Sunday, October 28, 2012

willow manor ball

Her name is Léa Seydoux.
Perhaps the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.
She was ready to go in four minutes. She let me watch from the edge of the bed as she combed her luscious hair with fluid arms, those small hands swimming brushes. She was most likely ready much earlier, but I do not speak French, and she had to draw me a picture - a lipstick clock drawn furiously on her hand-held mirror. I got her point. She seemed upset, but took charge, and smiling, straightened the white tie of my old Barrymore Tux with two hands. Stepping back, then towards me, she brushed my dusty shoulders, as though I just survived a deadly duel with a low flying crop-dusting plane. Off! to the Willow Manor Ball.


We were lost, seemingly speeding in reverse in my MG Midget. A huge man at a solitary rusty pump gas station on Route 33, marbles stuffed in his mouth, gave us directions to the Manor. The roller coaster road fell off into a white mist, visibility poor, and then into a clearing where the girl touched my arm and pointed back over my left shoulder, to what appeared to be an old crimson bricked church on a large lot, cars parked at an angle, and slow deliberate folks entering two white peeling doors. We went in, finding very quickly it wasn't no ball. I heard her sharp intake of breath. Once inside, we seemed at the point of no return. Sizing up the dilemma, I felt the best thing to do was a quick view.
'He looks good', I said loudly at the closed casket, the dim lit room tilting with purple velvet chairs. She gripped my arm tight, trembling. We turned and headed straight for the door, leaving a dish of hard blue candy in twisted cellophane on a small table for the dead. An old man with milky pale blue eyes stopped us with palm extended, asking if we'd sign the book. I made it Mr Henry Nessleroad And Wife, a distant laugh echoing behind us up a staircase. We ran to the car. I wanted to kill Mr. Marble Mouth. I dared not mention the ghost of Willow Manor to come, promising the girl there'd be plenty of champagne to make her forget old milky eyes. She nodded but did not understand, burying her face against my right cheek and shoulder.
'Je t'aime', she whispered, her chest heaving oh so slightly.


Turns out marble mouth was right. I'd made a left where I should've made a right, after a second left pass two rights. Two hours later we saw the orange glowing lights of the Manor shining beyond a row of shedding autumn blaze maples. I stopped briefly by her soft hand upon my chest as we crossed a wood-plank bridge over a narrow clear creek pillared with a willow tree. She got out and went to look over the side, her hands clasped in front, head tilted, mouthing something, soft poem-like as though she stood alone deep in a dark forest, her white blouse eerie against the dusk. 'Je t'aime', she said again, smiling. I really need to find out what that means.

No mask could hide the beloved hostess as she greeted us at the front door. I knew the voice - semi-husky, soft, flat, poetic - Midwestern twang, rising and falling.
'Ghost?' my date asked me.
'Not yet', I laughed.
Dinner at eight was an adventure. A nine course meal of the most delicious gourmet hamburgers nine different ways you could imagine, the girl elbowing me like a schoolmarm frequently whenever I used the wrong utensil or when my elbow came to a resting position. All I could do was wink at any witnesses that observed my clueless social graces. When two women shanghaied Léa away for a bit, I spent a wonderful half-hour in the quiet of the Manor library, buried in a deep chair, exchanging small meaningless talk with a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Cary Grant. He offered an excellent Cohiba Esplendido cigar, a luxurious blended joy, and the books became lost in the mist. We talked as sweet, moody, Chet Baker sounds washed in from another room. It's as though all unrelated experiences in our lives were suppose to culminate in our meeting for the very first time here at the Manor. Meaningless drivel. But the last thing he said as I rose to go was singular and pithy -
'Don't lose that remarkable girl'.

