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When people ask me something, I’ve a principle: always say yes. Makes things easier and much more fun. I used to say no. Back then I was a pain-in-the-ass, my own family said so. Took years to realize all anyone wants to hear is yes.
Do you think I’m a good lover?
Do you like being with me?
Can you fly a plane? Have you a license to practice? Life’s more interesting when the answer is yes.
Even at my age, people approach me.
Are you an actor?
Have I seen anything you’ve done?
A beautiful woman will come up to me. ‘Didn’t I see you in Dangerous Liaisons?’ I can’t resist.
I’m just open. Girlfriends don’t understand. Sasha–the one I would’ve married–was furious. Told me to leave. Packed my bags in silence, a face full of unfinished sentences, too stupid to see all she wanted was an apology.
Since then I’ve never slept in my own bed.
This Texan I met, Hank, told me Americans have an expression for this: Couch Surfing.They’ve slogans for everything . . . marketing has invaded every corner of their life, even love: A Diamond is Forever. Even suffering: Dumpster Diving . . . a million ways to make the shittiness of life sound fun and cool.
I imagined a flotilla of sofas and mattresses with women on them being born back to the shore, grabbing onto the nearest one, taking a short ride on it, letting go when another one came along. Doing this several times, getting a knack for grabbing and letting go. Not caring whose bed it was, as long as it’s comfortable, eventually not being picky about that either. Or what the woman was like.
“Secret’s not to care.” Hank knew what he was talking about. He’d been surviving in France on his wits for five years. Didn’t speak a word of French.
Never said there’d be times when there’s no mattresses. You’re just drifting out there in the freezing water, getting older, calling out–nobody hears you. When the one thing you desperately want is to say yes and grab onto the nearest pretty young girl, but to be honest, now, even an old one would do–”Don’t you remember me in Dangerous Liaisons?”… Times when you begin believing your own bullshit . . . “Later, I played parts I’m not proud of, just for money. I was a star!”
Water’s gone quiet. Nobody sees you waving your arms. You’ve drifted too far. Nobody mistakes you for an actor anymore. Bide your time. Wait for the next mattress to come along.
I sneak into Hotel Martinez. Slick a comb through my mustache, making like Fernando Rey: cane, smart suit. Steal a copy of the Herald. Notice a stain on my trousers. Doesn’t matter. This summer light, people won’t see. What’s important is a certain elegance–living in the moment.
Smuggling myself onto a bus with a flock of grannies in wide-brimmed hats, I take a free ride down the Croisette. Tilting my face to the sun, convincing myself I’m living an expensive life, no different than these Russians spilling out of Bulgari or my widows, keeping the facade of their past beauty, although everything behind has begun to sag.
A widow gives me a gamy look.
Five days at most, I could squeeze out of her. Staying on her sofa, maybe she’d want me in her bed. Some women are strange, let you sleep with them, but not next to them. Some that’s all they want––to sleep in someone’s arms. A man to tell them lies, make them feel young again…Her children will come home for Sunday dinner or give one of their weekly guilt-calls from Paris so they seem like good children looking out for her when they couldn’t give a rat’s ass. Who’s the creep on the couch? they’ll whisper in the kitchen. What does he do?
I’ll play a role to make them happy. A dentist? One thing you can bet on, nobody wants to quiz you about teeth. It’s all about confidence. Just feed people a few keywords, they’ll believe you know more about their profession than they do.
Some women buy me clothes. One bought me a suit but I could only wear it when I was with her. Made me leave it in her closet. When I came back I’d wear it. Her kids turned me out in the end. It’s always the kids. If it were up to the widows I could stay forever.
Used to spend winters in Paris. Last time was to see the specialist. He said–
There is . . .
Wanted to perform tests, but I’m not putting myself through that again. There’s no sea up there. Can’t sit on the beach, sun on my skin. Freedom. Listen to waves pulling away and returning as I lay on my back and burn.
This is life,
even if I am dying.
Now a girl stumbles up to me . . . Sasha was pregnant when I left. Her choice. Knew I wasn’t interested in kids. I like them to talk to, sure. They’re freer than adults, that’s how they trap you into raising them. You grow old worrying so they can be young . . . With her pail, plastic shovel, little kid’s waddle–”Can I bury you?”
Give me fifteen minutes.
She smiles, covering my feet with sand…
I tell her stories that sound like fantasies, but they’re just my life. People don’t understand how a man can go from having money and adventures; not care about losing it. Normal people hoard. Don’t put their necks out to begin with.
I never wanted to plan anything.
“Don’t let people make up your mind for you…don’t lose your innocence.”
Suddenly, her mother looks up from her book.
“What are you doing?!”
“We’re only playing.”
“Leave that man alone.”
And she does.
Mia Funk is an artist and writer who teaches at L’École de Dessin Technique et Artistique, Paris. She won a Prix de Peinture from the Salon d’Automne de Paris, has shown at the Grand Palais (Official Selection of Salon des Artistes Français), was selected for the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, Celeste Prize, and won a Thames & Hudson Pictureworks Prize. Her paintings are held in several public collections, including the Dublin Writers Museum, and have been highlighted on television and numerous publications. Her fiction was shortlisted for the Momaya Prize. She is currently completing work on a pscyhological thriller and a collection of linked short stories and saying ‘Yes’ to as many things as possible, some of which can be seen on: www.miafunk.com