Clemence Smiled.

The dramatics of final farewells no longer hold uncertainty.  What should not be said is left unsaid, what needs to be done is done, actions linger more than words and awkwardness is avoided.  The feeling is not pleasant but there is a sense of liberation as well as comfort when I get back from the airport, turn the key,  go in, put some music on, and sit on the sofa; satisfied  that my apartment is once again my own.

This time there was something different, and it had to do with conversations I had with Clemence.  In a sense, they were not conversations; it was one long conversation with different chapters and acts interrupted by walks, eating, sleeping, sex, motorcycle rides and movie watching but always returning to itself and continuing. Sometimes with better insight, sometimes with  exasperation.

Her words have stayed. I found them when I came back and felt the weight of unanswered questions.   We knew we would not have much time together.  We knew we had to drive everything hard into the ground and burn it all up. Crash it. Break it.  So that is what we did.

Clemence was different. I am still in touch with Barbora, as well as with Ilse, even if it is  in an odd “so, are you still alive?” sort of way, and of course with Helena we have a promise that will be kept.  With Clemence no postcards will be sent, no Facebook searches or invites to be carried out, no polite happy birthdays needed or expected. She is gone.

She was not fast, nor slow; her mind moved like that of older women I’ve known, with the unavoidable weight of unadorned certainty.  When she made a comment she did not expect approval or dissent, she expected an answer on which to build and move forward.   Sometimes it got too intense, so we would have sex to shut each other up and stop having to think. it was good sex.

She smoked.  She did so calmly or nervously, depending on her mood, always apologetically like most young smokers do now; not having known a time when smoking was not frowned upon.   Clemence, smoking in bed, said to me, “you have sex to avoid forming an emotional bond with women, you treat your body and ours as objects”.

I let her smoke in bed because I can remember how good it felt, and because it was like if we were a couple in an old movie.  I let her inhale and then said, “yes, I treat bodies as objects, however precious, that’s what they are, but apart from being afraid of emotional bonding I like sex because it feels good”.   “You’re a sex addict”. “Do you think so?”. “I am sure”.

The words linger and the question of the part sex plays in my life remains.  I do not agree with Clemence.  I do not use sex to avoid emotional bonds with women, if I did that, I wouldn’t write or think about them. I like women. I enjoy being with them and getting to know them, and after having sex I discover great things.  I learn about their lives and past, their families and past loves, their heartbreaks and of their courage and victories.   I admire women.  Having sex with them is the one true way I have found to express this to them.

Have I lied, cajoled, tricked and gone out of my way to get a woman into bed? Yes, or course. Unless one is in love, and unless that love is reciprocated, I know of no other way to go do it.   Do I regret this? No.  Has it been consensual? Yes. Has it been the result of responsible and informed mutual consent with prior agreement of stipulated limitations and expectations in a rational adult way? No.   Am I an emotionally immature selfish asshole unwilling to compromise beyond my limited capacity for empathy and sharing? Probably, but I try to be self conscious of this and not let it get out of hand.

I told Clemence that I had a blog.  This blog. The Aradic Sismic.  That the header had a painting of a woman that was smoking.  “Ah. It is destiny maybe then? Destiny knew we would meet. That is nice. What do you write about on this blog?”   “Thoughts and pieces of my life I don’t want to forget”.

I told her that it had surprised me to find the amount of bloggers who were writers in different stages of development, all learning and writing, developing what they call “their craft”.   I told her of a blogger called Matt Williams who wrote interesting stuff and had commented once that I could write about the things that have happened in my life, and how, some days ago I commented on a post of his declaring that since I was not a writer myself my opinion should be taken as that of a layman, but that from that day on the idea of learning to write in a more methodical manner had began to grow in me.

“So you want to become a writer?”

“Yes.”

“It’s very hard to be a good one.”

“I don’t think I really want to be a good one, I suspect that takes talent I don’t have, I just want to be a real one, whatever that means”.

“Then you will need to make sacrifices and commitments, yes?”

“Yes.”

“And you may need a strong woman too.”

“I like strong women.”

“In English?”

“Probably in Spanish, I don’t trust my English to do what I want.”

“I wish you luck. If I ever see a book with your name as author, I will buy it, I promise”.

“Ok.”, I smiled.  Clemence can barely speak Spanish.

“Let’s watch a movie”.

“Which one?”

“Hanna. I like her. She’s brave.”

“I like you. You’re brave.”

She smiled.

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Clemence. Belmondo. Bronson.

Clemence is French. When saying her name, the second “e” is meant to sound like an “a”.  I enjoy spending time with her.  During the weekend we watched an old Jean Paul Belmondo movie.   Belmondo is a tough guy, but also a funny one, running around Paris karate-chopping, punching and kicking  at long haired seventies villains; cracking witticisms all along while he does it. Clemence feels a little embarrassed by Mr. Belmondo and explains to me that he is not to be taken as a parameter of what French cinema has to offer.  I smile and ask her who she thinks would win a fight between Belmondo and Bronson.  She looks up, thinks and then says, “That is not possible, Belmondo and Bronson would never fight each other, they are both good guys, yes?”, and looks at me as if she’d just had to explain something to a not very bright child.   She knows her Seventies tough guys:  Bronson, Belmondo, McQueen, Eastwood, Marvin, Coburn and even a few I can’t place.  Her father would watch these movies every other weekend with Clemence and her sisters when he was still studying and her mother had a weekend shift. Her father is 55, fifteen years older than I am.   We both have the same profession although not the same area of specialty. She tells me it is strange to find similar attitudes, opinions and verbal mannerisms in two persons who are so different, so she asks to know my opinion on it.  I tell her the psychoanalytical implications of this are better left unexamined for our own sake.  She opens her eyes wide in mock shock and then smiles.

Clemence has seen many things, good and bad, has lived in Nepal and India, traveled through Africa and laughs with innocence.  She does not believe in religion.   She asks personal questions with a very serious expression on her eyes; listening then, no matter how long the answer is, with intent attention.   When I asked, she told me the story of her tattoos, two small ones on her wrists.  I listened without interrupting.   When she was done, I nodded, we both fell silent for a while and then I asked her if she wanted more tea. She drinks tea. Darjeeling.     I drink expresso, black and with no sugar or cream, just like her father.  She is falling in love with me and I with her, we know it, but we’re also both cowards when it comes to love; she will run out and I won’t go after her, we’ll both then tell our respective friends that it just wasn’t meant to be.  And now that I think about it, this post is the beginning of our goodbye.

Pale lager, pulled pork,a family lunch, thoughts on Barbora and Clemence

It’s Sunday and we had pulled pork and coleslaw with the family.   It had been a long time since I’d had beer with lunch, having opted most of the time for wine.   Sun all around.   It was good and we felt it that way.  Clemence has left and Barbora won’t come back.  I’ve been thinking about her lately, her smooth strong temper, the expression in her eyes when she wanted us to make love, the terrible blondness of her yellow hair entwined through my fingers.   The first times, in the amber light of my bedroom, I got flashbacks of Ilse and had to avoid saying her name.   Any way, Clemence will be back in a week or ten days, I am intrigued by that flash of madness that crosses her green eyes for a second or two when we speak. I can almost guess how she’ll be, her moves, her hair, her parting lips… but I can never be sure.   I will have to wait and see.