Fifteen Dispatches from the Lobby of the Chateau
1. In the sunny and crisp morning I perform emergency mock weddings. The Russians are fired up about their oversize faces, but it’s just a matter of a length of street: at the end we always meet the florist.
2. The Greeks drink, but only Rolling Rock. I’m legendary for my rapid healing; even so, I decline to wrestle with the prospect of an island sparsely populated by deported bouncers. If only there were a bullet train, a burnished bullet train, placed so as to kill time in the deep vertical wrinkle that is the dreaded excursion to Annex Rolling Rock.
3. I’m a specter with an infected brain—I can’t speak Russian—and my red gingham shirt flares in all the mirrors—the Russians grumbling through the, can’t find the words, holes in their noses—and I watch myself hanging by a thread in the impossible challenge of pleasing the Russians—also putting them through their paces.
4. “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”: a bearded dude named Paul, tucked behind a quietly lurking crate from Cannes. He walks away sheepishly, or rather with Greek verve: I can’t be sure, I’m so overburdened by the prospect of unpacking that I’ve absented myself.
5. The Russian housekeeper gives me a smile of such delicious sweetness that I immediately put in an application as an apprentice pastry chef. I envision the happy couple, the backbone of an innovative fondant line, stacking pudding basins in their bare feet.
6. I’m awake, though it feels like a dream when the bodyguard saunters into the damaged concierge hutch sporting a Gucci fisherman’s cap. This occurs to me: once in the rust, always in the rust. The Greek bodyguard is three impassive persons snared by happenstance and forced to share a mien together beneath a brim.
7. For nine months I’ve been echoing with job hunting—don’t breathe a word—the darker aspects of the Russian nuptials are also sentimental new ground, and yet, and yet…I would not turn down a new environment of flurry and imbalance, but with fewer premonitions.
8. We’re bundling the palms and ferns and, on an impulse, decide to exit from the project: with bliss and shame we plunge into the zinc blue. The awesome folly of appealing to the Greeks to fix an underwater DUI: that or thirty years away from palms and ferns and jacarandas.
9. The Russians demand to have their room keys canonized; I mean laminated. With longing I gaze toward a parallel world in which I’m loyal to a single room key that opens just one door in some comforting likeness of Vienna, I mean Venice. An up-tempo parallel world.
10. My morning break is an adrenaline barrage of cymbals in a ballad overflowing with unrequited love. A vacuum cleaner purring over a cobblestone road while Greeks at work on their catapults hurl insults from a roadside lined with menacing transmission towers being tended to by uninsured helicopters.
11. The housekeeper favors me with an endearing sneeze; the sneeze causes her to drop, adorably, a handmade stained-glass samovar; the samovar lands on a bolster; we owe our future to a bolster. We’ll never be so lucky again, so blessed by Russian chance.
12. I’m grateful for the guidance from the concierge, also from the cadre of opinionated bodyguards. One of the latter puts a chokehold on the former, but it’s just a demonstration, for my benefit. The concierge has a knack for placating in Greek.
13. Today’s dragon sky suits the bouncer who used to be a monk—we all were monks once, and we all partook of Russian sherry cake—the bouncer who only speaks in whispers—and you have to lean in close, and partake of fumes of immortality—those are whispers of permission, in rarefied space, as the bouncer gazes out the window casually.
14. Chaos: I’m alone on the veranda, when along comes the recollection that I’m supposed to be my twin, addicted to the craftsmanship of sorting body wash. There’s a Greek honeymoon that will not happen without his sturdy contribution. Meanwhile, I’m peeling an orange, daydreaming on a cosmic scale of Lompoc, my honeymoon in Lompoc.
15. And to all the Russian mothers who pop up everywhere to thank me for presiding, before they stroll off into the happiness-filled choreography of disconnecting, emotionally: thank you. And may your daughters and their school friends join the chorus of gratitude to me that imbues the woodlands and the meadows and the carvings in the pies on anniversaries and birthdays.
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