Friday, 9 May 2008

Needed - A woman with a bicycle

This image is not one by the Snapper, she's having a break of a sort (she's usually busy) but this is by another snapper who is living and studying in Paris (envious, moi?) and has for company, other than a husband of some talent and wit, a cat of repute and panache.

He did not know who she was this young woman who always rode her bicycle to the front of the apartment block where he lived. He thought her beautiful and elegant. Her hair was the colour of chestnuts and she was long limbed but graceful as a dancer or a cat on a wall. He had not even considered that he might be in love with her, only that she was beautiful to him. Besides, he remembered his feminist aunt telling his mother,

"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle!"

For years later he felt that no woman would ever need him as much as he would need her. He felt sure that this woman was the same.

One morning she arrived as usual, put the bike stand down and sat for a moment with her hands on the handlebars not moving. As if it took a great effort, she raised herself to sit back on the saddle and let go of the handlebars letting her hands drop to her thighs. Then she raised her hands to her face and covered her lovely face. For a little while she cried, then brushing away the tears she got off the bicycle and went in to the apartment block.

All this time he had watched and felt a pang of sorrow. He had wanted then to hold her and comfort her - yet he knew that he could not. He was a stranger to her. Instead, he wrote a poem, took a bouquet of flowers from those he had bought that morning at the florist's on the corner and ran down the stairs to the front of the apartment block. There was her bicycle with the basket on the front. He placed the poem in the basket with the flowers and ran back to his apartment. When he got inside, he shut the door and leaned against it breathing fast and his heart thundering. What if she had seen him? What if she reported him to the police? What if... He sighed and went back to his coffee and his work at the computer. Still, he was curious, so he glanced up now and then to see what would happen.

She came out of the block and walked to her bicycle slowly, each step measured. Her shoe heels tapped sharply against the paving. She reached her bicycle and stopped. Suddenly she took a step forward and glanced into the basket. She turned and looked all around but saw nobody watching her - he had backed away from the window in fear - then she reached into the basket and took the bouquet. Now she saw the folded paper that had been beside it and she took that in her other hand and replaced the flowers. She opened the paper, read it and frowned. He noticed that her face did not look any less lovely even when she frowned. She stopped to think for a moment, then putting the paper in her bag, she got back on her bicycle and left.

He breathed a sigh of relief and went back to work.

The following day he went to the florists and bought another bouquet and wrote another poem with a note;

I mean you no harm at all and I hope you will not be offended by me, dullard tho' I am. I noticed you cry yesterday and sympathised. Life can be so bitter sometimes and so painful. Someone as beautiful as you should never have to suffer pain, only happiness. I am not so beautiful as you and anyway, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle as my aunt used to say. But I see you arrive every morning and you are so beautiful it is as if someone had planted roses in front of the apartment when you appear."

This time he bought her a large bouquet of Pinks with their delicate scent. She was a little brighter this morning and when she came out of the block and read the poem and note, she did not frown. She turned to the apartment block and saluted with the paper before putting it in her bag and leaving.

The following morning when he went down to the bicycle he found she had left a note for him.

I am assuming you are a 'monsieur' given that you quote the feminist saying as you do. It is sweet of you to say that I am beautiful, but you must understand that your not revealing yourself to me means that you place me at a disadvantage. It is as if you believed you had a right to watch me and that is not so nice. Not all women need men it's true, some need their bicycles more. Who knows, perhaps a man needs a woman like a bicycle needs a fish. Or a bicycle needs a woman like a man needs a fish, eh? Did you think of that my vigilant self-styled dullard? Oh so I am as beautiful as roses am I? You should see me first thing in the morning. Now then my fine fellow, I challenge you. Tomorrow morning, I will leave the apartment and cycle to Florian's cafe at the Rue Des Chats Noir. If you have any courage, meet me there. In fact if you don't have any courage meet me anyway. Wear smart clothes and a red scarf or tie - a girl likes a man to dress up for her. You will see that I am not merely a beautiful fantasy, but a real woman of flesh and blood and a liking for coffee. Perhaps you will not like the real me. I won't fit your ideal of the beautiful fantasy maybe. Well, it's always good to remember that we live in a real world and that the fantasy world is only there to visit now and then. Until tomorrow morning then."

He was as terrified as she'd thought he would be. He what-if-ed for an hour and a half over coffee until his brain was throbbing from all the coffee. He watched as she strode out of the apartment block with a box and a spade. She did not go straight to her bicycle. Instead, she dug holes in the front of the apartment block and in each one, she planted a rosebush. That done, she returned to the apartment block with the spade and the box and came out a little later, got on her bike and rode off.

He was suddenly enchanted. She had planted the roses for him! Surely she would not be so terrifying then.

The next morning he dressed up smartly, put on a red scarf and went to the cafe where he ordered a cafetiere and two cups. He sat with a book of Shakespeare's sonnets and read until a shadow fell across the table and looking up he found himself face to face with her.

"Well, you don't look so bad, or so dull either," she said grinning at him.

"G-Good morning ma'm'selle," he said blushing.

She reached out a hand and he took it. She had meant to shake hands, but was amused to see him gently kiss her fingertips.

"Oho! A romantic eh? I hope you aren't living in poverty in a garret mon ami!?" she said lightly and sat down at the table.

