AUGUST 6, Road to Paris:

I stand in front of the hotel and wait for you to bring the car around.

Something is really wrong or really right. Otherwise, I wouldn’t let you behind the wheel.

You pull up and give a honk, your purple and cream ikat scarf billows out the window. We are anything but inconspicuous.

You rev high in first gear. The engine whines. Soot belching from the rear.

You, singing: On the road again.

Me: Hey, there! Didn’t we have a no Willie Nelson rule for the car?

You: Hey, there! First you try to control my whistling, now it’s Willie Nelson, too?

Towns ascend alphabetically: Abbeville, Airaines, Amiens, Beauvais.  A massive stone insect hunches off the edge of the A16.

I read to you from the book.

Des Esseintes is elaborating on the tedium of all the writers of antiquity. One is a country bumpkin, the next more arid than a dry fart.

Nothing provides him pleasure.

We stop at the edge of an orchard and walk through rows of cherry trees. Bare feet and legs ticked by the long grass.

The fruit is overripe. Fermentation and rot. We step over blackened cherries, their stems and crowns collapsing on themselves.

The cherry trees give way to mirabelle plums. Red and yellow. Capillaries visible below the surface of distended skin.

Me: Ever eat mirabelle?

You: No.

Me: Ooh, I think you’ll like. We can make a tart.

Me, reaching toward a branch: Get underneath and pull up your skirt.

I shake and fruit rains down on you.

Me, down on hands and knees picking up stray mirabelle.

You: Say that again.

Me, looking up: What?

You: What you just said.

Me: Get underneath and pull up your skirt?

You, lying down before me and tugging the hem up: That.

No need to ask twice. I move on top of you and pull your shirt over your head. You have no bra.

You tug at my belt and pull my pants down. I am on top of you, your underwear drawn to the side.

My hands grasp at the tall grass, pushing all my weight into you.

You, whispering: Harder. Harder.

I obey, and you are gasping, face red, digging the back of your head into the earth.

I shudder and collapse as I come.

Bird song. Then a single church bell tolling noon. Wind in the grass.

Crushed fruit sticks to your back. Welts on your flesh where the rough edges of the pits dug into you.

I reach down, pulling pits and skin from your back and flank, then lick you clean.

—–

Outskirts of Paris in the early afternoon. You, flipping through radio stations. Fela Kuti fills the car.

The air is heavy, muggy in this river valley. The sky filling up with clouds.

You: welcome to the City of Light.

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