I felt a confusing chill as my neck and ears burned when I viewed my date dancing with another man. I could overhear a little - he spoke the same as her, only deeper, a voluptuous, romantic, staccato, seductive tone. The champagne glass in my left hand began to splinter. And my hand was pricked and bleeding. I excused myself next to a woman behind a Lone Ranger mask that you could find three-for-a-dollar from a traveling carnival, wanting to punch her as she cornered me and went on and on about the good old days. In the light above the kitchen sink I could see the cut in my first finger, and I ran the faucet at full force. Appearing out of nowhere the hostess stood one step behind.
'You are hurt'.
'It looks bad'.
'The drawer. Here. A band-aid', she encanted like Tonto, reaching around me.
'I've had a full life', I said as she peeled a band-aid.
'You're not dying yet'.
'Perhaps I should put my feet up'.
I looked at her. 'Yes, I've had full life', I repeated hoarsely. She was smiling now. And then we were laughing. 'Go to Léa now', she insisted, firmly and lovingly. She just seemed to know the right thing about everything this night.

I danced the rest of the evening with Léa. She saw me searching for you-know-who once or twice, me spotting him in a chair asleep with a giant bottle of champagne on his lap, white droll trickling from one corner of his open mouth, and at once she pulled my lips down to hers to put an end to any doubt, then burying her face once more against my right shoulder, speaking concisely:

'je me souviendrais de cette nuit aussi longtemps que je vivrais'.

It sounded good, and made me happy nevertheless, whatever it meant. Late at night, the Hostess wished us a "full life for evermore" at the front door, her dark magpie eyes sparkling, emptying a glass of brandy cheerfully out of a shot glass, smashing it against the brick walk way. At three A.M., just as the Morning Star rose above the tree line, we revisited Léa's favorite bridge, fading music still reaching out to us in sonata fragments from the distant Manor gala, and she held me tight against her as we rocked slowly in the light of the rough-idling MG's loving headlights, almost stalling, but revved to life by some ghost at the throttle. And she did not let go until it was time to depart for Paris, releasing me with tears in her eyes, her voice breaking, 'je dois partir maintenant', resigned, and never looking back. I ran after her, caught up those small delicate hands in mine, never to let go.

11 Comments:

Blogger ReBelle said...

There is always mystery and intrigue when in an MG!

10/28/2012 12:59 AM  
Blogger Tess Kincaid said...

Old marble mouth! I know him well! Sorry about the corpse and all, but so happy the two of you finally found us. Cary and I wear the same cologne...can you tell? Acqua di Parma Colonia. It smells nicer on me...

10/28/2012 1:07 AM  
Blogger Sandra Leigh said...

That other man -- the one with the deep voice -- was probably Leonard. He did find Léa fascinating, and while I was dancing with John Barrymore, I saw Leonard and Léa making their way onto the dance floor. Leonard is a charming and attentive escort, but he does have an eye for the ladies.

10/28/2012 2:15 AM  
Blogger Kit said...

It's great that you made it in the end, though getting lost en-route can always be an adventure!

10/28/2012 8:47 AM  
Blogger Mimi Foxmorton said...

Simple and elegant lines.....always the most beautiful........

10/28/2012 8:50 AM  
Blogger Catfish Tales said...

I agree!

10/28/2012 11:04 AM  
Blogger Bee's Blog said...

A tale well told. We all wish you and your love well

10/28/2012 4:15 PM  
Blogger FireLight said...

Getting lost in an MG Midget on the dark and winding roads to Willow Manor?? For your adversity and survival of a Lucas Electric sytem....I dub thee SIR Vagabond - Prince of Darkness!! Glad you made it!

10/28/2012 5:21 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Just Beautiful!!! I saw you two dancing and new the night would end wonderfully.

10/28/2012 8:09 PM  
Blogger Karen S. said...

Do we ever really need to understand the words, when we're in love? Although, French is easy to pick-up, the language of course! I have to wonder though, is it her long blonde hair and the bright red ruby lips? Just asking?!

10/28/2012 9:25 PM  
Blogger Yoli said...

I am glad I was not the only one late to the ball! Lovely date and sweet ride.

10/28/2012 11:53 PM  

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