Cliquot! Your name still haunts our conversations, we haven’t forgotten you our friend and constant companion, hunter of the elusive Spanish fox (his tail curls counter clockwise), holy fool, pickpocket, born in the blue shade of a Lebanese cedar, his mother wrapped his moist head in Turkish silks like a whirling dervish and christened him Cliquot, bastard son of Jean Luc, a retired legionnaire with black teeth. Cliquot! I have seen you beat a man in the dark alleys of Pigalle and then come weeping into my room to sink your soft blonde head into the depths of my lap, moaning “I have no home, no country, no mother”, and so I held your bruised fist in my palm and counted every crooked line and wrinkle and told you the story of Napoleon and how he fell to sleep every night by intoning (in his hoarse battle-weary voice) the name of every country he had yet to conquer.
On cold nights Cliquot would wander the Marais in a purple bishop’s robe and mandarin slippers with tiny bells ringing around both ankles. Little Napoleon, in Pere Lachaise, you told me how they once buried men with bells they might ring in case they woke because death is never real it is.
The balloon is ready, I’ve tethered it to the balcony with a knot no sailor could invent. Ignore the gathering crowds below. Plebeians! Maybe if we look closely we will find our mothers waving handkerchiefs, and our fathers scowling. If we see any children we’ll throw them candy but don’t tell them why we are up here, floating above Belleville in a hot air balloon. If they knew, they’d never want to sleep in their own beds ever again.
Remember how we met? Barefoot on the beach (the hem of your dress starched white with salt). I was flying a beautiful kite. Yours was ragged and obviously self made. After a few failed attempts at flight you threw your kite on the sand and stomped on it. I wondered if it was your first kite. Kite making, you assured me, was not your speciality. But we are too old for kites. Let us toast the Flying Club Cup, our health, a quick painless death and helium.
I’m going to sleep so well tonight.
Breathe in, deeply now, okay do you feel it?
Don’t worry, we’re finally here.