African Heat 2 - Renée Pascal - ebook

African Heat 2 ebook

Renée Pascal



Monon heals her wounds on Sicily, trying to open a new chapter in her life. She devotes every spare moment to painting while revisiting secrets and mysteries from the past – in order to calm down both her and her surroundings. However, the demons are from the past are knocking on her door more and more loudly, refusing to be forgotten. All of a sudden Monon becomes a person who might know just too much about them.

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Renée Pascal
African Heat 2
©Copyright by Renée Pascal 2020Cover:graphics - Exemplifcations, Renée Pascal, etchingconcept - Renée Pascal & EmilDesignpage 10: Exemplifications, Renée Pascal, etching 63 mm x 48mmpage 237: Algorithms Andamanese fragment 3 Akaśsa, Renée Pascal, mixed techniquepage 238: Algorithms Fragment 4 RNA, Renéee Pascal, mixed technique
ISBN 978-83-7564-611-5
My book
All Rights reserved.No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission of Publisher.

In the spectrum of colours you were a mixed one – You Blue!

Fragment 7769.

No perceived temperature

After the accident it was Massimo who took care of my rehabilitation. Yet my stay in Sicily was more of a nowhere stop and my seeming peace of mind was just a brief moment. The secrets from Pierre’s, Massimo’s, Claude’s, and Jean’s pasts, though paved with good intentions, turned out to be a bomb about to go off. Old wounds started to hurt again and, as a consequence, I spent countless days and nights sitting idly and pretending to be doing something, then I came down with virtually all diseases of the world for which I was later treated. I looked as if I didn’t care about anything. Massimo’s hypothesis had to be verified and, as a result, I landed up at an epidemiological centre thinking it must have been some kind of an exotic fly that made me feel so unwell. In the process of this truthjudgement Iwas rushing headlong between evidence and what was just circumstantial; I was also supposed to get on with my projects when I felt up to it. However, instead of doing all those things, I gave in to his, and later mine as well, hypochondria. I was close to getting in a wheelchair with my sore brain which, due to excessive use of pharmaceuticals, forgot its purpose and function.

Just shortly before my coming back to Paris, Massimo had started to speak in an indeterminate and forgotten language only known to him. Indigenous ones were the apple of his eye. He loved them! A few months before I had been trying to work out the Tamasheq interpolation in Pierre’s utterances. It had worn me out. I had got fed up by time Massimo took up Andamanese. Apparently, he worried too much about the promise to look after me which he had made to Pierre. Or was he a genius of manipulation perhaps? Or, alternatively, could it have been another stage of the training he was providing me with? With time I was no longer able to discern. I had the impression of seeing the same person in different bodies. His stories sounded quite like Pierre’s from years before. It had even more in common that I had originally thought. Algorithms, codes, PINs… I no longer knew which PUK to use enter to decipher the secret of The Tower of Babel. When to push enter… Being in such in a disarray, how was I to come up with a masterpiece?! Well, in the mirror I could see only the tattoos on my face, which were not artistic at all. I was no longer able to stay in such a place. I was short of both strength and patience to, once again, calm down and psychoanalyse another individual, and myself too, taking into consideration my frame of mind. Thanking for the hospitality and care and wishing a successful outcome for the working out of the algorithms, I was soon about to wave a white handkerchief and go away. Instead of this, Claude came and what took place was an… accident. Damn! Grazie Don Vito, grazie Sicilia, grazie a tutti! Adam was quick to deal with all the formalities, arranged us posts at local magazines as well as the transportation home. The home was occupied for a few months. I changed Sicily for Paris at point zero.

A small flat, in Rue de Lille. Barely thirty square metres to house a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a living room partitioned by an enormous bookshelf with numerous titles. It adjoined to a couch on which I slept. I returned to the old place where I used to live along with Pierre.

One more time, I had to be here… In this way I was trying, regardless of the price, to extend my inner need for great pathos since it might be this state and this place which could give the answer as to how to finally link the past with the future. I was counting on unaddressed sources of knowledge and my recovery. Owing to the new column in the magazine, I could finance my projects and keep the flat. I wrote about art. Politics section was taken over, to my notable surprise, by Laurent. Now I spent most of my days at Centre Pompidou. Watching exhibitions, I visited forgotten places from my student days. I was helping my friends from the organisation, although I was making sure I wouldn’t put every fibre of my being into it as I had this plan to revise myown secrets and mysteries. It was my idea of how to take deepbreaths.

