by Gregory Wilde  /  fiction  /  8 Sep 2007
The morning came at six a.m. and the sun shone through the wooden blinds. The streets were quiet, a hot Sunday morning in August in Southern France. The students in my building have left. I was once one of them: a man who studied French, while floating with wine that found its way to my bedroom door. Now, times have changed, perceptions are fused, and the ghosts of old love creep through boxes of black closets drunk on fear and depression.
At seven a.m., the cleaning crew was outside my door. I could hear their carts moving across the floorboards in the hallway, edging their way to my room at the end of the hall. When they get to my door, they'll ask me if I'm ready to leave. They'll watch me carry my bag into the hallway, and they'll say their sturdy and blasť goodbye. When the knock sounded at my door, I was ready to walk out of my room with everything I owned on my back. In all sense of the word, I would be homeless: a man on the road without a plan, without the motivation to change my life in the long haul. Like such transformations exist anyhow. The cleaning crew was pleasant. They let me put on my shoes while they started throwing away empty bottles of wine at my desk. I tied both shoestring knots, slow and true.
The sun was on my face now. It's Sunday morning in early August, at seven-thirty a.m., and there isn't a place to go. I have a train pass with a few days left, though. Maybe I can go to Amsterdam to see my friend. Maybe I could run away to Spain and meet my future wife. But I knew Spain was out of the question. It would mean days and days of traveling, only to walk the brilliant summer streets, alone and tired. I want to go to Paris, I thought. That's all I really know. From there, who cares?
I walked across the street and sat down on the browning grass at the lake. There was a time when the lake meant so much more than the past. It was life and love and the virtue of the unknown afternoon, of people to meet, girls to dance with, and caravans of mystery to ride on. Now the lake is a memory of beauty that died in the past, a picture, a feeling, a scent, a touch that inhabits the brain and nowhere else.
I watched the tides move across the wooden piers. A few children appeared from the roadside and walked on the sand. They dipped their toes into the cold lake water and giggled. A football soon appeared from their backpack, and it quickly spread along the grass.
I put my head against a tree in the shade and waited for an idea to bleed. What would I do when I arrived in Paris? The city of light is not kind to homeless writers, the idea-less wanders, the tattered and beaten authors with no words left to give. Why did I do this?, I thought. Why did I leave America to roam silently in the French countryside? Was there a story to be told from all this fruitless passion? Has all the romantic homelessness of Hemingway vanished like a cloud on a summer day? It's not easy to leave everything behind. To pick up from one place to another, only to capture an image that's been seen millions of times before by millions of writers before my eyes. Is there anything left to say without sounding repetitive and clumsy? I really don't know anymore. It was near ten a.m. when I walked to the train station.
The town was still asleep, or hung over, but most likely both. A farmer's market was closed from the previous morning, and there isn't a story left to be told. Everyone here is at home, asleep, and waiting until noon to dive into the lake. Not me. I'm a living mystery, a homeless man ready to catch a train to Paris in search of lost time. I am in exile for a nouveau way of life. On the train, I'll sleep and, when I arrive at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, I'll look for the river. It's Sunday, and it's as good a day as any to change my life. Most likely, the people I'll meet will go their way and I'll go mine. But that's alright. It's okay to be homeless, once in a while. It's a life-affirming decision, because tomorrow never knows. Carry your life on your back and search for the open road. If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
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