Her white summer dress was edged with pale pink lace and her hair was held back by her sunglasses revealing her eyes as blue as cornflowers. Her smile was dazzling - full of charm, wit and amusement.

"Ah no, I write about maps for a trade magazine," he told her.

"Hmm, is that cafetiere for both of us?" she asked placing her handbag on the table and leaning back in her chair.

The waiter set the cafetiere down with the two cups, a full cream jug and a small bowl of sugar. He thanked them both and left.

"Would you like anything to eat, ma'm'selle?" he asked her.

She shook her head briefly and reached for the cafetiere, pouring them both coffee and pushing his cup across to him.

"So young man, what makes you leave me poems and flowers, eh? Are you trying to woo me or seduce me?" she asked.

"Oh no, nothing like that," he said quickly, then seeing the amusement in her eyes he relaxed and smiled realising that he liked her a lot.

"You look so beautiful, so at first I just enjoyed watching you arrive. Then you cried one morning and - I wanted to go down to you and comfort you, but somehow I couldn't. So instead I left you a note and the flowers. Then I don't know. I suppose I liked giving you flowers so I kept doing it. If it offends you, I'll stop, I don't want to upset or anger you." he answered.

"You are sweet. No, it doesn't offend me. Or upset me either. It was a little unsettling to get at first though, not knowing who they were from. I mean they might have been from some creepy guy instead. How would I know? Well, you are a little dishonest with me though. You said you were a dullard and you're not. You said that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle - well some women don't need a man. I don't need a man as such, but it would be nice now and then. But it's not about not needing someone or needing someone. It's about men and women being equals. So I tell you what, you go home and tonight I'll take you out to supper, how's that? You can pay for the coffee now and I'll buy you supper. We'll talk and who knows..." she said decisively.

He agreed tentatively, somehow it didn't seem fair for her to pay for supper when he'd only bought her coffee, but he had an idea about that too. When they'd had their coffee and he'd given her his address, she got on her bicycle and rode away. He went back to his apartment and settled down to work. That evening, he got dressed for supper and she met him on the doorstep to his own apartment. She wanted to look around his apartment, but not yet, she would gain his confidence first. Well, so they went to supper and they talked... and talked. Sometime around two o'clock in the morning, he escorted her to the nearest street to her home and thanked her for the evening. She smiled and wished him goodnight; he went home full of thoughts and feeling as if he were walking lightly.

The next morning she arrived as usual and he waved to her from his window. She smiled, waved back and blew him a kiss, which thrilled him. He waited for a little while and went down to her bicycle. Into the basket he put three sonnets that he had written and a large bouquet of pink and white roses. But he did not return to his apartment - instead he waited for her. She came out after a little while to find him there.

"Well my dear, how are you this morning?" she asked him.

"I have never felt like this before. I don't quite know how to describe it but I feel light and somehow stronger. I wrote you some sonnets and bought you roses. I don't know why, but this morning I could not somehow wait for you to come - and I was almost frightened that you might not come," he said softly.

She tipped her head to one side and smiled at him. Then she stepped forward, put one hand on his shoulder and the other on his hip. Without warning, she kissed him quickly on the mouth and embraced him. All the feelings in him seemed to catch fire and blaze up. He did not think, he pulled her to him and kissed her. Tears slipped from his eyes and trailed down his face. She brushed them away with her thumb and told him,

"Tonight, you will treat me to supper. I shall come to your apartment at seven, then we shall have supper."

He nodded and apologised for weeping but she shook his apology aside. So that afternoon at his computer he sought out a recipe on and began to cook. When she arrived, she was met with wonderful scents and a cold glass of white wine. He had prepared such a wonderful meal that she was dazzled. Again they talked and talked. At around ten o'clock she got up to go and he escorted her home.

And so it went on. After six months of meeting, dining, going to museums and concerts she called him her boyfriend and he could not think of anyone else. Three years later they married and moved into a small cottage near the city with a garden full of rosebushes. If they are still living they are still there. Sometimes it seems a woman wants a man like a woman wants a bicycle.


madameshawshank said...

Oh Griffin! fish bicycles men women poems coffee bravery chocolateandzucchini reference...what a scrumptious mix

Debbie..what an image ~ that's one of the happiest bicycles in existence...rose-bedecked..

I've a basket on my bicycle..will imagine it filled to the brim with flowers!

Barbara said...

What a sweet picture.

Rosemary in Utah said...

With a bicycle like this you could ride around giving out blooms to all for love, making it easier for them to find each other. But the rider would have to remember to keep one!

madameshawshank said...

R in U, the rider could give all the blooms away..and then another rider could come along with a bloom to share...'tis how it works methinks...the sun gives of does the moon pearl..

framboise_et_rose said...

So that's where the spring flowers in Montmartre went!!!

Madame, you go on a little break and we find Debbie riding her flower bedecked bicycle all overtown.

Griffin, it seems that there will be continuous writing for you with a couple of talented snappers supplying wonderful pictures.....

Griffin said...

Barbara, you're right it IS such a lovely image. I thought it looked straight out of a French film - Amelie perhaps?

Framboise et Rose,

I got lucky with my snappers definitely. I'll take all kinds of fabulous images so long as my imagination can pull a story out of them.