The window open I could hear the business of Antwerp carrying on beneath my window, I was a few stories up and right downtown near the train station. The hotel did not have hot water for most of my stay, in fact most of the time it was barely luke warm. One step in and I realized the water had not even reached room temperature and was forming goose bumps on my arms before my feet had fully landed on the tub floor! Great I thought, while the photographic shoot went well and the model is now a dear friend, my stay in Antwerp was less then desirable given the water situation the several hundred Euros that were stolen from my room and the lack of really good food.
Somewhat disgusted I went to bed shivering in the night anticipating my drive to Paris the next morning.
The drive went well a few snow storms in the French farm lands, a few side stops to photograph an old home or two. Because of weather the 4~5 hour drive took 6~7 hours but that was ok. I was heading into one of the most art rich cities in the world and I eagerly took in every building, every bit of architecture on the way. My hostel was recommended to me by a friend and I had no idea what to expect. I had exchanged email a few times with the owner Marie Poirier getting reservations settled in. I arrived in Paris and the city was exactly as I had pictured it!
My GPS unit directed me to an underground parking structure and after a week and a half in the car alone I started calling it the GPS lady, she spoke and I followed direction from her, she got me to my destinations every time without fault. Grabbing my suitcase and camera equipment, a backpack designed and purchased specifically for this trip weighing in at about 40lbs. I slung it on my shoulders and with GPS lady in hand I headed up the several flights of stairs to the surface. My last few steps I leaned back a bit and the weight of my backpack, which had my laptop, encased in it between my back and the camera equipment had pulled me back to the point where I could not maintain balance. Backward I fell on my back tumbling over and over passing a French fellow on the way down, nearly ramming him as if I were a bowling ball going down a lane. “Pardon me” I remember uttering as I landed on the floor just behind him. He looked and then returned to typing on his cell phone and off he went.
Regaining composure… a bit bruised and embarrassed but ok. I needed to find my hostel a cold beer and take a really long hot shower… god I missed the hot water! Finally emerging at the surface I held GPS lady in my hand I let her guide me through the streets of Paris to my destination. There it was in front of me, the Hostel called Les Marronniers a coffee shop on the corner modern and new all glass windows bustling with activity and right next to it was the giant wood door of my hostel. A key pad next to the door had a message taped to it… “Today’s code is ####” a four digit code that presumably let you in. Secure I thought…
I typed the code in and the door clicked open. I entered a small court and followed my way up the stairs, signs every where… directing me to my place of refuge from the day. There it was a sign on the door Les Marronniers. I pushed the door open to find a large woman standing there waiting to greet me "I am Marie Poirier. You are the photographer” she said… I replied “yes my name is Karl.” She welcomed me to the hostel and directed me to the living and dining area of the room we were in. “There are four rooms in this side of the hostel and three rooms on the other side”. She said. “I am the cooker and we eat dinner at 7:00pm and breakfast at 7:00am if you are here you will eat if you are not here by then you will have to find to eat somewhere else” she continued in broken English. “Your room and the restroom are over here” We walked back out the main door and across the large landing into a door directly across from the first. She pointed out the restroom (shared between all guests) and in the same room was the laundry room. Separate from the restroom by a thin curtain. “Your room is down here” she said as she turned down a very narrow hall that she could barely fit thorough. It was not that the hall was narrow it was that there were antiques, paintings and other treasures stacked up floor to ceiling all the way down the hall. We passed two other doors “rooms five and six” she said. And we ended up at the door at the very end of the hall; she unlocked it and went in. “Here you are Mr. Photographer” she said… and then continuing, “As you requested you have the only room with a private shower and toilet, room seven”.
“Dinner is at 7:00 we will see you there, wee? “Yes, I need to shower first” I said…
Ahhh the feeling of hot water! The shower was very small but the feeling of hot water and soap! I took a shower for what seemed like an hour, though I know it was shorter then this. I cleaned up and tossed a load of my cloths in the washer before walking into the main dining area. As I walked through the main door there was a woman cooking steak in a very small kitchen to my left. To my right was mademoiselle Poirier in her small office and as I walked forward into the dining area the table was set perfectly though it was a mish-mash of mixed table wear every piece at each setting was there.