In the meantime, another conflict had broken out. It was in Syria this time and it became an issue for the whole world. Europe wasn’t succeeding in dealing with all the problems resulting from the massive migration. Aleppo needed as many people willing to provide humanitarian aid as possible. The difficulties concerning safety were piling up. It was not a good time to retire. Jean made only a single call to be sure if it was actually the case that I’d come back. All he heard in his receiver were several words which amounted to saying sodoff. Iwas not at my best when it came to helping others and I hoped he would give it up this time. In that condition I was rather useless, and that was the whole point of it. I had other priorities along with reasons for them and they needed taking care of. I was putting together puzzles consisting of events into patchworks of past stories. Everything seemed to matter but it wasn’t meant to be like that. I needed to find a way out of this vicious circle.

The opening day of the exhibition was coming nearer and nearer I was getting nowhere with my work. I devoted every spare moment to designing and painting. This way of expressing myself calmed my surroundings and myself down. This kind of self-expression supplemented my rehabilitation and it was, most importantly, a camouflage of sorts. The peace of mind and the first month of seeming freedom didn’t go on for long. Demons from my past started to knock at my door more and more loudly…

25℃ of perceived temperature

Paul just dropped in. We hadn’t seen each other for a couple of months. He sat by the small wooden table in the kitchen, took off his jacket and flung his two huge suitcases into the corner of the room. I was neither writing nor picking up calls from any of the former numerals. He’d returned from his blue island with no warning. I smiled to him, pulled up the blinds and opened the window. Some light came in through.

‘Well, Monon, congratulations,’ Paul said with his arms wide open, having lounged himself on a chair. ‘What a place! Was it your plan to stay here until the end of the world? This one must be the nearest flat to Hospital American of Paris? You could have simply admitted yourself straight to the ward Pierre was in charge of. A quarter on foot? Your sense of humour has completely outdone you. I just know you too well! Monon, say something, or I’ll…’

‘Oh, let me finish this sentence for you: you’ll give me a flogging, right? You know, I could let you this time.’

‘Really? OK! You’ll get such a good spanking you won’t be able to sit on your ass for a week! But before we get to it, you’ll show me all your projects and works you’ve mentioned – as you’ve been hiding in this bunker of yours for such a long time, the Louvre might burst at the seams trying to exhibit all your works! You’re actually working on them, aren’t you? And this shithole, what is it exactly? The new headquarters or some kind of… wait, You’d call it Château dePierre, right?! When will you finally stop reopening wounds from your past and look for trouble? Can’t you live without them? A respectable lady with a brush and a gun! Look at yourself!’

How accurate of him to point it out! I was suddenly enlightened. Was I such a transparent person? Not good. Paul, even though he didn’t know everything, he knew enough. He knew me like nobody else. Well, what should I tell you, Paul? I reckon I was taken aback and definitely annoyed because if he was able to draw the conclusions so quickly, I was no longer in control of the situation. My carefully crafted plan was rubbish! I was deceiving myself, and I needed another person to realise that?! Was I such a bad case? I didn’t know. One thing was certain, I had to comment on it instantly… to the world, him, and myself, more importantly.

‘How clever you are, really! WOW! And this comparison, you’ve almost hit the bull’s eye with it, you’ve almost exposed me! Listen, here because, you probably already know, my own flat will be available in two months and here because it is the nearest one to the hospital. I had to finish my rehabilitation in order not to end up in any hospital ward, especially those run by Pierre. Here cause it’s so close to the editor’s office and it’s so convenient. And that’s correct, it is my old new temporary headquarters! What you said about the Louvre was mean, though. Beaubourg is what I have in mind. You know what? You’re really annoying with the flogging thing. Get yourself an inflatable doll and beat her up! Let her satisfy your sexual fantasies. Perhaps this will stop you from pestering me. By the way, are you earning some money on the side as a paparazzi? What are you expecting? Do you want to take out my liver, cut it into pieces and serve it to you as you seem to have quite an appetite?! Quit this sensationalism concerning me! To make the matter even worse, I have to disappoint since the only items on the menu, apart from liver, are honey and croissants, and I’m not making a cake! Clear?!’

‘What a smooth transition from flogging to eating! Ever since the dawn of social media with its global exhibitionism paparazzi are going hungry, my dear. But while we’re on it, speaking of cheap sensations: tell me – can you recall a moment from your life which was not one? Let me comment on what you seem to think aboutme. Do you take me for an idiot? When it comes to my appetite, I’ve got quite hungry, in fact! I’d have a bite to eat after my journey. What’s in the fridge? Let me guess: milk, old jam, and your frozen self-control. Did Sicily give you such a hard time that you must bite so hard now? Who pissed you off so much? Checkmate, Monon! I know you too well!’

‘Hold on, I need to think how it was. I’d not call you an idiot myself unless you want me to. I’d rather you didn’t make another move in this chess game of ours, you don’t know what you’re in for here. First things first: you’re quite right about the fridge, I don’t feel like doing anything, especially cooking. It’s not been a passion of mine, either. I call it keeping myself in shape, you know that. And since I like you, I’ll let you in on a secret. I like to contemplate the space around me as it is. So I was hoping I’d be able to admire it for some unknown time which would suit me. No way, right?! You’re so!!!’

