Ft. Lauderdale, Fl USA
My fantasy muse seems to be on vacation and I find myself writing about true events in my life. This is one.....
The night was cold and freezing as I watched the snowflakes dance
Down quiet and deserted street in that small town in France.
The gas lamps cast an eerie glow o'er streets now painted white
And not a sound was heard to break the stillness of the night.
Strasbourg is a quaint town, picturesque in every way.
Long avenues wind through the town, botiques along the way.
It's known for many churches, steeples rise majestically
Creating skyline silhouettes no less than heavenly.
I must confess, however, 'twas not churches on my mind
In that delightful city on the west bank of the Rhine
For I was just a soldier at the age of twenty-one
Who liked to visit Strasbourg for some adolescent fun.
I'd made the rounds of smoky bars and after-hours cafes
(A young GI was always welcome way back in those days)
I laughed and joked with locals, drank a bit more than I should
And, by the time night ended, I was feeling rather good.
So there I was, at 2 AM, in my Renault Dauphine...
One of the coldest winter nights that I had ever seen.
The snow came down with vengeance as I slowly drove along
When, suddenly, with little warning,.....there was something wrong!
Looking back, I know now that my fusebox went berzerk.
My heater, wipers, radio and headlights wouldn't work!
The snow came down so wet against the glass I couldn't see
And driving anywhere was an impossibility.
I parked my car against the curb while cursing at my luck
Then held my knees close to me in a make-shift fetal tuck.
I'd have to wait until the dawn got light enough to drive
Assuming, by some miracle, I chanced to be alive!
How long had I crouched in that state of agony? Who knows?
My mind was drifting - I could feel a numbness in my toes.
Unending shivers through me made my body ache with pain....
And then I heard the sound of tapping on the windowpane.
I thought my mind was playing tricks due to my weakened state.
The winter storm was raging and the hour was very late.
No one would surely be outside - the weather was too poor!
'Twas just a dream........and then I heard the tapping sound once more.
I used my hand to wipe away the ice film from the glass
And saw a smiling, pretty face of some young Strasbourg lass,
A lady of the evening selling temporary bliss.
She had to be quite desperate to work a night like this!!
She pointed to a doorway as she motioned with her hand,
Then did it twice, then one time more so I would understand.
She wanted me to follow and, though I am not a prude,
My frozen state of torture didn't have me in the mood!
I gave my head a sideways shake to say I wouldn't go
But she grew more insistent as she stood there in the snow.
I must confess my mind was swayed by thoughts of indoor heat
So, finally, I jumped out and we ran across the street.
The room ws sparsely furnished - bed and table, two small chairs.
I don't think she'd been too successful peddling her wares
But I was grateful for the warmth the heater could provide
And happy I was there instead of in the car outside!
She didn't speak much English and my French was very small
So we could not communicate or say too much at all.
I'm sure I looked an awful mess - that much I could surmise
By all the sympathetic looks I saw there in her eyes.
So there I stood, quite miserable, my hands and feet still numb
While waiting for the proposition I was sure would come
But she just smiled and looked at me, then took my hand, instead
And laid me down, still fully clothed, and tucked me into bed.
I guess I fell asleep the minute that I hit the bed.
When I awoke, in place of darkness, there was light instead.
Bright sun was streaming through the glass - the falling snow was gone..
The streets were paved with diamond-dust that sparkled with the dawn.
I raised my head and saw her sitting on a kitchen chair
With eggs and bacon on two plates with coffee waiting there.
She motioned me to join her and I did so, happily,
Unable to believe this fortune that had come to me!
We couldn't really speak so we just smiled and moved our hands
To speak in ways that only mutes and infants understand.
I rubbed my belly as I licked my lips in ecstacy....
She put her hands together, bowed, and softly said, "Merci".
I then got up and pointed at my watch to let her know
That, though I had enjoyed it, it was time for me to go.
Her smile was understanding as she took the plates away
Then walked me to the door and smiled to speed me on my way.
I took some Franc notes from my pocket, held the money out
But she looked at me stonily, her lips now in a pout.
She closed her hand around mine as she pushed it back to me
Then gently smiled to let me know her kindness had been free.
She put her hand up - "Wait a minute!", this small gesture said
Then turned and grabbed on of the blankets lying on the bed.
She placed it in my hands and ,with what English she had learned,
Told me to bring it back to her whenever I returned.
I felt tears well up at this act of generosity.
A hooker in a small apartment doing this for me!
I learned then not to judge one by the things one might have done
For graciousness and kindness can be found in anyone.
I saw a picture of her on the dresser in a frame...
She saw my glance, removed it, found a pen and signed her name.
She placed the photo in my hand with smile that said it all...
I read the words she'd written...RAPPELEZ-VOUS MOI, Chantal.
So that was that - I drove back home in cold of winter's day.
The blanket she had loaned me kept me warm along the way.
For two weeks I did soldier things until my next break came
And I drove back to see the girl with such a pretty name.
The neighbors said they didn't know why she had up and gone.
"Those kind". said they, "are apt to spend their whole lives moving on."
The room was bare, the bed was stripped, no trace of what had been....
Chantal became a memory I would never see again.
Two years later I got married to a pretty wife.
One year after that a daughter came into my life.
I named her Dominique, the heroine of The Fountainhead
(a book, coincidentially, that she has NEVER read!)
Two years went by when, suddenly, another daughter came.
My wife asked me one evening if I'd come up with a name.
My mind went back to France - one special night there to recall
And, in my mind, I saw her as I gently said "Chantal".
For over thirty years now, there's a gal somewhere in France
Who has a namesake in the states and it is not by chance...
A payment for a favor not forgotten by a guy
Who held the memory dearly though the years went passing by.
I have a little fantasy imagination holds
That I envision happening before I get too old.
I picture that my poetry will bring me wealth and fame
And many fans around the world will recognize my name.
I picture, there in France, a woman in her seventies,
Hands frail with age and nylons reaching only to her knees.
I see her reading this same poem and see her mind recall
A soldier on a snowy night and know that SHE'S Chantal.
Of course it's just a fantasy that I'm sure won't occur
But just in case it does, kind readers, this poem is for HER.
RAPPELEZ-VOUS MOI she said to me and I can still recall
That winter's day in France she wrote, REMEMBER ME.......Chantal.