Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Red Boudoir.

René Gruau (Count Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli delle Camminate),
graphic artist, born February 4 1909; died March 31 2004.

Nobody knew her name so they called her The Lady. She was always elegantly dressed and well spoken and many of the boys in our town had a crush on her. Her hair was dark and her face was so pale that it seemed made of snow rather than flesh. She always wore scarlet lipstick that some thought made her look glamorous but to a few of us seemed like blood glistening on her lips. She always wore ordinary clothes yet managed somehow to make them look as if she were wearing designer wear.

Of all the men in our town, Savinien and Hermes were utterly smitten with her. They stood transfixed on street corners when she passed. They wrote poems dedicated to her and sent them to the local paper's Poetry Corner. Hermes even had his poems printed and posted them around the town where she was known to pass. The Lady did not comment on either of them. It was as if she remained totally indifferent to such things as Love.

At one moment, it seemed she might, for when she entered my bookshop, The Page Well Read she always seemed to carry an inexplicable air of sadness about her. I once asked her if she was well and she sighed heavily and answered as if the entire universe were weighing upon her shoulders,

"I hunger often with a hunger unsated and doomed to be unsated."

Little Suzanna who was always in my shop thought that the most romantic thing she had ever heard. I was not so sure. Hunger for what and why was it unsated?

It was in this mysterious atmosphere that a man arrived. Nobody saw him come, but the next morning there he sat taking coffee at Slinky's Coffee Bar. He was a grim-looking character, there was no fat about him, nothing in the least indulgent in his demeanour. Even the coffee seemed medicinal to him. He was looking for someone and almost instinctively everyone knew exactly who.

"The Lady," Suzanna whispered to me.

Yet nobody seemed inclined to tell her. The grim man began to discourse on spirits - not of course the kind one drinks for that would have been an indulgence to him. It appeared that there were spirits of all kinds. The one he sought was the spirit of Unrequited Love. It was pointed out to him that Savinien and Hermes loved her to which he sneered.

"They love her without knowing her. If they knew her they would abandon her and she would simply move on," he answered.

Now he began to question the townsfolk, but nobody would give up The Lady. They have thought her strange some may even have disliked her, but they disliked him more. There was nothing forgiving about him, nothing soft or kind or gentle. I left the folk talking and returned to my bookshop. I passed through and left at the back. It was never an easy walk up the hill, but I managed and as I reached the house there, I approached the door slowly. Still I knocked at the door and waited. There was a time I would have turned to view our town from the hill, but I could not now.

The door opened and The Lady peered through the slightly opened door. I told her about the man and she sighed. She invited me in and I followed her through the house. She was wearing her long black velvet dress and a long string of what looked like pearls. I admit that I found her utterly beautiful and charming as I never had before. She led me up the stairs and into a large room in which, against the far wall was a large bed with big tubular cushions. The whole room was red, a warm crimson that seemed to pulse like a heartbeat. The Lady crossed the room and lay down on the bed. She half turned to me and taking the necklace of what I thought were pearls, she stretched up her arm and smiled a warm slow smile. I felt my whole being fill with my own heartbeat.

"Did you tell him where I was, Bookseller?" she asked with a purr.

"I thought I would warn you of him, madam," I answered.

Her smile broadened and she blinked slowly and very deliberately. Then she lay back and laughed, one hand casually resting on her belly. She was not the least bit afraid of anything. That low, light laughter was full of confidence and for a moment I stood there feeling like a fool.

"You are kind, Bookseller. I was once Love Unrequited, but like so many women I learned to fall in love with myself. I don't need anyone, though I admit sometimes I might want someone. I have become Lady Sufficient, for I am enough for myself. I shall love you a little as you thought of me. Tell him, Ironhearted Froideur, tell him where I am and that I await him. Here let him come into my boudoir and we shall see what we shall see," she said softly.

I bowed and left, for I realised that in calling her The Lady we had been truer than we knew. I went back down the hill to the coffee bar and gave him the Lady's message. He stood up then and frowned before leaving. He strode up the hill and we watched him go.

Some few hours later The Lady descended from the hill among us. She had on a lead a little dog with a grim looking face. She petted him and called him sweet things, but that grim expression did not change. He had gone up a man but the Lady had conquered him and made a dog of him from his own bitterness. In that red boudoir that I came to understand was like the interior of a true heart.


madameshawshank said...

'n didn't the count simply loveeeeeee red!

the magnificent '50s...

his ashes are kept at Rimini Graveyard Memorial Chapel close to Federico Fellini's grave. ...

bad penny said...

I wouldn't like to see the glare on that little dog's face.

Rosemary in Utah said...

"There's that in red that warmeth the blood
And quickeneth a man within,
And bringeth to speedy and perfect bud
The germs of original sin."

Eugene Field