I was sick and tired of his constant returns and sticking his nose into my business – I didn’t need that kind of an observer. He was the last person I’d allow to do it. Anyway, nobody was allowed to do it. Luckily for him, I liked him enough to respond despite feeling like throwing him out of the flat at that moment.

‘See, I’ve buried Pierre for the second time, how many more! Being traumatised myself, on the verge of depression, I did my best to help another human being diagnosed with severe depression. It was like walking on thin ice. After coming back from Libya we didn’t talk for a long time. We did only that. I felt it was my obligation. Was it my mistake? I hope he was a man of honour, undoubtedly he had good intentions, is that what you’ve been trying to say? About the motivations behind each person’s actions, or just mine, or shall we perhaps go on to discuss yours, how’s that for you? Paul, I do not know how to answer this question. Graveyards are full of people who had some intentions, some of them good, some of them bad. Good intentions are not enough to save the world but bad ones are just what you need if you want to destroy it. Pierre never told me anything which I couldn’t cope with. Neither did he tell me anything which would be of any interest to you or could change the course of history. My face and brain are tattooed in confession. Do you possibly happen to know how to transfer them onto a canvas? That’s what I must do. This form of communication appears the safest one to me. The difference lies in the fact that a canvas can be changed, painted over, repainted. But past – no! I’m worried that a canvas and paints might, in the long run, turn out to be not enough to express what I feel. It is my temporary comfort zone, which he didn’t have. You should know that not everything can be put onto the canvas. He didn’t even try to look for his comfort zone. Should I have suggested something to him? How do you reckon? Or – was it my failure? I stood by him trying to find various treatments. It was him who couldn’t cope with it and lost having me by his side. Then, I had so many affairs to release grief, sadness, disappointment and the pressure. Otherwise, I would have lost my marbles. It didn’t work, the behaviours were always the same, so predictable that I was not having fun anymore. And fun was what I was aiming at. And then? I went to some places, came back to Libya one more time. I went to Sicily, and what? Did it help me? Not really. Calming factors? Constant and uncontrollable panic Massimo had been spreading around him? Worrying about yet another thing, that a brick would fall on my head, that some barbarians would track me down, that I would get bitten by a mosquito and come with dengue fever. I almost believed him! I was so thoroughly examined that now I probably give off more light than the Eiffel Tower at night! And that’s when the accident happened. A coincidence? For a short while I took him to be a prophet or a shaman? Strange, isn’t it? Listen to me, could it be some kind of Pierre’s curse? You know, it’s like when you want to call somebody and say that’s enough, but you can’t. Paul, I’m not Pierre, but you’d better stay away from me cause I might cough at you and you could get infected. Have you got anything else to say?!’

Dead silence. In my head stray pieces of stories told by Pierre were lingering.

… I didn’t have to think twice. Volunteers were being gathered… I wasincorporated into a medical levy giving help in the Balkans. BetweenMarch and April 1992 we got to the suburbs of Sarajevo in lorries.A huge open space with two wooden huts and a few tents. I was incharge of the medical equipment. The city had been cut off from foodand medicine supplies as well as water, electricity, and heating. Ourtask was to provide first aid and secure medical help during theevacuation and the transportation of civilians from the area in the civilwar, otherwise known as the second Yugoslavia. Women andchildren got there in terrible condition. IFOR and UN unitswere keeping watch over the security of the entire action. Thetrain which was supposed to take us back was already waiting. Itwas made up of 28 cars. We waited two days for it to be filled.Every second car had a doctor, two nurses, and two soldiersinside. Each of us was administered morphine subcutaneously toguarantee we would stay awake for at least 12 hours if needbe.

…a melting pot of passengers’ nationalities stuck together in oneplace made a risky cross of genetic material.

…trouble started. I wasn’t able to dress a small boy’s wound. He’dbeen stabbed by another guy sitting next to him. Can you imagine that,Monon? All I could hear around me were children screaming. I didn’tunderstand what they were saying to me, I was alone in thecompartment. We needed interpreters and special forces. I triedspeaking Russian. Only some of them could understand me. It helpedonly for a while, we needed to separate them. We were losing controlover passengers of different ethnic background fighting with eachother. That train changed my life forever. A few dozen kilometrespast Sarajevo on the right side of the window we saw the firstterrifying sight. Mass graves, massacred bodies of children, men andwomen of different ages. What used to football pitches was nowfilled up with piles of dead bodies… How could it be possible?The transportation was being supervised by patrols of armedsoldiers. We couldn’t stop it but we needed to separate or movesome of the passengers! Each of us got a weapon for our ownsafety, although it was not the plan… we had to stop the trainjust for one hour… I was afraid they would get on and see theweapons. In that scenario we would neither help the runawaysnor would any of us reach the border in one piece. Even thoughall the doors were marked with the seal and our national flagswere waving on the top, they could do anything they wanted– get on, kills us or make us leave the train. Nobody was incontrol of the fights breaking out. I couldn’t use my gun, althoughI almost did by the skin of my teeth. Finally we stopped the train.We let the elders outside so that they could change the cars,but the children were moved inside. The Serbs, the Croatians,and the Bosnians got separated. Fortunately, the Serbs werefond of the Poles and the French… maybe that’s why they didn’tintervene…

