. I found a bench outside the clearing and you laid your head on my lap. I rubbed at the same strand of black hair looped around your ear. You fell asleep and murmured things from a lost and hurting boyhood. I smiled down at you and murmured things from an awakened maternal core.

~

We stayed there long past our stolen welcome. On the plane ride home, you made me cry. I had let a stranger borrow the pen we had used to check off boxes for the US government, things like, no, we had not touched Antoinette’s exotic cows and that, no, we were not harboring viruses of an illegal variety, and you hated me for the pen allowance, silenced me with such cutthroat glares that I felt small and weak. I had taken rocks from Versailles, dulled purple gems hoping to birth amethyst, and I felt nervous that our government would confiscate them.

~

It has been two years since precious Versailles. I treasure the memory just as I treasured a human with a heart that could no longer hide rust with fool’s gold. In those two years I have strayed from the French and wandered into Spanish. I have learned to say mi corazon se duele (my heart, it hurts) and I have learned to retract this statement with todo esta bien (all is well).

~

I have promised to return to Paris.

~

I have promised to never return to you.

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