Now here's something you don't see much anymore: a double yoked egg. When I was a boy on the farm, I used to raise chickens for their eggs and sometimes you got a double yoker--or even a triple. Nowadays, the big, commercial eggs farms screen for such anomalies.
In any event, they are supposed to bring good luck, if not to the chicken, at least to the egg eater. Add to that the arrival of a my next New Yorker magazine with its short story, and I was set up for writing something.
I love stories set in Europe, stories of an American guy meeting a European woman. So, here I go, daydreaming on paper, pretending I'm noodling around with the plot of a story on an old Smith-Corona in a garret in Paris:
He is not old but neither is he young. He is world weary and cynical. Her name is Catina and she speaks English with an Old World accent of some sort and lives in a small, walk-up flat in, say, the 9th Arrondissment in Paris, not far from Montmartre and the Seine. He is between jobs and romantically depressed and out of sorts; she is a professor who teaches something improbable like Physics.
She wears slightly frumpy clothes that are, nonetheless, sexy and they spend much time walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg and drinking red wine. They are each tragic in their own literary way. She split with her lover--you don't yet know why--and she has thrown herself into her work. He is divorced and was fired from his job as an English teacher at a community college in some sad place like New Jersey.
Eventually they travel by train--leaving the Gare du Nord with a baguette and a hard smoked sausage and a bottle of wine--and head off to visit her parents who live in some sad place like Romania. Yes, two sad places like New Jersey and Romania to balance things out and, yes, that's it--she's a brilliant Romanian scientist whose family was repressed by the old Romanian government. Her brother was killed by Romanian secret police and her parents are old and poor and live in a cold-water flat in dreary, rainy Bucharest.
At her parents, you are supposed to sleep in her brother's old room (you have heard the story about the brother being killed by the secret police) but,( mais oui!) you end up sleeping together in her old bedroom. It's very cold and there is very nice love making under thick quilts punctuated by long, softly-spoken conversations under the covers, the whispered words echoing softly off the walls, the sound of traffic and horses hooves clomping along the streets reach their ears.
What do her parents think of him? She has told them he is professor, too. But they don't speak English, even with an accent, so you can only measure their judgement by their eyes.
You take a long walk, ostensibly to buy groceries, and of course, you chance to meet one of her old lovers on the street. His name is Dragos and he is darkly handsome in that special Romanian way. They kiss each other on both cheeks the way Europeans friends do when they meet and while he speaks to her in rapid Romanian, he is staring at you, seizing you up.
You imagine he says, "An American, hey? That's nice. They are all rich."
You shake hands. He has a cigarette hanging from his lips. He smiles at you through the cigarette with yellow Romanian teeth.
You sense longing and regret in their voices, in the words you can't understand. After he leaves, walking away pulling deeply on the cigarette and exhaling with a great sigh, you don't ask her what he has said because you know she can't tell you the truth. Later, that night, back under the covers in her cold bedroom she tearfully tells you that not only was he her lover, but he was her brother's best friend and had been tortured by the police into revealing her brother's secrets--and so he is responsible for her brother's death.
Next, they are back in Paris. He is alone in his flat and his concierge had given him a cable from someone in the States. His face darkens as he reads it. He sets it down on the table and walks to the window. He looks out over the city. The phone rings--It is her, Catina. She is crying......it's Dragos, she says, sobbing....
Watch this space for the next installment wherein we will learn what Dragos, the unforgiven, has on Catina, our tragic heroine and does our depressed, tragic American have the courage to help her?