…Monon, uniting nations which differ from each other sodramatically in terms of their ethnicity, religion, and culture can haveonly one outcome: a disaster. Domino effect, the escalation ofthe conflict… Sooner or later… It starts with displacing, then itcomes to mass killings and ethnic cleansings… In the end nobodyremembers anymore how and why it all began. Nobody can forget, it’seven harder to forgive. It’s politicians with their indolence andbasic tools of power in their own natural environment… AfterWorld War II no international organisation succeeded in crushinga conflict in the bud and preventing massacres and genocides fromhappening, it’s portentous for Europe and the rest of the world.

I had Pierre’s image in front of my eyes. He was sitting with me, tired, on the couch, his head lowered, trying to hug me. He was crying, regurgitating old stories from the past. I could hear his words, as well as the tone of his voice in my ears… so sad and heavy. Unbearable. I didn’t know why I started thinking about him at that moment.

Paul was standing still with his face contorted, mouth open, staring at me, he looked as if he wanted to give me a good beating. He coughed out in the end, ‘Monon, hello, are you there? What are you talking about?! Yes, Africa and the Middle East gave each of us a hard time, but it wasn’t any mosquito or exotic fly that bit you but Pierre. God, what did this bloke do to you?! Right, I almost forgot that he always had good intentions. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, certainly his is!’

What? Paul’s real voice and image got to me. Yes, good intentions. But we are the ones doing the paving… more or less consciously? Did Pierre pave it for me? But who did for him? Having pinpointed the time zone of the local time, I shouted out, ‘Look at me one more time, in a different way. And then get out of my way. Back from hell? Do you consider it a clear message? It has to be! Do you feel like having a hellish cup of coffee, Paul?’

‘I’m having one already. I’ve poured it for myself. Huh? You want me to get out of your way, don’t you? You mean the way to the kitchen or which one exactly? How do you want me to look at you? You’re weird… Where have you been? Where’ve you returned from? For a moment you were so far away from here that I was doubting if you even had noticed I was here. What did you try to say? You’re scaring me, Monon. Listen, let me help get this flat sorted out and unpack my suitcases. Let’s leave the fridge, we’ll eat out, what do you think?’

‘That’s more like it. We’ll do it. I can bear it somehow, I’ll treat you as an exception. By the way, you could’ve warned me you were coming. I’d have prepared myself. You might not have found me at home, true? You must be worn out after your journey. Well, thanks for flying here, anyway. They’ve fed me some poison, it must be why I’m having such a hard time trying to focus. Anyway, the research Pierre was conducting – it wasn’t so silly.’

‘Saint Francis! What did they give exactly? I understand this particular conclusion is the result of taking those painkillers, and not some other thing? He’d got confused and lost the sense of reality! His research… It gets my goat when I hear all this stuff about genetic code, DNA and him! He’s like spam! Like software affected by a virus! You can’t really get rid of it, all you can do is block it. It keeps mutating and returning. Is this your actual comprehension of DNA? Part of you?’

‘Well, watch out, Paul, do not provoke me cause I still have some strength left… You started it! What is your problem with him or genetics, for that matter? It’s obvious that Pierre is part of me and is inside of me. It’s obvious! I wouldn’t call him a virus though… Your phrasing was very unfortunate. Genetics can account for much of human behaviour. It helps to understand who we are and why we’re here. We can’t fight our own biology. Pierre’s research may have been controversial or annoying to some people, but it was important for sure! I had never been interested in it even though perhaps I should have been. Yes, I’ve just realised that I should have. Perhaps I would have an effective vaccine against a virus like you! Besides, viruses spread fast, so watch out because you don’t have any blockade.’

‘Seriously? That’s a never-ending story, right, Monon?! Anyhow, perhaps instead of focusing on me, let’s go on to discuss some of the better examples from research on your DNA pattern. It will be never-ending, indeed! It’s another one from the list of your viruses… Paco with an overblown ego and intelligence below average? Did you marry him as a part of your not fighting your own biology and protecting against viruses? A then, surprised, you expected wisdom, empathy, and understanding from him? I’m fully aware you knew about it. He’s such an idiot! I wasn’t going to be so direct, but I can’t beat about the bush and watch you levitate! My intention is to get you sorted out or at least put you in a good mood for a while. To sum up, definitely yes because it is me who is your vaccine against all this evil. It’s not your genetic code that’s accountable for it!’

