by Ron Riekki
And we live in France, in Lille.
We take pilgrimages to Paris almost on a weekly basis.
She says she loves the smell of the Eiffel Tower’s metal. We go there and hurt our necks glaring up at the tip of this massive phallic symbol. I tell her this and she says that I need to see trees instead of sex. She says that the Eiffel Tower is alive, a great elm. She says it breathes, it moves, it hears. She says it has heard me.
We sit longer. It is a handsome day. It is a day where you could almost feel good alone, a day where there is so much calm and beauty to the air. I tell her this and she puts her hand near mine. She never takes my hand. That would be too vulgar, too brave, too something. She calls it trop. It is her favorite word.
She speaks Chinese, speaks English, speaks French, speaks German. I hear all of these languages. We go to bars with her friends and she moves her tongue so gracefully that you can listen to a dance. You hear the symphony of countries. She insists that she balances all of her friendships with people from other nations. She is upset I only seem to want to be around the French. She says I am too French, that France is the only country in my blood, the only country in my platelets and my plasma.
We lie down. We stare at the ghost clouds. The last word she has said is blood. I think of the three hundred or four hundred suicides that have happened from the Eiffel Tower. I tell her this.
She sits up. She tells me not to talk of ghosts.
But I tell her the sky looks like ghosts.
She says it does not.
I tell her it does.
She grabs my mouth. She cups my mouth so harshly that I actually cannot speak. I see terror in her pupils, the way that they dilate when they need to take in as much information as possible, how fear seems to open up the darkness in us.
She stands, starts to walk away, tagging me along.
It’s like I can feel all of the spaces where the bodies have landed, the pavement hot where it shouldn’t be, hot in shadows.
She goes down a road, against the traffic of those approaching the building. We get far enough away so that the tower cannot hear. She tells me that if you speak of ghosts, you might just be a ghost. She asks me if I am a ghost.
I tell her no.
She studies my eyes.
We walk away from the tower.
We find a café and sit outside. She faces away from the direction where we came. Buildings hide the tower. It’s harder to find the Eiffel Tower than one might think. Buildings swallow buildings in Paris.
We drink vin rouge. She cups the bloody glass. I know not to tell her this.
She tells me that I need to find the tao. She says I need to find a new way, one where I see more good. She insists I find more grace.
She is Christian. And Buddhist. And Taoist. And Hindu. She mixes religion like a bartender. She is a long island ice tea with God.
She tells me that I need to learn to see trees instead of sex or I will lose everything.
Eight months later, she leaves me. With an almost pregnancy. Except we had sex rarely. Sex was something that needed to be treated like a tea ceremony. There needs to be a quiet, sober restraint to it. It must feel fifteenth century.
I can hear her voice. Fading.
Until it is gone.
And now I sit in parks and I think of her lips. I think of the thin tea of her lips. And I wonder how to not see the ghosts in clouds. I think of how to see the roots of the Eiffel Tower, its branches.
I clutch a brand new Spanish-French dictionary in my hand. I look at the ceiling of the world. The French word for sky is ceil. I can only see ceiling.
I open the dictionary. I say ceilo. I look at the sky and say ceilo. I try to see the sky as a cello. It is not just a ceiling. I try to hear the sky as a cello, its grace-filled notes. It takes an hour, a meditative hour, maybe more, and finally I hear the hint of a brazilwood bow being raised.
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P.: a novel, The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (a 2014 Michigan Notable Book), and Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.His play “Carol” was included in The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2012 and his short story “The Family Jewel” was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2015. Twitter: @RonRiekki.