The living room was to my right and had a couple of people in it sitting watching some new program on TV, talking about the “strike” that was about to happen. One fellow turned and saw me coming in, he looked and sounded as if he was from India, he was here in Paris doing bio-research he told me right away. “And you must be the photographer!” he stated. “Yes my name is Karl” I replied. An older woman, who was from Africa and spoke only her native language and French shook my hand, smiled but said nothing. An American woman introduced her self after coming from one the four rooms off the back wall. Fussing with her hair she was older, late fifties, I am Sandra Beckom, she said. Marie now in the living area spoke up in a proud voice “She is the wife of an important American Congressman”, Mrs. Beckom then spoke… “My husband is here on official business but I just love this place that Marie has created. I stay here when ever we come to Paris, my husband has his duties to fill and this is much more home like”, she continued. About that time the woman from the kitchen indicated that dinner was going to be served and those of us that were there made our way to the table. I sat near an end with my back to the door and a French fellow walked out of another room and sat to the right of me. The Indian fellow sat at the end of the table to my left and with the woman from Africa. Two more came in from my side of the hostel and sat across from me. The wife of the congressman told Marie that she would be sitting but would not be eating as she had a function to be at and would eat there with her husband.
I was formally introduced to the entire group by Marie as “The Photographer” and as soon as I could I inserted my name… “Umm, my name is Karl, Karl Denton…” it did not seem to matter…
The French fellow turned and shook my hand, “Nice to meet you, I am like you in a way going around recording history”. I must have had a puzzled look on my face… he spoke very good English but had a very thick French accent. “You are a photographer, are you not?” he said quickly. “Yes” was my reply. “Then you record history, you are one that documents what things are happening on any given day”, I am just like you but I travel the world recording the music of tribes or civilizations that are beginning to be influenced by the outside world. I record history because once the music is changed it is changed for ever” he went on. “The American music influence is far greater then most think and my research for the university is to record as much as possible before that influence happens.” I thought his job was one that was extremely interesting but after the day I had I was losing my attention span quickly and just as that thought left my head the Indian fellow spoke up about the government in America and at that moment as if it was a cue the Congressman’s wife got up and quietly walked out nodding to us with a smile as she left.
The conversation got a bit more heated as time went on and we filled our selves with Maries cooking and wine. While in Antwerp, I had purchased several cigars for my time in Europe and as I was not allowed to smoke in the rental car I was looking forward to having one that evening. Despite having given up cigarettes nearly 15 years ago I did enjoy a good cigar a few times a year. Just after dessert I indicated that I needed to walk and this was a good time as the fellow from India was getting much more stern in his voice and appearance. I stood up and excused myself, pulled a cigar out of my shirt pocket and indicated that I was going out for a walk.
Making my way to the door I pushed it open and was hit with a very cold breeze, it snapped new life into me. I walked next door to the café that was now a bit quieter. A few tables with a couples sitting close talking sipping on coffee. I made my way in and sat at a table on the side of the café that was slow. A young woman came over and asked if I need anything and I asked for a beer, I also asked if I could smoke my cigar in the café, she said “of course” and handed me an ash tray. She then went off to fetch my beer and returned. You are the American photographer? She asked “Yes I am I replied.” With broken English she asked to sit and talk a bit… “I want to learn as much English as I can someday. I am going to school for art and want to make a trip to the US” she continued as she slowly sat at the table across from me. She was a small woman standing only about 5 feet tall with shoulder length black hair and brown eyes. I asked if the cigar smoke bothered her and she replied “Not at all I enjoy a cigar once and a while too” she motioned to me for mine and mesmerized I handed it to her. She enjoyed a few puffs and handed it back to me as her boss called her to service some new customers. She asked if it would be ok to come back and talk for a while… I said “of course!”
