Hemingway’s Old Apartment
A young man’s tale….
I was asked by George Whitman the owner of Shakespeare and Company Bookstore that den of bohemianism for many decades ,when i alighted there on my many trips coming from Israel back to Canada if i would like to take up residence in the ” Green Room” upstairs overlooking the Notre Dame. I of course said yes without too much hesitation. I was George’s latest pet resident writer after he asked what i do and i answered with alacrity,
“i write .”
Every week George would host a poetry reading frequented by young aspiring debutantes greasing on their fathers American Express cards and eager to experience a “Paris adventure”.
George insisted i attend and as i entered the room lined with the venerable books of Sylvia Beach the founder of this bookstore in the 30’s a murmur went around the group.
Here was the elected residence writer picked by George himself.
I sat down and wondered with whom i would leave that night.
I was young and eager to experience if not love then something akin to it for sure.
I listened to dreadful poetry with feigned interest as i gazed upon the group huddled on the floor on old rugs against equally old stuffy chairs.
Mostly young women newly graduated from college with useless degrees in liberal arts who had read F Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and struggled through Joyce pretending to understand it all. “Yes ,Yes ,Yes Stephen Daedalus moaned. I am sure that went over their heads.
I was tanned and muscled from spending a month on my family’s kibbutz in the banana fields.
At the close of the evening two women asked me if i wanted to go for Chinese food . We went to a place they knew and i sat in the middle wondering how it was going to end. One woman ,a pretty American from D.C. asked me to walk her to her flat in the Mouffetard district . I assented because after all Paris streets at night were notoriously dangerous and i was a gentleman.
We walked in the Paris night along the Seine .
The fog enveloped us as the mist moved in . The shadows held well the secrets that Paris hints at. It was all very romantic and mysterious as if i was following the steps of a novel. The street lights glimmered in the haze. Piaf played faintly in the night…
We at last came to her apartment .
She asked if i would come up for a glass of wine and to hear her poetry. I reluctantly climbed her stairs.
She informed me this was Hemingway’s apartment originally.
I was stunned.
We lay on her mattress on the floor sipping red wine as she read.
I have never heard worse poetry but who was i to judge as i leaned over and kissed her softly on the mouth our tongues dancing in the velvet stars and i declared her poetry moved me deeply.
I unclasped her bra ….
We made love all night until the early hours of dawn. She was a ferocious tiger showing me things i had never known. I was a mere innocent in her arms .Never mind she was younger …
I sensed Hemingway watching and giving his approval not that i needed it but i swear could hear him chuckling.
That morning we went down to the little cafe on the Rue Moufetard and we said au Revoir over sips of cafe au last and crusty croissants.and little bites of chocolate. It was all really so precious.
We were young and oh so casual.
I sauntered back in the early dawn Paris light as deliveries were being made to the market and storekeepers were giving instructions and the morning habitués of the cafes were just starting to yawn.
I entered Shakespeare and Company and George met me with a twinkle in his eye.
What really excited me though up until now is that was Hemingway’s old apartment.
Another thing . I swear this is the truth!
Her boyfriend she had been living with for the summer had left the week before .He was an actor from Toronto. I flew back to Toronto a few days later.I immediately went to my old cafe . I took up a position at a long table with my friends who were eager to hear about my latest adventures.
I sat next to a chap who informed me he was an actor and and he had recently left Paris and his girlfriend.
I didn’t say a word .
He told me she lives in the apartment where Hemingway lived. I sipped my espresso and smiled..
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