What? What do you expect? I was in such a state that Paul’s words, detached from reality, could only put me in the second lane of self-control. Yes, adrenaline was what I needed.

‘One hurdle too many now! You didn’t know Pierre too well, and Paco? You didn’t know him at all. What are you imputing here, Mr. Snapshot?! Frame yourself first and draw the conclusions from your own pic before somebody else does it for you, or maybe you want me do it for you? God! Swimming toward the shore, you failed to notice you’d already reached the sand and you’re burying yourself! You know, I just love your selfless I’ll-give-you-a-slice-of-bread-and-you-give-me-a-whole-loaf type of care. I’ll get myself sorted out, and well! What a relief, you want to put me in a good mood? I actually believed you, thanks a lot!’

‘What the hell, Monon! I’m here because I simply missed you! I wanted to ask how you’ve been. So nobody is allowed to worry and care about you?! I knew that already, but for God’s sake, I still don’t understand why!

‘Well, well. What a start you’ve had! What shall I tell you? Look.’

I pointed to the easel with the new canvas. He would always get metaphors and I wanted to get away from the problematic (and pestering) questions and issues.

‘Listen, Paul. I got lost on this canvas. All I seem to get are chaotic lines and colours which don’t make up any shapes. Torn and random colours are running down, getting my hands dirty. Too many memorised images, memories, anagrams and no magic rubber to erase them from my memories. I wasn’t myself beside Pierre, I’m not myself without him either. Thus, I’m looking for alternatives. A universal concept of God, Hell, Heaven. What is man, friendship, love, and finally – what is truth? Trying to find it out I know I may not get the answers. Sources of knowledge come up and they are not road signs. They don’t lead you towards the truth. They are the base for our grand plan, but then life comes along. Freedom should be its guide. It has always accompanied me. At least that’s what I believed in. However, this freedom has the burden of responsibility. It is the aftermath of choices made by us and other people. You either pay for them or you get benefits. But that’s not the most important thing. They must be conscious and only ours. The question is if that’s the case and if it can be done. I’m not convinced when it comes to myself. Oh, a dilemma – correct me if I’m wrong since we’re not in the same vale of tears… That’s the truth! Which, in turns, can be shocking. I’ve had quite a few of these shocks in my life. The question is why. Has it toughened me up? Well, no! It hasn’t changed my attitude to people either. What it has done is it has made me more careful. It’s a pity because it’s much easier not to give a shit about anything. And then you’re in deep shit. And that’s that… you know, maybe I need to paint them, carve them, describe them? After all, this genetic code, whether you like it or not, started there, right? So the natural course of things, while trying to find the answers, would be to define as many of them as possible. But not really! They didn’t help me either! The pieces of the puzzle fell apart once again! You see, it is possible to do everything right if you know how to swim between people’s intentions so as not to drown yourself and others. To be able to replace banalities such as love, integrity, faith in humanity and happiness with cold logic. Some do it the other way round. And we call them winners? Perhaps I ought to get rid of all my feelings and all my empathy to stop feeling at all? Do you happen to know how to do it? Paul, I simply have to get a grip on myself physically. I’m not levitating! Do you really reckon that being stuck in autoimmune system which is losing orientation is any fun for me? It isn’t! I just have to know and understand more to feel like doing anything again. For instance, to make other choices, better choices. Just don’t say that DNA has nothing to do with it.’

‘Hello, is there a doctor here? You might as well start speaking Japanese, it will be easier than all these complicated sentences, metaphors and mental shortcuts. What exactly are you aiming at now? What do you want? It is us who make choices and think when we make them because we’re not a hybrid of a stork and a frog. It’s not about DNA, stop looking for excuses for stupid choices and behaviours there! Yeah, I know you always make it difficult for yourself. Adrenaline is like oxygen for you so that’s why you invest feelings into wrong places and people. You dwell on them. It’s destroying you. OK, let me summarise it, take it out on whatever you want. It might be art, science, anything, or go on another mission. Let it be your manifest, rebellion, defence. It won’t make all your problems and dilemmas disappear, but some of them surely will. Occupy yourself with something else, effectively! All those puzzles and secrets… you’ve entered a maze of your own volition. Tell me because I don’t know – do you want to get out of it or not really? You get bored quickly, so you should’ve a long time ago! Don’t sail your boat down the river, just cross it on the bridge. It’s faster and easier this way. You’ll be happier!’

‘WOW once again! It could be checkmate this time. Great, Paul! It would mean I’ve been dead so far… Do you want me to rise from the dead? Why did I forget for a short moment that you know me so well? Have you talked to whales about me? Or tell me, smartass, what makes us happy so I can get out of this maze. And then tell me where to and for what reason.’

