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Moss France, May 1993 Europe sacked! That’s what Dennis thought when he looked out onto the platform and saw another American with two bags loaded down with ceramics, cheeses, bolts of fabric , religious figurines. Dennis, on the other hand, felt himself paring down: his body, physically, and his possessions, specifically . It felt great. He saw himself as a sleek weasel, or one of those animals that lay in brush on a riverside and, at the least hint of trouble, could slip into the water like another kind of liquid. However, this train trundled—first through Spain, then French countryside—like an overdressed matron with too many suitcases. He’d been on a bicycle for over a month, beginning in mid-France, crossed a pass in the Pyrenees, and peddled through Spain to the pilgrim cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Now, even the bicycle was gone, sold to a vagabond German boy for a song. Disabused of it, all that was left for Dennis 38 39 to do was carry his single pannier to Paris for a flight back to the States. Sitting in the compartment of six seats, shared only with a taciturn yet smiling Dutch couple, he was watching the Basque-French countryside roll by. The train stopped again—could it have been only twenty or so meters from the last village? More obscure places that existed only because of the train tracks. Dennis reminded himself to like these open expanses. Out on the platform, he saw a girl get on, maybe twenty years old at most, in a short skirt that was pink with white polka dots. She had no hat, but she should have had one, to match her little brown suitcase. She was not sacking Europe. Just as the train chuffed twice, four lanky soldier boys, all with big flattened French noses that their faces might grow into the way dogs did their paws, raced to the doors—wait! Wait! They piled in. Dennis could just take in the action from his window. If he craned his neck too much, it might look like desire to the Dutch couple. Longing, Dennis maintained, has a uniform look that transcends cultures, as did any uncontrollable urge of the senses: pleasure, frustration, fear. Down the narrow passage, examining compartment after compartment, the girl with the small suitcase came. She looked in on Dennis and the Dutch, smiled, and entered. Why? Couldn’t she find another seat? Dennis wondered . The train was nearly empty. Perhaps she could smell the clean air in here, and surmised that the three of them didn’t smoke, or would mostly be quiet. She pushed her luggage in the rack up next to Dennis’s lone pannier and said, in French, “But you have been to see Saint Jacques?!” She’d figured this from a patch he’d sewn on the small pack, one of a gold scallop shell on a red field, the emblem of the pilgrim, and an easy way to get cheap accommodations in gîtes and refugios. “Yes,” he said, in English. Not oui. If he made it clear he couldn’t (well, wouldn’t) speak French, maybe she’d leave him alone. “And you are English?!” she said in English. “American,” he said, which made the Dutch couple frown; evidently this was bad news to them. She plopped down in the seat beside him, and Dennis thought momentarily of a black-and-white era child star, the way her dress spread and settled like a dropped handkerchief. She could have chosen the seat by the door. That’s okay, he assured himself, personal space is an unnecessary possession too, one eschewed by right-thinking Europeans. One army boy pushed a second down the aisle. They were surpassingly handsome, in a skinny way. Everything they needed was in one big duffel bag. He had that in common with them. But Dennis was thirty-five. He consoled himself thinking they were probably terrible in the sack. Not that he was interested in that, either. A forty-day pilgrimage on bicycle had been mostly one of moving and sleeping. No privacy, no chance for nooky, although he’d bought a porno 40 41 magazine at the Gare du Nord with cheesy photos of too-skinny underaged French boys, eyes straight ahead, the look of those who can recognize destiny, or a trick. He’d picked it up all those weeks ago and pawed it so many times in various bathrooms throughout...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299189037
Related ISBN
9780299189006
MARC Record
OCLC
179558278
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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