The sea is off-white, banded by blue wave shadow. A line of clotted cloud lies between it and the cobalt sky of La Rochelle.
Angèle talks but I’m not listening. I’m building sand castles. First the foundation — a bay. (I wiggle my fingers over the smooth sand for waves.) Its sides make a natural amphitheater, rising to near alpine heights in a succession of tiers. (I have to dig for sand sticky enough to hold together, and still the gradients are too shallow.) For a while I look at it, reluctant to add more. Two hundred years ago, this place was as I modeled it — a natural thing. Rock-strewn fields with a scattering of olive trees.
I sigh, add the Hotel de Paris, the Casino; all the anonymous infrastructure of the Principality. I lie down in front of the model and pick away the square and the Boulengrins with a fingernail. (Behind my eyes I fill the space with formal gardens, topical trees and cacti the size of oaks.) I press my little finger at a slant into the model to indicate the tunnel through the harbor. The finishing touch: I trail sand between my fingers along the edge of the cliff to make the concrete wall Frasange demolished last year when his throttle jammed at 600 k/hr.
I follow the route with eyes hijacked by memories; then I trace it with my fingers, plowing damp sand — my sculptures tumble. For a moment I am a child again, a petulant little god. I ball my fist and obliterate the model. Only the route is left — a drunken O in the sand.
The Monaco Grand Prix is three days away.
Angèle peels off her shirt and heads for the water. Fifty years after Le Pen’s death, she’s still the only Arab girl I’ve seen who will bare her tits on French beach.
I want to join her in the water. The afternoon has steam-ironed my face and my shirt is dripping sweat. I want to dive into sea so cold it churns the gut, but I can’t risk getting seawater in my jacks this close to a race.
It’s sunset. The haze turns brown and rotten before Angèle reaches the diving tiers.
When she falls her silhouette is sharp and black as the wave shadows, a black slash piercing a hyphenated surface. I think of trajectories, Gs and vectors, fire masks, halogens, wheel jacks and robots, flags like bunting and visors filled with dunken kanji.
The jack behind my anus is itching.
I turn my back to the sea. The twin towers guarding the harbor are peach, gray, black; the colors sharp and entwined like a fractal surface.
We walk to town along the seawall. The houses have moldings above the door — sextants and galleys scoured to shadows by the salt air.
We try l’Ocean — maybe a room with a view across the harbor? It’s hard to tell which they dislike most: my English or her color. We move on, through the arcades to the market. A man is hosing the forecourt with seawater. The gutters are full of tabloids and endive.
We get a room above a cafe with a view of the market roof. We fetch our luggage from the station. Angèle lays her PC at the foot of the bed, pulls out the IBCN lead and crawls about the
floor cursing. We miss the first five minutes of Danseuses Nouvelles.
They came from Dijon a year ago and they’re top of the TVP ratings. They dance to Salieri and Skinny Puppy, to De Machaut and The Crucial Bridging Group.
They are a women-only company and espouse the politics of the Programme Pour Femmes Fermes — the Agenda for Expressionless Women. Last year the French parliament, outraged by the atrocities of Août ’34, placed a media ban on the Programme. The Amazons of the Sorbonne and the Académie Julienne are silenced now, but Danseuses Nouvelles, whose pieces grew out of their more sober semiotic researches, have never been more popular.
Few have forgotten or forgiven the sack of the Sacre Coeur, the onstage emasculation of Bim Barn’s lead guitarist or the siege of the Jeu de Paume.
And yet —
A glamour surrounds Danseuses Nouvelles. They weave space in strange, half-grasped rhythms. They convey strange messages, performing warped yet familiar roles with an inhuman grace. They are the Programme’s dream in its pure state — a glimpse of the end, uncompromised by violent means.
Their performances whisper of the world the Programme believes is to come: the world of strong women.
After the show Angèle and I make love. I lay my head on her shoulder. She turns and strokes my hair. I lift her face up and kiss her lips. We sink back onto the bed. My fingers play with the buttons of her bodysuit. I slip a hand under the cloth and stroke her breast.
Angèle unbuckles my pants and pushes them down. She strokes the well of my erection through damp cotton. Her mouth is on my nipple — a wet, warm pulse over my heart.
I fumble the bodysuit down to her waist and stroke her legs apart. She shifts position on the bed. I slip a finger inside her, and stroke the firm dome of her cervix.
It is love with a fluid rhythm. There is a sweet, shared violence to it. Angèle gasps and clutches at me, the bed, anything; I gaze into her widening eyes. There, in the wet blankness of the pupil, I can see them. I gaze closer, closer — Angèle’s tongue flicks at my chin and I catch it in my lips, my teeth, suck at it like a baby put to the breast. Danseuses Nouvelles — missionaries from the land of strong women — are dancing in her eyes.