Instead of rambling on incessantly about the new book of short stories I’ve decided to just place a few stories on this site over the next week or two.
The ones that i'll put on here are some stories and plays that have been published elsewhere so they’re already out there on the net to read. The book itself contains 17 short stories and six plays. I’ve been kind of letting this blog reach desolation levels recently so this is a way to add more content and get some writing out there.
This first one is taken from the Paris Quartet section of the book. The subtitle to this section is Supporting Characters due to the fact that characters from each of the four stories appear in other stories making them interconnected. If you want to know more about the book then I’ve place a link at the bottom to an interview that took place recently and thanks to writer Julian Gallo for taking the time to do this and as always for his support over the years.
Here is the title story from the book.
All of Us with Our Pointless Worries and Inconsequential Dramas
“I probably would if I could find a way to kill myself without pain and without causing pain to others.”
“So you want to avoid this perceived pain in your life but you won’t do it because it would add pain.”
“I wouldn’t actually do it, I just think about it sometimes. I wouldn’t do it because I want to stick around and see what happens, no matter how bad it gets. I mean, doesn’t everyone think about it but they don’t act on it.”
“Some people do act on it.”
“Some people probably should.”
Therapy sessions suck.
I go in there once a week and talk crap and completely avoid the subject I want to talk about. I could have went in there week one and said that I was having an affair and I felt bad about it but instead of just living with the guilt I had decided to ‘get some therapy’ along with the rest of my fellow Parisians who can afford it. I’ve talked about everything from my shit childhood to my shit job and now I’ve reeled out the clichéd suicide card because I think my therapist is actually becoming bored with me.
Last week, mid-session, I saw her eyes glaze over and to catch her attention I told her about the two dogs that I had seen on the way over here who were humping in the street but were interrupted mid-hump by a man who had come out of his house and poured water over them. Then I told her how I’d like to see that man humping his wife and then a dog appearing in his bedroom and pouring water over him and see how he likes it.
I’d really only brought that up during the session because even though she was being paid to listen, she seemed completely disinterested in what I was paying her to listen to. She asked if the image of the dogs disturbed me and I told her no but it seemed to disturb the man in some way and he was so disturbed by it that he had decided to disturb the fucking dogs.
Thirty-five minutes into today’s session and she had started to play with her executive desk-top sand garden and had only perked up slightly when I mentioned suicide. I shouldn’t have brought up suicide because it gave her a glimmer of hope that maybe I did have something for her to solve and when I was saying it aloud I was also imagining her later in the evening googling ‘reasons for suicide that I haven’t thought of’ because she was in fact a terrible therapist and her doctorate was probably from a paid for, two month online course.
Of course this isn’t the reality of why she perked up when I mentioned suicide. In reality, she perked up because if I did commit suicide she would lose a now regular paying client and executive desk top toys and a summer house in Provence both take heavy financial maintenance.
After my session I meet up with Miles in a bar on Rue Oberkampf. Miles is an expat who’s been living in Paris now for around seven years. I’ve grown bored of this city as everyone does who has lived in the same place their entire life but I don’t view it with the same contempt as he does, even if he is a relative new comer. Maybe if I’d spent years driving a cab every night I’d feel the same way. A rat stuck in a maze with all exits blocked off.
“Therapists are for people with no friends. People with no friends have to pay people to listen to them. They have to pay people to be their friend. You, my friend, are throwing money away.”
“Well, you know, she has answers. She can help.”
“Not if you don’t tell her what the problem is. That’s just crazy.”
“I can’t tell her.”
“Then why go in the first place if you had no intention of telling her?”
“I see your point but she might, at a future date, become best friends with my wife, it’s entirely possible. They become best friends, they go out for drinks, they get drunk and my wife spews out some family life problems and then at some point during the conversation my therapist says to my wife, “look, this is confidential and I could probably lose my licence for this but if I don’t tell you I’m going to feel so guilty”. So my guilt, which I have unburdened onto her during therapy sessions, leads to her feeling guilty because she now knows my wife and her needing someplace to unburden this guilt ultimately does not fucking help me in either the short or long term.”
“A therapist could have a field day with what goes on in your head. Given your scenario you should have told your wife in the first place and saved yourself time and money.”
“Yeah but my scenario has a good chance of never happening.”
“My advice, advice which you aren’t paying for, tell your wife and come clean or shut the fuck up and live it. You think you’re the first husband who has ever fucked around on his wife? There’s been a billion before you and there’ll be a billion after. And that is how marriages survive.”
“She’s pushing me to tell her.”
“To tell your wife? Well that’s a different matter then and actually that makes things simpler.”
“Who can you not live without?”
“I don’t think she’s that beautiful. I mean me personally, I don’t see it.”
She had wanted to see the Mona Lisa as it was on her check-list of things to do, a list she’d been working her way through since coming to study in Paris. At 27 years old and fresh off the plane from Algeria this city was still new and exciting to her. I had met Lillie on a night like any other in a bar in the 11th and there was a definite spark, an attraction, which felt, for some reason, as if it were something more.
