Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pitie Salpetriere

Ethan watched Brit with no small amount of amusement and husbandly pride as they meandered down the Boulevard de l’Hospital in Paris. She fingered the necklace of orange blossoms delighting in their citrus-like scent. Upon waking, he had picked the blossoms and boyishly strung them together for her to wear while she nibbled a croissant. Paris at night gave him glimpses and memories of the past. He found himself pleased to share the memories with his mortal wife and wanted her to feel that she had experienced them with him.

The August full moon always held meaning for Ethan. As the nights grew longer, the romance and warmth of the summer night, and the illumination from the bright moon, lured lovers of all ages into the streets. Once they were in full view of the Mazarin, the entrance of the hospital, Ethan pointed out places of interest to Brit. The hospital was once a place where gunpowder was made, Brit. It has also been used as a prison and a place to put people that irritated society.”

Like vampires?” Brit asked.

Ethan grinned as he whispered, “Only if they could be caught.” Pulling her close, he chuckled, “At one time, it was also noted for its very large population of city rats. Over 7000 people were housed within so the rats had an abundance of trash to consume.”

Wrinkling her nose, she peered back to the building. Ethan watched and remembered the small blue box in his pocket: a blue camera he had purchased after being asked to take a picture of a young couple several nights prior. He was mesmerized by the digital screen and seemed childlike with his new toy. Positioning Brit where he could take a picture, he fumbled with the camera to ensure the picture would turn out perfectly. Brit did not hear his mumbles about how much easier this was than securing an artist back in the day.

After snapping a picture of the sidewalk, he got the camera centered on his wife. Brit was looking over her shoulder at the building. By the time Ethan snapped the picture, she had turned to watch something he did not see. Brit walked into the hospital compound, past the admissions and seemed to follow a path that only she knew. Tilting his head, Ethan followed her cautiously. “Baby? Where are we going?” She did not answer and he quickened his pace as she walked past a nurse’s station filled with late-evening nurses who were busy with their work.

Smells of antiseptic and medication assaulted his nostrils. Brit continued on her path. Up a stairwell, she emerged on a floor. There were few rooms. Soft beeping sounds of monitoring machines broke the silence of the area. Nursing staff were shuffling about as they silently worked. Each room was larger than normal hospital rooms. Each room contained one patient. Brit walked into one of the rooms.

Standing at the foot of the bed, Brit blinked slowly as she focused on an elderly woman who looked tiny in the bed. Monitors covered her. Brit looked to him with huge eyes and back to the woman. Seeing into her thoughts, he realized that his wife had linked into the woman’s thoughts. The woman felt pain and sadness. She was bewildered and frightened. The scent of the room told him that she was dying and would not likely last to see sunlight again.

Ethan blinked as he saw Brit enter the woman’s thoughts just as he had done with Brit the evening when he first touched Brit’s lips. She walked along and opened doors of better memories. Sunlight afternoons with her new husband were glimpsed along with the laughter of a small child. “Emilie,” whispered Brit.

“Oui! Emilie.” rasped the strained voice as the woman reached out a hand.

“Emilie,” repeated Brit who took the hand and held it. The woman in the bed smiled as she clasped Brit’s hand. Ethan glanced to the door nervously. Brit covered the woman’s hand with her own warm one. The flesh was papery-thin, and the hand shook from palsy. The woman repeated the name smiling as she closed her eyes gripping Brit’s hand tighter.

Brit simply stood rubbing the woman’s hand. In her mind, the woman could see Brit. Brit walked with her to watch her as she sat playing with Emilie, a baby with cornflower eyes and pouting lips that blew bubbles as she gurgled. A nurse came in looking startled. Ethan turned to her as his eyes flashed briefly. A silent exchange had the nurse leaving the room. If anyone asked, the nurse would have told them that the lady’s niece Emilie had visited.

Ethan struggled to get past the smell of death in the room. He could sense the woman’s bodily systems shutting down. His wife touching the hand that stubbornly housed a thread heartbeat caused him some irritation. Death was not far from her, he rationalized. Ethan went back to watching Brit, baffled that she had entered the woman’s mind. He could see Brit intended to stay with her during the final night, and he shifted uncomfortably at the thought of the night passing. Surely his wife would not stay after dawn. Brit turned to look to him and his eyes widened. Surely he read her wrong in that she had thought that the woman needed them to help her calmly pass to the next life! Shaking his head, he continued to watch Brit and grew to feel that he had misread the thought.