‘You’re acting like a whale yourself. They know what they want at least. The answer to your question is simple: love!’

‘What?! They at least speak one language and we speak many. One of us is talking gibberish right now! Paul, have you completely lost your marbles? Is it a new joke of yours? You think this is what I want and what I need? It’s not love, I can tell you this. I’ve already tried it out. Wait a moment… are you talking about yourself? Listen to this: loves gives and takes everything! Even one which doesn’t make sense and is bound to fail because it’s love too! Therefore, in the context of happiness we can say that one is happy and unhappy if one loves and if one doesn’t love. To be happy we need a bit more than so called good intentions and you can if you want type of wishful thinking. Paul, what are you getting at? You know you can say it in such a moment and in such a way to bring about the desired outcome! A moment is much and little. So? On top of that, some of them are really fuckinglong – it’s hard to imagine. Don’t get offended, but I really don’t feel like vivisecting my or your sex life, and especially these banalities about love. I just want to breathe freely, do you understand? You know what? You’re right! I need adrenaline. I’d rather have it than love.’

‘Sorry, I’m seriously lost here! I didn’t get your message after all, I have shit for brain now. Why the fuck do you keep assuming I know what you mean?! Your love and your recipe for happiness? Listen up, the first thing you must do is close the old chapter entitled We are allPierresbecause your DNA code is OK and you’ll be able to see the world anew. Oh, well. When it happens, whether you like it or not, I’ll get you and you’ll be happy! And this is your near future. You’ll be begging me on your knees to do it with you. You’ll see! We can’t fight our own biology. You’ve just said it yourself!’

‘Ha-ha! You didn’t understand anything… You couldn’t have said it more clearly. It’s not possible in this way. Paul, don’t you know what no means? The thing between us is not chemistry or biology, and it’s not alchemy either! On the other hand, if you’re certain it’s the right rubber to erase unwanted colours from my memory and it will help solve my problems and dilemmas, I’ll do it. I will finally give in to you because I’m suffocating. You can help me improve my respiration, but don’t fool yourself into believing you make me breathe so deeply that I’ll fly away like a steroid-fed butterfly in the clouds of carefree ignorance because you know it’s driving me mad. When it comes to a butterfly, I can paint it, carve it, draw it, or describe it for you. I could even fly away with you for a little while, but I won’t change myself for anybody drastically. Let’s leave this topic here, because your brain might turn into a jelly and that’s far worse, OK?! Speaking of the wings, the last ones I happened to fall in love with didn’t take me far away. They were just a tattoo on someone’s arms…’

‘Ha-ha, are you talking about Paco again? He was a blockade that eased you of suffering for a bit. Obviously thosewings definitely didn’t help! I remember his impressive tattoo. A Latino show-off with a bad script for life. It was intended only to satisfy his needs and attain his goals. A primitive swank. Aside from the wings on his arm he had nothing else to offer you.’

‘Oh, why are you being so hard on my exes? Ha-ha! So Lancelot! Come on, Paul! You occasionally succeed in taking me aback and making me laugh.’

‘Yeah, like Monty Python. Cause some of them never deserved to have you. Hence your current state of body and mind? Don’t burst out laughing, babe. It’s the truth and only truth. What did he do to impress you, to make you temporarily lose control over yourself for him? I mean, he was an idiot! No, wait, I know, you were definingthen? I don’t know about the rest of them, but HE was probably theworst definition of manhood. Be frank, he liked anal and was rough, right? Bi-macho?I detested him! Besides, Monon… I didn’t mean to say that my intention is to be included into your group of defined asses or, even more so, get anything out of you. I’m neither Paco nor Pierre. What else do you need to know to be happy? I’m not any fucking commando Icarus like Massimo or any telepath to explore space looking for the truth. The angels who have fallen down walk the Earth and can’t fly anymore. Do you know what can make you fly? Love! But one which is directed at the right person. I can’t carry on falling down and getting new wings to fly again in order to find you somewhere, hovering in the clouds. Monon, you know what? I was secretly hoping that after the macho case you’d give yourself a break. By the way, how many guys do you need to get over Pierre? One hundred? If I need to get over somebody all I need is one night stand and that’s it. But not in your case. You’ve just said it. That’s where we’re different. You’re a special case. Shall I get a pneumatic drill or a hoover to suck him out of you? No… it won’t be enough either. You need to have your brain opened with an oilfield type of drill if you want to get rid of this pus!’

