I asked her where she wanted to meet and suggested the Eiffel Tower. No, she said, it must be the Arc de’ Triomphe.
Her name was Audrey. We met in a butcher shop. A poster on the wall said “Le Boeuf” and showed the cuts that were available. She was only looking, she said. She didn’t really eat red meat. A man was filling the cavity of a pigeon with sausage and cooked rice.
“The obscenity of the feminine sex,” Sartre has written, “is that of everything which ‘gapes open.’ It is an appeal to being as all holes are.” And: “Beyond any doubt her sex is a mouth and a voracious mouth which devours the penis—a fact which can easily lead to the idea of castration.”
I had only been in the city for a week and didn’t know anybody. My stint in the American graduate school pyramid scheme had come to an abrupt conclusion. France sounded like a good idea—I had read a few pages of Henry Miller and thought I knew what I was doing. I threw three changes of clothes and twenty paperbacks into a suitcase and rented an overpriced room above a seafood restaurant on Le Mouffetard. I fell asleep at night, or didn’t, to the sound of the guitarists pestering table after table for spare change. The butcher shop was around the corner.
The next day, at the appointed time of our first date, I went to the Arc de’Triomphe. Audrey went to the Eiffel Tower.
I waited. She waited.
After an hour, she texted me: La Toilette d’Esther.
That was where I found her. At the Louvre, room 63. I waited for her to stop crying then we went to find Géricault. You be the raft and I’ll be the Medusa, she said.
It should have been the other way around.
We sat on a bench and I recited Baudelaire from memory and terribly:
Jaillir les eaux de la souffrance
Mon désir gonflé d’espérance
Fuck Baudelaire, she said.
If one were Baudelaire one could probably hear it turning to marimba music, I said.
One is not one, she said.
Audrey was from Butte, Montana. She was studying to be an architect. Her work was based on the feminine imaginary and she was designing domestic living arrangements for families without traditional or assigned gender roles.
The amorous act is the castration of the man, I said, but this is above all because sex is a hole.
On our second date we sat on the southern tip of the Ile St.-Louis breaking off hunks of cheese from a block and we drank a bottle of Champagne from plastic cups. Tourists passing on the boats waved and took our pictures. Walking her back to her pension, a bum held out his hat and she said, fromage?
We stood in the street and I couldn’t kiss her. What fault, deficiency, theft, rape, rejection, repression, censorship, of representations of her sexuality bring about such a subjection to man’s desire? she asked.
That was from Irigaray. I was not invited upstairs.
I don’t know what Les quatre cents coups presaged or was meant to presage for our relationship. That was our third date, so swollen with promise, as all third dates are, but the remainder of the day was useless. There can be no recovering from a morning matinee. We drank our awkward coffees, but it could never work. Let’s try it next time without Truffaut, I said.
Next time? she asked.
Front page image by austinevan