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, 6 After that, I took the train as I’d meant to, though I could feel a bruise rising between my eyes. I changed from the RER to the Metro, headed safely and sanely in the right direction. But when it was time to change lines at the Gare St-Lazare, I made another mistake and got on the wrong one. As soon as the doors hissed closed, I realized what I’d done. “Screw this,” I said, loud enough to turn the heads of the two teenage girls sitting in the jump seats just inside the car, and I got off at Pigalle, meaning to cut over to Montmartre and come, that way, down into the flat lands of Batignolles. I walked up Pigalle, past the strip clubs, sex clubs, and adult bookstores interspersed with the odd, brightly lit gyro stands. Women and men in singles and pairs passed me, some offering me things no French class covered. I kept walking . “Nice boots,” a tall transsexual in front of one of the clubs called out to me. “Thanks,” I said. He was wearing black lace-ups with wicked heels and tight red fishnet stockings that followed his legs up into a scant circle of skirt. “But, my dear,” he stepped back to consider my complete outfit, “you really should show more skin.” Skin, I thought, moving on by. I felt my skin hanging on my body like a coat of chain mail, that heavy, that alien and unfeeling. What difference did it make if I showed my body? Maybe my next step would be a leather miniskirt. What would be wrong with that? Or taking off my stolen clothes for the short businessmanwhocameupbehindmeonthecrowdedsidewalkandslippedhishand over the tired muscles between my legs as he passed. Then, in the rush, he was gone. I should have been afraid. I should have at least held my purse under one 57 arm, as Apolline had taught me to do. But I didn’t give a damn. They could have my money. They could have my credit cards, empty promises of something for nothing. They could have any part of me that would do someone the least bit of good. My head hurt like hell. I wished it hurt more. I turned off Pigalle and began the steep climb up the Rue Lepic. I knew this neighborhood because, when I was a student, I’d stayed at a hotel here, one labeled by the government as not only having no stars but as one “incompatible withtourism.”Mostofthetenantsworkedintheclubsoff Pigalleandpaidtheir rent in cash every Monday. One of them had showed me how to get more of my clothes into the tiny washer at the laundromat near the hotel by packing my jeansdownwithabroomhandleshekeptforthepurpose.Duringtheday,Lepic had been a cascade of food shops, skinned lambs hanging in the shop windows, tables with rows of perfectly aligned endive, each in its own little paper sleeve. Now, at night, it was damp and silent. The pavement was still wet from either the earlier rain or the shopkeepers’ last cleaning. I could smell cheese through the glass window of the closed shop on my right. I could smell the blood and hair of the horse butcher’s. I turned west off Lepic, and then I knew where I had been headed all along: the bridge over the Cemetière de Montmartre. The longest I had ever spent in Paris, the one time I’d considered it conceivable, maybe even possible, that I might stay there was when I’d been researching my novel. This was before I met my husband, right before I got my job teaching. I’d walked the streets of Paris and thought about nothing but my characters, two lovers, in Paris in 1929. I’d set part of the novel in the cemetery, which I found romantic. I was so stupid and young, I think I’d even found the idea of death romantic. Now I stood on the bridge, looking down at the white roofs of the tombs of that miniature city of the dead, and it seemed no time had passed. I could hear the cats below, the dozens who lived in the cemetery. They lived in rag nests their admirers built for them in the houses of the dead. The same people came to feed them every day. The toms howled, the females in heat answered. I heard the soft mews of the spring’s early kittens. I had written the novel, published it, and...


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