Beast. Part 2: Un Autre Coup de Foudre
The most romantic episode of my life was a fly-too-close-to-the-sun experience that would have blinded anyone, yet was utterly impossible to resist. It changed my life forever. Nothing could ever live up to it—certainly not the banality of everyday life. Of course, a flame that bright will die just as abruptly as it was born. Neither Beast nor I knew what was coming.
After nine months in Oman, having completed a commission to design and build a glass chapel, Beast returned to Paris for a brief time to tie up six years of loose ends before returning to California. This entailed ending his representation by a renowned art gallery in St-Germain-Des-Prés, through which sales of his large modernistic stained glass sculptures, as well as commission work such as the Oman chapel, had been arranged.
This was a bleak, albeit brief, period for Beast. Paris had become dismal through his eyes. And he was longing for purpose. It was then that he wrote to me asking if he could introduce me to Paris before he left.
Though I was reluctant, Beast had a way of extending magical invitations that made refusal difficult. We hadn’t seen each other for over ten years. I had most adamantly ended things with him at that time when we were living together at Orizaba Castle in Long Beach, California, and I had some misgivings about what he might expect of me now. When I discussed my concerns with him, he assured me I had nothing to worry about. Experience had shown me that he was a man of his word.
He sent me a roundtrip ticket and off I went. It was mid September 1988, that time of year known in France as la rentree. Renewed Parisians returned from their summer excursions with stockpiles of enthusiastic energy. There was electric promise in the air. The City of Light would not disappoint.
When I first saw Beast at Charles de Gaulle, it might as well have been 1977 again, when we had first locked eyes while sitting among friends in Stinger’s Venice Beach apartment. Un coup de foudre, en effet. Beware of love at first sight. Tread cautiously, my friend. It can raise its beautiful ugly head more than once, and always when least expected.
Beast had rented a short-term apartment in the Fifth, just steps away from the Sorbonne. Grey is the only color memory I have of that apartment. We were the ones to bring life and color to it.
Beast had meticulously planned Paris 101 for me. Each day was a cluster-fuck of exquisite memory-making. Nothing was rushed. At the Louvre, he guided me to specific paintings so I could grasp the breadth and importance of the Louvre without being overwhelmed. We toured Musee d’Orsay, then saw a Mapplethorpe exhibit at a gallery, the name of which escapes me. Hand in hand, we strolled Tuileries and the Champs-Élysées, ordered café crème at Les Deux Magots. An afternoon in Cimetière du Père Lachaise, a day at Marché aux Puces Saint-Ouen, a late night venture through infamous La Pigalle, a kiss atop La Tour Eiffel at dusk.
We took the train to Versailles. The most memorable part of our day was having lunch at a restaurant nestled in the trees. I remember the starched white linen tablecloths and eating a delicious dish of rabbit. A scene ripped straight from a 1960s black and white French film. I remember being enchanted by Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s homage to peasant living. But most of all I remember drowning in love. I now know that Beast and I were only each other’s vehicle for navigating such a fairy tale, being in love with the fairy tale, far more than with each other. We both were willingly lured into believing (again) that it would last forever.
One night - probably when we returned late from Versailles - we had a midnight meal of tinned soup and stale baguette. Every morsel was perfumed and exotic.
We shared a twin bed. It was luxurious.
Another night we overdressed for “Rigoletto” at the Palais Garnier. This was before Garnier’s historic renovation to its full glory. On this night it was the quintessence of magnificent shabby chic.
Neither Beast nor I wanted this to end. We had spent nine days as five-year-olds opening Christmas gifts. Beast wanted me to stay and live together in Paris. What would we do, how would we live, I asked. We will sing Edith Piaf songs in the Metro, Beast answered, dressed as cowboy and cowgirl, wearing handmade chaps constructed out of worn gold shag carpet.
I had an inkling of how the real world would punish us if we attempted that. So with great sadness, I took flight again, this time returning home to my small Southern town. The story doesn’t end there, of course. Non, non, non.