Portraits & Passages

Chapter 44

Valley of the Kings 1969 copy

Romance Found in the Paris Metro – Valley of the Kings

 I remember what Helene said of me in Paris as she was breaking from our affair that started in the metro. She had followed me into a metro car after we had  crossed heads while looking at the subway map. I was startled as I said: “What a beautiful mouth!”

Then we both turned to the tracts as the train immediately approached adding energy to the moment in this choreographed crossing of the other. We were exactly  between cars, and I picked one and entered it. No sooner had I reached out to hold onto the vertical bare at one end of the train then she came up and grasping  that same bar across from me just a foot or so away raised her eyes to mine and blushed.

Eventually I gave Helene “The Valley of the Kings” which I was just finishing in the spring of 1969 when I met her. I have not seen her for thirty-six years now.

Her father, critical to the point of abuse, was a distinguished professor of law at the Sorbonne who wanted only sons. He complained her mouth was ‘common’. She  was breathtaking at twenty-five. Her father’s exacting cruelty made for her a chronic case of angoise.

She searched out lovers who would dominate her. At first she was amazed at my gentleness, but being in love I gave her too much power. Soon she was  disillusioned. She told me: “You’re a great artist, but you’re a boy.” So she went back to men who would bully and control her.

Such minor episodes make up a life. Few people had telephones then in Paris. So the whole business was based on anticipation. Hand written messages sent through  a system of pneumatic tubes to stations throughout the various arrandisements then hand delivered by a messenger:

                            Cher Richard,

                     Can you come by the house this evening?

                              Affectionellement, Helene


I haven’t thought of her for years at a time – only when I stumble across a photograph of “Valley of the Kings” and wonder...

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