‘Ha-ha, hold on for a while! Let me find my train of thought! This special moment of honesty and comparisons! I’ll give you a whack, you’ll see! First things first because I’m a bit lost. Concerning the comparisons, what are you getting at? Do you think that he used me, not the other way round? Besides, I was defining, as you called it, after him so… About the getting over part… I might need another two hundred definitionsor just one or even none at all, I don’t know! Did you listen to what I was saying? I should be feeling bad because of what you said, but I’ll probably laugh my head off! Paco FuckO’Lancelot! I can’t believe how witty your replies are! You’ve brought tears to my eyes! Beware, in Minotaur’s Labyrinth – which of the characters mentioned by you is the angel after all…?’

I needed more than ten minutes to calm down. Yeah, Paco so easy to work out? And I spent so much time analysing and explaining. Myself to others and myself… Roaring with laughter, I was trying to bring up the second part of my train of thought:

‘I’m sorry, but no hellish drill can help here, Paul. Don’t compare Pierre to pus anymore, please! It’s not about love, actually. Speaking of you… I don’t expect you to do it and why would you even think this is what I want?! From you? Hold on, let me try to understand you… Ha-ha, I’ve just realised that you must be Icarus, otherwise you wouldn’t be here, right? By the way, it’s you who is hovering in the clouds, not me! You’ve fallen down here because your wings have failed you? You’ve only appeared at my door and you’re already getting my goat. You’ve come here, so fly with me as long as I let you. How much of my space do you need? There are no angels in this labyrinth. Have I made myself clear this time?’

‘Oh, Monon! You must’ve received more testosterone as a foetus. From mythical birds, one can be only a Phoenix around you. Speaking of space, I need some in your wardrobe! May I stuff the contents of my luggage there?’

‘Surely! Feel free. However, you should know I definitely won’t sleep with you since: I’m not stressed, lonely, no reason really, and I’m not feeling lost! Speaking of space, you’ve got more of it than one might expect, you know? So put your stuff there if you can. You always do it anyway, regardless of whether you’re invited or not. So feel like at home. Have a shower, we can eat something and go out later. By the way, how long are you planning to stay? Don’t build a nest here like a Phoenix…’

‘Great! How hospitable of you… Just for a while, OK?’

‘Yes… sorry for this, I’m not at my best at the moment. For the time being, you’d better have this shower right now if we want to leave this place by midnight!’

‘Done!’ he shouted and hugged me really hard.

He would always do it when I became unbearable. It usually worked. He headed for the tiny bathroom. Hiding my notes about Pierre in a hurry, I put the kettle on so we could have more coffee. I shut down the computer, put the canvases, chisels, and easels in the corner, covered the sofa, made some space in the wardrobe, wiped the floor and put the ready coffee on the table. It took me more than a while. I could hear cheerful whistling and water running from behind the door. I was ready just in time.

‘Paul, will you ever get out of this bathroom? Are you having a spa treatment there, or what?

‘I’m almost ready! If you’re so impatient you can join me, ha-ha!”

‘You know what I’ll do unless you get out right away? I’ll drag you out naked and put you behind the door! And this is not the safest district of Paris… that’s why it’s the cheapest!

It worked. He got out, or should I say, emerged from the hot clouds of steam.

‘Finally. Yes, yes, you’re beautiful! Holy Mother! You smell like pure Paco Rabanne! Oh! How much perfume have you sprayed? Get on with these suitcases, the coffee and the croissants are on the table. Now it’s my turn.’

‘Oh, thanks. Put on a cool dress and some stockings. We’ll have some fun, we’ll get pissed and dance the night away!’

‘OK, Paul, finish it already. Let me pass, you’re starting to bore me. I’ll be ready in no time, make yourself comfortable.’

I opened the wardrobe and took the first dress I could find. I put one with low neck and vent at the back, did up my hair, put on make-up and high stilettos. I really felt like having fun that night.

‘Wow, you finally look like yourself, Monon. I’ll have to chase away all those horny suitors.’

‘Don’t look at me this way, or you’ll sleep on the floor or in a chair.’

‘OK, OK! I don’t want my chopped-off penis to end up at the bottom of the Seine. But you said it so gently,’ he whispered. ‘Gosh, Monon! My legs and stomach, everything!, have melted away!’

He got disconcerted for the first time. He turned his head away and changed the subject, ‘Monon, whose photo is it on the fridge?’

‘Ha-ha! I won’t chop it off for no reason, it could only be a crime of passion! Anyway, it wouldn’t change anything as masculinity depends on your mind and heart. In your case, I’d have to amputate your head and have your heart transplanted… I’ll remodel your DNA a tiny bit… You’ve brought me to tears. Thank you! In relation to the photo, I honestly have no idea. It was there. I ought to have discarded it a long time ago. Why are you asking?’

‘Monon, you’re frightening me. Who’s the psychopath here? You did imagine the scene with all the gory details! It made you laugh?! Did you use to work as doctor Frankenstein’s assistant?!’

