Issue 70, Summer 1977
He said goodbye for the last time in a cafe in
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, over a glass of Chablis.
She lingered over cheese and fruit before requesting
the check. “Is there anything I can do?” the waiter
asked. “Yes,” she replied. “Meet me at eight
in the lobby of my hotel.’’
“Come to the Yukon,” he said. “We’ll travel by dogsled.
Wrapped in furs, we’ll sleep by a cedar fire.’’ “Better yet,”
she said, “we’ll get married; then we’ll sleep by a cedar fire.”
“O. K.,” he said, “but I must be honest. There were one-hundred
eighty-one marriages in the Yukon last year, and forty-seven ended in
divorce. We’ll be taking a chance.” “Yes,” she agreed,
“but your wife—what about her?” “Won’t know till the thaw,”
he replied. “If they don’t find her then, they won’t ever.”
She noticed him in the crowd, in the vertigo of plumed
heads, oiled and undulating arms. His eyes danced
with a sparkler’s light. “O Rio night,” he wrote.
“You are my golden light, my wildly painted dream
of jungle bright, my river deep and green.” The next
day he received a note. “My love,” she had written, “I
will always remember the carnival, the night we spent
together, and you really are a poet, but I can’t see you
again on my honeymoon.”
She had first seen him at the Palace of Congresses.
The opera was long. Her attention slipped to his gloved hands.
At entre-acte they had shared caviar and champagne. She
waited now for him in the drawing room of his apartment.
From the window there was a view of Saint Basil’s. “I
am quite wealthy.’’ His voice sounded from the recesses of
the far bedroom. “I would imagine so,” she replied. “Yes,
fortunately I am,” he continued. “What about your Marxist ideals?”
she asked. “Not at all incongruous, my dear,’’ he replied. “My
father was wealthy. It’s simple heredity. I have whatever
I really want.’’ “And I am something you want?’’ He emerged
from the bedroom, slipping into his jacket. “Not at all that,”
he said, smiling. “You are quite unique. You are, I admit,
not the Great Catherine, Tolstoy’s Natasha, a Romanoff princess,
or even the Volga by starlight. But in a city where so little
comes at so dear a price, you will certainly do.”
“Look out the window,” he said. “This is Marrakech. Souks,
djellabas, snake charmers, holy men, street hawkers, Berber
bangles, Couscous, caravans, and caftans. The soothsayer at
Jemaa el Fna said I would meet a tall olive-skinned woman
with the reflection of gold in her eyes. She is there
somewhere. I can feel it. Among all those people, veiled,
robed, turbaned. Near a minaret, a mosque, in the medina,
she is there. I have only to search to find her. You must help
me. You are my nurse, companion, guide. I’ll not be well until
I find her. You know that.” “Look at me,” she said. “Do I not
have skin like sands struck by noonday sun, eyes like a dove’s.
Are not my robes perfumed for pleasure.’’ “Yes, yes,” he said.
“But I don’t want to see you just yet. Later, by moonlight—say
eleven o’clock by that wall, under the flowering tree. Wear a veil,
and for god’s sake, take off those white shoes.”
She gave him a note in the courtyard of the palace
of Holyroodhouse. The note read: “I’ll not be continuing
this trip in your company. Keep the room overlooking the Firth
and don’t forget your cheques are under the dresserscarf.’’
When he looked up, she was walking through the iron gate
toward the crags. “But hold up, ” he shouted. “I don’t know
your name.” “Mary, Queen of Scots,” she replied, through cupped
hands, “and I’m on my way home.”