When she came back over to the table, the beer and warmth of the café must have set in, she sat down in front of me and smiled “you are staying next door?” she asked. “How long are you here for?” “Why have you come to Paris?” She blushed “I know too many questions” she continued… I love talking to people from many countries. Though I want to visit America I will probably never do it because of the cost, I must finish my degree and then there are bills to pay, there are always bill to pay” she said. We sat talking for what seemed hours and hours me answering her questions, telling her about my adventure driving from Germany to Belgium then Belgium to Paris. “What kind of music do you like” she blurted out. “Well I am old rocker at heart, so I guess rock and roll” I answered. “Me too” she replied. “I am going to a concert of the color purple… oh what is the words, my English…” frustrated she stood up and proceeded to play an air guitar while making the sounds… duh, duh, duh…. duh, duh, dada” and then it clicked! And I joined in with her. The two of us playing air guitar and blurting out the sounds that made up the song Smoke on the water by Deep Purple. We were the spectacle of the moment as other patrons turned to look at us. “You are going to see Deep Purple?” I asked. Yes she sad tomorrow night they are having a revival band playing there songs… that is the name of them Deep Purple! I love this old music… the French do not know how to rock and roll you know” she exclaimed.
By this time her boss had started placing chairs on the table tops as we were the only ones left in the café. I told her that it was wonderful meeting her but I think that I should be going. I still had nearly a half a cigar left so I walked out side wearing my blue jean jacket and stood smoking while I watched her clean the area we were just in and placing the chairs on table tops… every once and a while she would glance out the window and see me still standing there and smile. Then it hit me that at some point I told her which room I was in…and my mind started to fantasize…
This cute little French waitress who likes smoking cigars, rock and roll music and air guitar… hmmm.
The weather in Paris was very cold while I was there and all I had was my jean jacket. I finished my cigar catching a few more glances of the waitress looking back and put my cigar out and headed to my room. She never told her name and I never told her mine and as I walked up stairs I thought what a shame to have such a connection and not know the name of the other person… then I felt the soft warm hand of a small woman in mine. “The code you know it is posted on the door… such security we have here in Paris” she said as she giggled about it. “Do you mind if we continue our conversation?” She asked “not at all I, but I need to take a hot shower and clean up a bit” I replied. She looked at me with a stern face, “talk quieter I know Marie and she does not like it when guests bring others to the rooms.” I whispered “ok…” and unlocked the door. After turning on a dim table lamp I said that she could make herself comfortable and I would be in the shower for just a few moments. I indicated that I had a few beers in a cooler and she was welcome to one if she liked. She just nodded and lay down on the bed, rested her head on the pillow.
I reached into the shower and turned on the water so it would get hot. When I turned around to look at the figure lying on the bed she had turned toward me and was watching as I undressed. There was no door on the restroom and even in the shower you were visible to the entire room, so there was no point in worrying about it. As I slipped my shirt off her eyebrows rose a bit and I realized she had noticed I had piercings. She whispered “I like them” and continued watching me slip my shorts off then as quick as she could rose to her feet and proceeded to do the same. “I think I will shower with you” she said in a quiet voice moving in slow deliberate fashion. I looked back at this incredibly small shower and then at me… then at her… she looked up and said “it will make it much more fun showering so close, yes?” I stepped into the hot water raining down from the spout and immersed my self in water. I opened my eyes to see this tiny little frame with breasts the perfect size to fit in a champagne glass and a small delicate waist swaying as she moved toward the shower. She lifted her hand and I helped her up the single step to the shower basin. The shower measured barely 2 feet square and our bodies fit perfectly next to each other in this tiny space. The French waitress looked up at me and whispered “we will enjoy this moment in time; it will be with us forever.” I reached over and took the soap in my hand and began to rub her shoulders, as she turned her back toward me she took my hands and moved them to her breasts, lifting up her head to give me a kiss, we stood there for a bit of time tasting each others mouth, lips, even our noses and ears were to be tasted… It was if we knew this would be the only time we would ever be together, ever know the other…
My hands moved over her beautiful breasts and my fingers found her nipples becoming more erect and full with every passing second. One hand slowly reaching for her hip and turning her, so she now faced me. Her tiny body pressed against mine the soap I had spread on her was now a full body lubricant. We could not help but feel our bodies rubbing against each other and as we did we both became more aroused more tuned in to the other. The warmth of the hot water filling the entire room with steam in the chilly air. I took her bottom in my hands and pressed her against my body even more tightly. The firmness of her bottom was incredible she had the perfect bottom, the perfectly round bottom that fit in my hands as if they had been designed to do nothing but hold her perfectly round bottom.
