Licking the sides of my credit card, a stomach digestive ad slogan beyond the checkpoint catches my attention: “Life has no boundaries.”
Rattle in my brain.
Replace ‘has’ with ‘knows’. Makes it more eloquent, doesn’t it? Less harsh, perhaps more clichéd, but less harsh and more eloquent. Now—life knows no boundaries. Life, no, snow boundaries. No, snow has no boundaries. Well, maybe the snow fields. I’ve never been skiing. Stay on track. Nearly there. God, my stomach hurts, I definitely need to crap before I get on this plane. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t mind one final cigarette. Wait, you’ve nearly got it, don’t digress. There, digress, yes! And sir, here is the campaign I’ve been working on. I think the strategy speaks for itself. ‘I digest, therefore I am’… That’s better, Robbie, nice and original.
“Excuse me, sir, do you have a laptop in here?” The man was tall. The uniform and strong jaw spoke of authority. He towered, legs slightly more than shoulder width apart. Boarding school had trained me in identifying weakness in types like this, particularly in moments of confrontation. Go for the groin.
“Sir—” This time his voice held some slight irritation.
What does he think I have in here? A bomb? You don’t have a bomb, don’t make out like you do. If you did they’d probably extradite you to Turkey on request, a nice looking boy like you, just to live out that wonderful scene from the Midnight Express where…
“Sir,” this time sternly. Any minute he would reach for his side arm. “Do you have a laptop in here?”
“I certainly do. And love letters.” I removed the laptop, the lid of which I’d been racking lines of cocaine off only hours earlier. We had made them like snail trails, just to change it up a bit.
“I won’t show you the love letters,” I continued, offering him a chance. Offering a way in. The capped head nodded with gratitude—gratitude for the offer, or for finally answering him, I wasn’t quite sure. I wanted to continue the banter, probe him about his love life. We were engaged in something. He would have understood my anxiety about smell and terrible fear of purgatory. I would have asked him at what age he started shaving and if he was scarred by the first time he lost control of his bowels as an adult, or if he had at all.
“You wouldn’t understand them anyhow, because Clare is odd. You wouldn’t understand the letters, I mean.”
Our conversation was cut short when I was shoved on by a hulking businessman clearly adamant on purchasing a bottle of perfume for his venereal disease ridden mistress. Enjoy, I smiled as he passed the billboard I’d just amended. Perhaps I’d write him into the next advertising campaign, changing the slogan to include the words ‘bastard’ and ‘liar’. Maybe his wife would walk past the billboard, the bespoke message I’d written for her leaking into her sub-conscious until, in a fleeting frenzy of pent anger, she’d wake in the middle of the night and cut off his genitals, or at least segments of his genitals.
I was now en route to Paris. Regretting last night, my first night of infidelity in a year. My third night in a row without sleep. I was back at the airport now, high again. Six months earlier I’d tried writing a book on travel. Figuratively and physically that book ended in Sicily, when we fell in love, and when I received the phone call that changed my life.
Now, back in Melbourne, it was my romantic and semantic destiny to board this plane. To chase love in tiny clouds and bursts of morning light through tattered drapes. To purge words, convince a body to love me again, and to document the imminent success. It would be so simple. The book I lost because of the love she created, and I killed, would be replaced by a story about the love we would re-ignite. Either that, or both the book and I would go up in flames.
I couldn’t be sure, but I felt like I’d spend the rest of my life with her. Rounded bottom, eyes bruised by lack of sleep. She thought in a linear but beautiful way. She saw consequences and never alluded to mysterious objects, places or feelings of the past—things I could interpret ambiguously. I enjoyed her enthusiasm for life. Her willingness to speak her mind, belong to my heart. I could spend the rest of my life with her, that’s for sure.
“Welcome to Paris,” Clare whispered as she kissed the dried sweat from my neck. My thoughts ran wild with irrational impossibility as we entered into our first embrace in five months. Anxiety from the smell I’d grown over the thirty-hour journey vanished as I recalled the way between her legs. Soon, our bodies were writhing in a fluid spasm, perfectly in sync with the screeching bed springs. My fingertips stinging her arched back as the screeching slowed and was replaced by the audible thud of my breathing against the humid European air. I waited until her body turned to putty and allowed myself the pleasure of being truly in love with her again.
On our last day, Clare and I ate breakfast on Rue Mouffetard. She had looked up from her chocolate spread wearing a thick brown smile, which I quickly removed from her face with my tongue. I remember her looking utterly disgusted. Then my phone rang. It was my eldest sister.
“Laura, how are you?”
“Where are you?”
“Can I speak to Gabe?”
‘Say hi to Laura for me…” Clare chimed.
“No. I just called to say I love you dearly.”
“Laura, are you drunk?”
“I love you.”
“Put Gabe on!”
“I love you.”
And then, on the other end of the phone, in Melbourne, there was silence.
That day marked the end of the happiest month of my life. That day—it marked the end of two loves.