‘Perhaps you should watch out for me!’ I couldn’t stop laughing. ‘All this talking about flogging, beating, cutting off your penis. Be honest, you’d like to be an object of research, right? I have finally figured you out! You’re a masochist dreamer! Do you really believe that one day you’ll be satisfying your sexual fantasies with me? If you don’t change your attitude towards me, it could end very badly for you.’

‘Stop jeering at me. Let’s leave this topic here, or you might burst. I can handle my fear because, in your case, it may yield results different from those intended. I’m obstinate! I can’t control myself if you beat me. Oh well, this photo… I was just asking. Let’s get out of here, I can’t stay here anymore. If you’re in a good mood you’re ready, let’s go!’

‘And who’s deranged here! No more talking about it. Y-E-S. But please, anywhere but Maison les Cas, I’m begging you.’

‘That’s it, I promise. The Maison les Cas period is behind us. It’s high time we found a new place to confide in, to enjoy ourselves, to have fun. Let me take you by the arm, madame. We’ll fly where need be. Don’t worry and let me take you!’

We started with La Bellevilloise in Rue Boyer as every night adventure in Paris must begin with a peaceful place. We had dinner and a bottle of red wine there. We dropped in at Point Éphémère and Abracadabar since that was where the artistic crème de la crème gathered. I had to consult a few details concerning the project I was involved in. Paul was getting upset for some reason, so we had to leave quickly. We changed places until we anchored at Café de la Danse. He straightened out and confidently headed to meet the club’s manager who was supposed to take us to… our lounge? Balkan Beat Box concert was about to start. Damn, he knew how much I loved them. As were reaching the table, my legs were going from under me. In the distance at table I could see Michael and Peter waiting! I couldn’t believe my own eyes.

‘Happy birthday, Monon!’

‘Oh guys, you! Here! How elegant you look! Just when I was thinking nothing would surprise me. How cunning! Not a single word of warning?’

I gave Paul a repenting look. Peter opened the champagne, Michael gestured for the waiter to bring the birthday cake and then Paul made my surprised ass sit in the chair.

‘It wouldn’t have been a surprise then, would it? To your new future, Monon! To exhibitions, projects, and your health!’ they raised a toast to me.

Yes, it was my birthday.

‘…and to freedom from mosquitoes!’ Paul added.

Momentarily he developed the story about alleged genetic research and my supposed pregnancy – since why would I be more coldthan usual? He went to propose another hypothesis about me having one of my internal organs transplanted, namely my heart, since he couldn’t account for my indifference to his advances, and another one about why my rehabilitation had taken such a long time. Giving an assurance that I wasn’t incubating any insect inside of me and that I wasn’t planning to give birth to a new spices of mosquito, we drank the toast.

I realised that the last time that group had met was a year before, also on my birthday. I could have predicted this. After some time Adam and Laurent joined. Kamil called to wish me all the best and invited us to his place. In the end Paco came and it was the biggest astonishment. I hadn’t seen him for some years. We hadn’t stayed in touch after the divorce. He’d come from Cuba to Paris to do some business. He’d seen my articles in a magazine so he decided to see how I was doing. At least that was what Adam said. His presence there he owed entirely to him. Nobody else would’ve dared to bring him to me that night. I couldn’t be angry with anybody that night. It was just nice. It couldn’t have been due to bad intentions, it was genuine friendship.

After the champagne it was time to dance. I should have fun. That was the idea behind that night. It was hard to speak to each of them individually in quiet. Only Paco took the initiative and invited me to the bar for a special drink.

‘Hey, hey! Monon isn’t exclusive to you!’ the others protested.

Paul gave me a meaningful look to remind me about that morning’s conversation. I had to control myself so as not to burst out laughing in front of Paco.

‘Monon is not exclusive to anybody. Watch out, or somebody might get a knock on the head,’ was the reply. ‘Stop complaining, it’s only one drink… well! Or more perhaps! We’ll take it from there!’

The only piece of knowledge that group had about me and Paco was that he used to be, briefly, my second husband. Nobody knew more than they needed to. We found a quiet corner at the bar and ordered the drinks.

‘Double mojito for the lady and Bacardi rum with lots of ice for me.’

‘You remember?!’

‘Obviously! You’ve always loved mojito, especially at night on the beach.’

‘Yes, it was wonderful. I wish it hadn’t ended that way between us.’

‘So do I. I’m sorry it took so long to reach out to you, but I really couldn’t contact earlier. Anyway, we both have been busy. You haven’t changed. Always beautiful and elegant. And well, surrounded by men.’

‘Ha-ha! Thanks, so typical of you to say that. Not at all, Paco. I’ve been cutting myself off too. I’m not surrounded. These are my friends. You know about this.’

‘Yes, it’s true. Don’t you think they might think of you ina different way? I guarantee that’s the case. Thesefriendsof