For some reason, for just a split second I glanced up and smiled, she asked "what is it?” "What are you smiling at?" I pointed toward the wall with windows from floor to ceiling, it seems we had attracted an audience as the room had no window coverings and the dim light from both the night stand and restroom provided a perfect lighting situation for those who could see from across the street. We had become a spectacle again but this time it was for several hundred people… our observers in a moment of spontaneity, when they realized we were looking back started to cheer, clapping from both men and woman, young and old alike. Though it was nearly midnight the hostel was sitting on the very corner of a buss stop that ported people from this famous park the Luxembourg Gardens near one of Paris’s most known universities. We had become the night’s entertainment the most sensuous show in Paris.
She looked up at me and smiled a deep smile and I knew we should move over to the bed where we would not be so observed. As I turned off the shower our bodies still dripping wet we moved toward the bed and I was barley able to turn off the light in the restroom. The room went a bit darker and the crowd in unison started to hum some song I had never heard. Though she was still giggling a bit about every thing I asked what is this? “They are humming the French song of love. There is no name for it and we are not sure when it really started but the story goes like this… long ago a sailor returning home had missed his wife so terribly that he started anew with her by making love to her in the moon light. His shipmates hummed this song as the ship went out to sea again without him, when anyone in France knows real lovemaking is going on the humming starts, it is in our blood, we can’t help it” I looked at her and smiled the humming very quiet and respectful as if these people knew this would be the one time we would be together, would be the most intense moment we would share. “Not to worry to be honest I find the humming to be very rhythmic, very erotic.”
We spent the next several hours exploring every inch of each other, tasting, feeling, touching every spot on each others bodies. Her breasts in my hands, rolling her nipples between my lips my tongue tasting them… she playing with my piercings and seemingly fond of them. We spent the next several hours exploring every inch of each other, made love to each other as though it would be the last time, though it was the first. The entire time that slow rhythmic hum in the background. We finally fell to the bed about 3:00 in the morning both exhausted beyond anything we had experienced before. The French waitress lay next to me, my arm around her tiny hips holding her as close as I could. She was looking into my eyes barely able to hold them open… I gave her a kiss and told her “sweet dreams… we will remember this moment for the rest of our lives. It will be the most sensual, loving thing either of us will ever do.” With that she finally fell asleep and though I still heard the rhythmic beat of the French song of love I did not realize that the onlookers had dispersed hours ago. I looked at her beautiful body now in the moonlight, finding my fingers running over her soft skin as I too fell asleep.
I woke to the sound of the hustle and bustle of the street noise the next morning, she was gone. Her taste still in the air she must have just left. The side of the bed she was on was still warm. I got up and looked out the window and saw her riding off on a scooter, looking back only once… that smile on her face, her tiny frame getting even smaller as she rode away.
I had to move to another hotel that same morning to photograph a strike by the folks that work the transit system and never got a chance to go back to the café. I never new her name and she never knew mine. We made love as thought we would never see one another again. We explored the other so we would have a permanent imprint in our minds of what the other tasted, smelled and felt like.
The quiet hum of the French song of love still rings in my ears and when the noise around me calms down I can taste her in the air.
The hostel is real, click here and then the main photo to have a look a look around Les Marronniers
Below the text are images taken at Les Marronniers.
Marie Poirier (her actual name) and all of the characters in this story are real though I chose to leave there names out, the congressman's wife has had her name changed.
The French waitress is real and we did play air guitar in the cafe' to the tune of Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple.
And I did contact Marie about two months after my stay in the hostel to see if she would find out the waitresses name for me so I could send her a Deep Purple CD... She had quit the cafe' and moved on to a new job shortly after my visit to the hostel.
I have had this story in my head since March of 2007 and could not do anything else today but type it...