Talking to her that night I felt something I hadn’t felt in years, something I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was simple lust and I was reading much more into it but against my better judgement I agreed to meet her again, to be her unofficial tour guide. Give it a title or an excuse and it becomes simple to ignore the real reason for meeting again.
She didn’t mention the ring on my finger until out third meeting, until we had had sex in a hotel room that was inexpensive but comfortable and offered an unhindered view of Montmatre, which isn’t quite shitting on my own doorstep but close enough. I was ramping up the Parisian cliché factor and she was giving encouraging signs that she was impressed. In Paris, making love to an almost stranger in room with a view over the illuminated street tops of the city. Some clichés are timeless for a reason.
Lying in bed in the dimly lit room, my hand resting on her stomach, my wedding ring glinting in the darkness, it was as if I were forcing her to mention it.
She slowly tapped the gold band with her fingernail and said, “So when are you going to tell me about this?”
At some point, during our third month, we had met up in the Jardin du Luxembourg on a rainy Wednesday afternoon and strolled through the gardens with no real aim of going anywhere. By this point we just wanted to spend time together and we had moved from meeting in the hotel room to actually venturing into the city streets. She took my hand in hers as we walked through gardens and I didn’t stop her. Even though there was the possibility of being seen I didn’t want to upset her and I pushed the possibility of discovery from my head.
An hour later we stood in The Louvre with the other tourists, leaning over the railing, gawping at the famous painting. In doing so I felt like a tourist or as if I was rediscovering that feeling of showing Paris to my American wife, presenting my city to someone I loved and seeing it again through the eyes of a newcomer. Exploring everything this city has to offer with the one person I wanted to be with. I shared her excitement and shared that freedom of being far from home with all this time in front of you, in front of us.
“I don’t think she’s that beautiful, I mean me personally, I don’t see it.” Lillie mused as we walked along the banks of the river.
“She’s different for everyone I guess. Some people look and see beauty, some see the muse and some only see the value of that painting in financial terms. And of course she’s timeless, she’ll never age. She has proven longevity while others have to contend with their short time on earth and then that’s it, it’s over. We’ll be gone. This, right now, us walking here, it won’t even be a memory but she will still be smiling down at us from that wall.”
“Smiling down at all of us with our pointless worries and inconsequential dramas.”
That’s what Lillie had said in reply to me that day, staring at me intently, a final sentence followed by silence. A silence I didn’t fill with a reply because I knew what this conversation meant. I knew just by looking at her eyes. We didn’t speak again on the walk to the Metro station or when we kissed each other and Lillie boarded her train and I walked on to catch mine.
“Haven’t you become everything you despise?”
I listened, hoping that her anger and hatred towards me would be enough of a justification to eradicate any guilt I was feeling. Every hateful comment could help to decrease my guilt down another notch.
“You’re an estate agent, don’t you hate yourself enough already? Now you’re an estate agent who cheats on his wife while he’s supposed to be working. You’ve become such a fucking cliché compared to the person I married. How did this happen? How did I not notice what you were slowly turning in to?”
I expected anger. The anger I can handle. It’s not as I’m telling her that I’ve forgotten to buy wine for a dinner party we had been planning for a week. I’m putting an end to her life as she knows it at this time. I could of course come up with a number of creative excuses about how our marriage was drifting, had been for a long time and that we both knew we would arrive at this point sooner or later, whether due to a mutual parting of the ways or some other reason of which this is one.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh you know. You just don’t end five years of marriage without thinking about it. You know.”
“I don’t know.” I sigh. But I do know that nothing I can say is going to make this any less painful for her. “Maybe she has a wrinkle on her face in just the right place and I find it attractive. Maybe she says all of her statements as questions and I find that endearing. Maybe she swallows instead of spits or maybe I was just looking for a way to kill time with someone new over the next five years. The reasons why don’t matter.”
“Well she’s really lucky then. Because I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t see your relationship as a way to fill some time, as way to stop the boredom.” She pours a glass of wine and drinks half of it. “Does she know you’re married?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And she just doesn’t give a shit right? That’s she’s breaking up a marriage.”
“Something always comes between. It just depends on whether you act on it or not after you’ve weighed up which you value more.”
She stares at me, taking in what I have said, that I now value someone else more than her. She clenches the wine glass and looks at me as I look at her and then to the wine glass and then back to her face again.
“You think I would?” She holds the glass up higher, reading my mind, as couples who have been together for many years can do. “You’d like that wouldn’t you but I won’t give you that. You may be a cliché but I’m certainly not. Leave now and I’ll hang a wreath on the door.”
“……but I don’t really see or hear any actual emotion when you talk about this, about your events, life-changing events that have happened in the past week.” She’s not looking at me as she says this but continues to look down, moving the tiny rake around the sand, creating a tiny circle and then repeating the motion. “No guilt, no anger, no grief, no remorse, nothing.”
“Well, don’t worry.” I sigh. “When I finally get an emotion, I’ll make sure you’re the first to know.”
All of Us With Our Pointless Worries and Inconsequential Dramas is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon.
Interview with Julian Gallo on Expats Post.