Brit’s visit with the woman lasted through the night. Ethan mused that the woman had held no more than a blink of life compared to him but, within the thoughts shared by Brit with the woman, it was apparent that she had enjoyed much in those years. About an hour before dawn, the woman sat Emilie down and motioned for Brit to follow her along the path. Brit followed as she watched Emilie grow, marry, and have her own child. The path came to a house and the woman turned to Brit. She kissed Brit’s cheek and went inside.

The beeping machine sounded a single monotone sound. Nurses ran to the room and a doctor followed. Brit and Ethan were directed outside. When the nurse came to find Emilie, they could find no sign of the couple to tell them that Emilie’s aunt had passed.

Outside, Ethan held Brit as they returned to their resting place. He expected tears and sadness. He was amazed that Brit could enter the woman’s mind as she had. Brit turned to him before the sun came up and lisped, “Emilie made her happy, Ethan. I wonder why she was not there. No one should perish alone.” Brit snuggled against him and slept feeling melancholy missing her new friend.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Ethan pinched the bridge of his nose. For several summers, he had tried to escape the long days of summertime with less than optimal results. Unwilling to travel to another unknown place, Ethan booked passage to a traditional summer location in a part of the world more known to him. “Santorini,” he murmured to Brit as they were ferried to the island from Athens, “has a history unknown to most people these days.” Brit was watching the skies with huge eyes. The plethora of stars caused her eyes to glitter. The stars could be seen even with the full moon that illuminated the night.

The boat pulled to the dock and deck hands scurried to secure it. As its two passengers disembarked, the crew exchanged glances with the deck hands. The dark Victorian dress of the pretty couple who had spent more than double for private passage to the island would give tavernas gossip for several days. A driver from the Vedema Resort escorted the couple into a waiting car, loaded baggage and whisked them into the night leaving a blinking crew behind. One deck hand crossed his self and later wondered why.

“We need to shop, Brit,” commented Ethan. He smiled at his wife picturing her in a summery white fluttery cover. Tracing her face, he conversed with the driver in a language unknown to Brit. Yawning, Brit rubbed her eyes and leaned against her husband pondering what was being said. It sounded to her that Ethan knew the driver. She watched out of the windows and, with the full moon, she could see as easily as she would see during the day. White-washed houses gleamed in the moonlight. Noticing her attention to the details of the island, Ethan smiled. He felt sure that she would find it beautiful.

Arriving to the resort, Brit and Ethan were escorted to the Presidential Villa. The rooms were decorated in turquoise and white colors. Rich elegance throughout the villa combined with views of the sea and vineyards. One of the three bedrooms had its windows covered to prevent even a hint of sunshine into the room. As Brit wandered through, she smiled to him and whispered, “I know which one will be our resting place.” Ethan smiled giving her hair a tug as their bags arrived and household assistants unpacked their belongings.

Pulling her to the verandah which overlooked the cliffs and the sea, Ethan pulled Brit to him. She lisped, “You take me to such magical places.” Smiling, he pulled her hand to his lip to kiss before holding it to wrap her closer to him. Both enjoyed the tranquil beauty of the villa by the sea. A clinking of glass caught both of their attention to the fruit and cheese plate that had been delivered. Settling on the lounge chair, Ethan pulled Brit to him and fed her pieces from the platter.

Brit drifted off after enjoying the fruit and cheese, but Ethan remained awake. Stroking her hair, he closed his eyes inhaling deeply. There was something in the air that reminded him of other visits. Sea air mingling with the scents of the city yielded a distinctive scent that Ethan would recognize anywhere. Feeling Brit fall into a deeper sleep, he mused how it would be to be mortal and wake to the sunrise. As light started to streak across the sky, Ethan picked up Brit to take to the room where they would rest. He undressed her grinning at her sleepy protests and tucked her close to him after undressing for rest.

