I just found this journal entry I wrote while I was living as an Au Pair in Arles, France. I still have Michael's book. I wonder where he is now.
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23 January, 2003
Micheal the classical guitar player was touring France with his instrument and long finger nails. While in Arles, he stayed in the only finished room in the attached house next door that would soon become the B & B. When I had had enough of the children and of surrogate parenting, I triumphantly took my wine glass in hand and went to seek him out.
He had not eaten dinner, so he took me to his favorite little Italian bistro where we shared a bottle of red and he lusted after his spaghetti and crème fresh dessert. We were eventually joined by Francois, a photographer who spent half his time in Arles, the other half in New York City, and skipping Paris altogether.
Michael started boasting of Francois’ 20-room mansion in the Roquette, while Francois himself didn’t think twice of hinting at his closeness with certain rich Americans who he photographs. Honestly, a part from his Alexander McQueen watch and his sea blue cashmere sweater, I found Francois to be uninteresting and tacky. He also had a nasty habit of flicking his tongue like a snake whenever he talked, therefore pronouncing the beginning of every word with a lispy "L" sound.
To add to an already awkward situation, Michael, excessively supportive in general, kept smiling at Francois and saying, "She’s so cool" every time I spoke.
I was waiting for a moment to turn the conversation, when Michael told me something that made me freeze:
"Arles is built on top of millions of dead people," he said. "Check out Les Alyschamps on the other side of town when you have a chance. You’ll find some of the old Roman sepulchers there and a lot of history. I have a book about it I can lend you. But you have to give it back."
Holy cow. No wonder everything feels so heavy in this town and people walk around like ghosts. I’d been feeling a strange, metaphysical entrapment since I set foot in this town. What if I never got out of there?
I got home that night and checked my email. My parents had written to me saying that they wanted me to come home early—months early—considering the imminence of war in the Middle East. I found myself shaking. Then I cried. In the dark. With the glare of the computer screen casting a cold blue veil on my face. I cried.
Suddenly, Francois’ lisp seemed not all that bad.