{Click here for PDF version}

The friend I was traveling with fell in love with a woman named P before we set off to Europe, and all the time we were away my friend worried P would not return her love. She wasn’t sure P was a lesbian. She wasn’t sure the way we are not sure when we like the elevator feeling of rising and falling. My friend knew people who took us in. In Paris we stayed in the apartment of the journalist who wrote the “Letter from the Street” for the New Guardian. The journalist also wrote books about migrant workers who seeped out of Turkey and the Middle East into service jobs in Western Europe. She was too busy to talk to us. I did not care. She wasn’t my friend. I would hear her on the phone speaking French with an American accent she could not be bothered to smooth. Every day my friend and I walked miles while she pondered her fate with P. I wanted to walk all the time. My friend wanted to sit and read. Thus, there were so many miles of walking for me and so many hours of sitting and reading for my friend. On our strolls we noticed a type of pastry popular in the pâtisseries, a large, chocolate ball covered with rough sprinkles named tête-de-nègre. This was 1981 or 1982, and it got so we would count the têtes-de-nègres we passed each day. I was impatient with my friend’s absorption with P. I wanted her focus more on me. I regret this. If I had been the one in love, I would have asked every stranger I passed, “Do you think it will work out?” One day my friend decided to confront the proprietor of a pâtisserie about the racist cakes. She spoke French with a good accent. She was a woman of the world with famous friends, a person who knew how to position herself, which was something I did not know how to do. She spoke in French to the shop owner, pointing from the pastries to her head. At first she was calm, but when she could not convince the shop owner the cakes were offensive, she said in French, “I am a negro.” The shopkeeper’s jaw parted as her eyes moved from my friend’s fair skin to her dirty blond hair. P was black. When my friend told the shop keeper she was a negro, I loved her so much nothing else mattered. She was wearing a little scarf and a linen shirt. She looked as chic as any Parisian, and I was proud to be seen with her. The owner of the shop kept shaking her red curls and saying, “That is the name of the pastry. It is not our fault.”

 

Laurie Stone’s new book of linked stories, My Life as an Animal, will be published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in October 2016. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Fence, Open City, Anderbo, NANO Fiction, The Threepenny Review, The Collagist, Creative Nonfiction, Memorious and many other journals.

SHARE
Previous Post:Editors' Note: Vestiges_02: Ennui Next Post:Camilo Roldán, Lital Khaikin & JD Larson at Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop