Roxanne, The Last Gasp


I was wrong about everything but the trip. Roxanne should have come with me., But now I was here in Paris, in the stabby February cold, wrong for all the right reasons. I camped out in a rental apartment in my old stomping grounds in the 18th. I looked for old drinking buddies. No one was a around. Artemis had decamped to Buenos Aires. Zoe was married to some Swiss banker and probably spent her days chasing after her 3-year-old twins. Jean-Luc was spending the winter on assignment in Dubai. And Gorgeous George, God bless his soul – no one knew where he was. Clean fallen off the face of the earth.

I was alone to wander the streets at night. Deliberate over whether I wanted to spend money on a North African hooker, wasting hours on the Internet, using my cell phone to send what felt like appropriate photos to Roxanne. Avenues blessed by a soft blanket of snow. Pre-schoolers on a field trip, clutching each other by their mittens. A shot of every drink I had.

At no point did she write back.

Like I said before, I was the one who was wrong. I shouldn’t have taken the six month assignment in Malaysia. I shouldn’t have told her not to come. I shouldn’t have returned to St. Louis angry with her need for someone less elusive, more forthright, more faithful. I should have been more hurt when she herself was unfaithful. But at the time I rationalized it. She was trying to get under my skin and I wasn’t going to let her. I should have made the grand gesture to win her back then and there, but I wasn’t desperately alone yet.

On a whim, I signed up for a bartending class at the Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Hotel. Two hundred bucks to sit around with a few Asian businessmen, a couple Midwesterners on their second honeymoon, a couple trust fund lit majors on their semester abroad. The dandy bartender with a handlebar mustache pontificated on the purportedly sordid history of Vermouth in France. Half way through the lesson, I started taking swigs directly from the bottle of Vodka we’re supposed to be using for the drink he’s showing us. When the teacher ignored my transgression I walked behind the bar, and swept the entire middle shelf to floor. I cackled as the thousands of dollars worth of booze shattered on the immaculately tiled floor.

A week after Roxanne had kicked me out for good I returned to her townhouse with flowers, a freshly burned mix CD and two first-class tickets to Paris. “You’ve got all that sick time built up, baby,” I said. “Let’s start over with a bang. I’m a new man!”

She broke down in tears. I embraced her, initially believing she’d been so moved by my play at winning her back. She kissed me on the cheek. Then she broke away.

“I don’t know if you’re a new man or if this is just a silly show,” she said. “But I don’t really care. I feel like a new woman, too. The woman you turned me into, who has to hurt you to make me feel better at all.”

I watched her lips move. They were beautiful.

“Have fucking fun in Paris by yourself, Knox. You’ll always be a son of a bitch to me.”


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