The French man sits in his second story apartment. Stray cats yowl in the alley. He used to feed them. He’d throw them scraps of cheese. But then they started following him around and he just didn’t need anyone else demanding things of him. He has broken a fair number of hearts for this very reason. He seduces women without speaking and never calls them for he refuses to get a telephone.
The French man writes his sickly mother a letter a week and takes the train to visit her every third Sunday of the month. The rest of his time is mostly spent alone. He likes to stare at the wall as he strives for epiphanies to clamor out on his typewriter. He feels he is a tortured soul and therefore he must write. But all he has come up with in the three months he’s been living in the apartment are ramblings about the city lights, the rain, and the prostitute on the corner. He can see her now, if he turns his neck a bit. He has never brought her home, never even spoken to her, but he thinks about her often. He wonders about her life and upbringing. What led to her to such a life? What led her to this very street? He’s never even gotten a good look at her face.
And so, the French man sits as he has so many nights before, a bottle of red wine open and his typewriter mocking him. His apartment is mostly bare. He has few belongings. There is a painting above his bed that was there when he rented the room. It’s an odd portrait of some king with haunting eyes from the monarch days. He wrote a short story about this old man above his bed but the story was vague and contrived. He had ended up tearing the pages and throwing them out the window in frustration. The cats had looked up at him with hunger in their eyes and meowed in confusion.
The apartment has a sitting room where he entertains ladies on a burgundy velvet couch. He keeps a stack of the best literature of France in the corner, only the classics. A worn royal blue Persian carpet adorns the floor. It had been on sale at a market and he’d purchased it on a whim. It was one of the few attempts he’d made to make the apartment more welcoming. The kitchen and restroom he’d left as the day he moved in. They are small anyway, like on a ship, and he spends little time in them. Except for his baths. He likes to read for an hour or two as the water turns from hot to lukewarm to cold.
That particular night he’d had ham and cheese on a loaf of bread for dinner. He’d eaten alone as he almost always did. With the radio on soft and a candle lit. These are also his preferred conditions when he has a woman over. Women often describe him as romantic. It is not until later that they realize he cares nothing for them but merely for himself and what they can do for him. He is a man who seems to be waiting. Waiting for his muse to inspire his yet to be written novel. Waiting for the perfect woman. Waiting for his life to happen.
It can’t be determined what changes him on this starry night. Ordinarily he would have kept drinking and perhaps written a paragraph or two about shadows and human desperation before falling asleep as dawn approached. But perhaps he has grown tired of being alone or maybe it was that nostalgic love song that came on the radio, but he suddenly feels the need to get out. It’s a hot and humid night and he wears a thin cotton shirt. He leaves the candle burning.
Walking down the steps he is unsure of his destination. Maybe he’ll just take a walk, get some air in his lungs. He just needs to be somewhere else besides his apartment. He knows he spends too much time alone, that it can’t be healthy. But every time he tries to go out and socialize it always ends up the same. He ends up with some voluptuous woman coming back home with him. It’s the same old story, just with different women, and he is tired of it.
He walks along the cobblestone street in the direction of the prostitute. There is a streetlight making everything glow yellow and the moon is full and bright tonight so he can see very clearly. It is maybe two in the morning and there is no one else around. Almost all have gone to sleep and windows are dark. As he approaches the prostitute hears his footsteps and turns. She is wearing a short pink dress, clearly cheap and flimsy. Her high heels are pink as well. Her hair is blonde and long. He can tell she’s about his age, not too young and not too old. If she had a different type of life she’d have just graduated from a university. Her face is made up heavily with makeup. But despite it she is still very beautiful. He is caught off guard by her eyes. They were wide and vulnerable. When he looks into them for that moment he feels as though he shouldn’t be. As if he is looking at something personal.
“Hello sir. Would you like some company tonight?” Her voice is soft and extremely feminine.
He is unsure of what to do. He stands a few feet from her. He has never been with a lady of the night before and has never considered the idea. He is a good-looking man himself and has no trouble with women. In fact, they often pursue him.
She looks at him with those eyes and he feels himself melt a little.
“You are very beautiful you know.” He says this in a burst, thinking the words and immediately letting them escape from his mouth. She giggles. She takes his hand.
“Come on sir. You want to, I can tell.”
“I-I-I live there.” He stammers with nervousness, pointing to his apartment. She smiles coyly. He is completely captivated by her. She is still holding his hand and leads him to his doorway. As they walk up the stairs he cannot quite believe what is happening. He even drops his keys trying to open the door he is so anxious. She giggles again, a sound so youthful he is reminded of the girls of his childhood.
When they enter the apartment she immediately kicks off her shoes before going and laying herself out on the burgundy velvet couch. Then she begins to undress. Slowly unzipping her dress while looking him straight in the eye. It is almost too much for him. His palms are sweaty. His heart is racing. He walks into the other room and grabs his bottle of wine taking a swig off it to calm himself down. When he returns she is completely naked. He is surprised and stares. He can’t help himself. His eyes drink in every curve and every detail of her beautiful flesh. When his eyes rest upon hers he realizes she has been staring at him for the past few moments. He becomes flustered, looking away. She rises from the couch, looking him in the eyes the entire time, and unzips his pants.
Afterward he is embarrassed. He can’t believe he just had sex with a prostitute. He always thought that was for desperate men, ugly men. He lies on the couch as she puts her dress back on.
“Hey, do you have a family?” He asks quietly. It is a question he had been pondering as he looked at her from afar.
“No, both my parents are dead. I have always been an orphan.”
For a moment he wants to save her from it all, from her life of depravity. He can imagine marrying her and moving to a house in the country. Perhaps he could write better out there. She’d cook all the time. It would be a good and simple life. But the moment passes and he is reminded she is a whore as she puts her pink high heels back on. He gets his wallet and holds out some money, he isn’t sure of how much she’ll want. She doesn’t grab much. Less than he is holding and less than he would have guessed. He feels his heart sink for her.