At sunset, Brit turned to see Ethan standing at the door. She had woken much before he did and was greeted by the concierge who had arranged for a shopping trip to obtain better island attire. Brit wore a thin green caftan-styled dress. It draped over her prettily and showed a bit more leg than he was accustomed to seeing. Ethan raised an eyebrow, but dismissed his objections. It was, after all, an island and he wanted to encourage Brit to make choices. Besides, the dark trousers, white linen shirt and dark jacket she had selected for him was most pleasing.

At the restaurant in the resort, Ethan perused the list of popular night spots. He wanted to take Brit somewhere modern and popular. Reading them to her, she selected the one that was on a beach. “Dancing by the sea,” lisped Brit. Ethan had to admit that the image was perfect. Soon, they were on their way to the popular place. Brit’s bouncing caused Ethan to tell the driver that they would walk the rest of the way when the road became impassible with traffic.

As they walked, Ethan tensed with the thickening of the crowd. Many wore little more than bathing suits. The music thumped from the club. Scents of smoke, alcohol, and sunscreen mingled with sweat permeated the air. Brit looked up to him as he hesitated. As they walked to the door, a drunk barreled from the club and vomited. Turning to Ethan, Brit lisped, “Let’s go somewhere else, Ethan.” He gave her a questioning look as another person passed making a remark in a language Brit did not know. As Ethan glowered at the man, Brit lisped, “I want to go somewhere you will like better.” Ethan raised an eyebrow to her statement. Brit puffed her cheeks remembering the club in France. “If we stay here,” she continued, “someone will lose an arm…or…something.”

Ethan blinked a few times and chuckled. “Indeed, baby.” Another drunk bumped him and he nodded. “Very likely.” Turning, they caught their driver still languishing in traffic. Sliding into the car, Ethan said, “Take us to Thera…Ancient Thera.” Brit looked to him quizzically. Ethan tapped her nose, “It is ancient even to me, Brit.”

Getting them as close as he could, the driver indicated where he would wait for them to walk the ancient city. No one was about and Ethan quickly carried Brit the distance. Again, the nearly full moon illuminated the night. He took Brit to one of the three sides where the cliff dropped abruptly to the sea. As they walked, Ethan painted enthusiastic images of the city as it was nearing the end of its reign. Brit listened as he described the theatre and the festival grounds. His disdain for pagan rituals and practices was evident in his descriptions.

Playfully, he spun her around on the festival grounds where men would dance naked centuries before. “Why did women not dance?” Brit asked.

“Back in those days, baby, they were too busy being women,” Ethan replied. Brit looked to him in confusion. Seeing that many questions were coming, Ethan swung her around again faster than before. She giggled and so he swung her about a third time. “What I mean, Brit, is that they were so busy with their homes and children…” His words trailed off as she nodded. Ethan swung her again to ensure that conversation trail was closed. Kissing her, they continued to explore the city.

Brit found the Temple of Pythian Apollo fascinating. She asked many questions about it and its practices. Ethan flatly discussed the pagans who believed in the false god. As she walked about gazing at the temple and touching the stones that remain, Ethan watched. Her dress fluttered and her hair wisped in the sea breezes. The sounds of the sea were loud beneath them. Ethan vaguely recalled a priestess in fluttering robes and long hair.

Brit walked to him and slid her arms around his neck pulling him down to kiss him softly. As she kissed him lingeringly, Ethan frowned slightly at the image of the priestess sliding her hands up his chest. Ethan broke from Brit’s kiss to walk to the edge of the cliff where he gazed down. This time, his wife’s hand was in his rather than a sword. Over the edge, he saw white seafoam surrounding rocks rather than red seafoam surrounding the broken body of a pagan priestess who dared to charm her way from her fate.

“This is a magical place, Ethan,” whispered Brit. Ethan turned to her. His eyes dark and tinged with red.

“It is indeed, baby.” His fingers trailed to the cross around her neck. Smiling at him, she tilted her head at the red in his eyes. Touching his hair, she gave him a questioning look. He kissed her hand again and whispered, “Let’s explore more than a temple for a false god.” Later, back at the resort, Ethan continued to try to shake the image of the fluttering of Brit’s dress that resembled the robes of the priestess so long ago.