Right now it’s raining in Paris. There is a sound that the cars make on the streets. It is a mixture of sounds really. Tires on wet cement mostly, a loud, echoing roll decorated by the squeal of brakes and by the constant honking of high-pitched horns. If I turn my head crossing the street I hear it, so clear and clean. I swear that I could be anywhere, with my eyes closed, and you could play me that mixture and I would know that I was hearing Paris in the rain. It’s something 1 love, that peculiar combination of sounds. It’s something that can make me happy.
Other cities sound different in the rain. In Santa Cruz the rain was just rain and the sound that I remember there was that sound that seals made. If you were walking home late at night, the town would be very quiet. Then you could hear them, barking on the rocks just off shore. It made you think of sailors and those little “widow’s watch” balconies where the wives would wait for their man’s return.
I remember one weekend in Santa Cruz when you were coming up from Santa Barbara. I remember that I hurt all the time then, dull and hopeless, and I think I can see now that what I wanted from you was a safety and a confessional, and that only children ask that of each other, before we grow up and learn to be alone.
I don’t quite see what kept you coming when you were always saying that nothing between us could last or be important to you. I suppose you found a reason in your own troubles, but the kind of love that I carried was too self-involved to take much notice of that. And then too it seems to me that you had a way of making all your troubles natural, so that everything that was wrong was wrong with me. But maybe that was not your fault at all.
It seems that I was always reaching for you, that I held your hand too often or leaned in to kiss you too many times.
I was always terrified of being in bed with you. It was so awfully important. I really did believe that something could happen there that would change us, and now I think I understand why that whole pursuit was pointless. I think that you can only feel the way I felt when you haven’t yet started to see everything in terms of its ending.
That weekend you were visiting for the last time. It amazes me that we, people I know, could have been given to that sort of drama, to farewell scenes and all the lingering glances that go with them. I would never now think of sleeping with someone for the last time; I simply wouldn’t call back. I would be happiest, I think, with the same, but it does seem sad to be unable, anymore, to live life as if it were romantic.
I knew that it would be the last time, and I knew that there was no way to change you or me or the way we were together, and I knew that I would try harder than ever to do just that that weekend. I would hold onto your hand more tightly and kiss you more often and bed would be more awfully important than ever.
The week before you were to come, I slept with the girl who lived across the street. I thought that it would make me calm and sure. I knew that you would find out, I would tell you if no one else did, and I thought that maybe, if I seemed to care less, you would begin to care more. But one mistake I hadn’t yet learned not to make was to follow any emotion other than love or lust into bed. By the time you came for the weekend things were worse with me than they’d been.
Just like the seals or the sounds of traffic in the rain, there are smells and tastes and textures that come from very specific places. Your memory for me is your blue flannel nightgown. It was so old that it was no longer even soft. You must have already had it forever when I knew you. You probably still have it. I can remember the first time you came out of the bathroom and into bed. We were still so close to being children, although that was something we couldn’t have known. It was a child’s nightgown. It had hung over your breasts before they’d started to grow. Your other boyfriends had reached under it as I was about to do. It held so much of you then, that blue nightgown. It connected me to parts of you I hadn’t known. There were all the other connections in us, the triangles formed by a TV show we’d both had watched when we were twelve, or by a song we both had dreamed our different dreams to. But the blue flannel nightgown. I had been so close. It was like touching your life.
Right now it’s raining in Paris. There is a sound that the cars make in the streets. If I turn my bead, I hear it so clear and clean and I swear that, no matter where I was and with my eyes closed, if you played me that sound I would recognize Paris in it.
Les Bohem has written a lot of movies and TV shows including the mini-series, Taken which he wrote and executive produced with Steven Spielberg. and for which he won an Emmy award. He’s had songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis, Freddy Fender, Steve Gillette, Johnette Napolitano (of Concrete Blonde), and Alvin (of the Chipmunks). He is currently producing his series, Shut Eye for Hulu.