And that’s the way it was (All the girls do it)

Image of Hugonem


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At the top of a hotel in 39th Street a customer was looking through the wide bay window of his suite (the 261). The rain had stopped but the customer could not have wiped the large cold drops stagnating against the window outside of which the chassis was condemned - Suicide forbidden -. He should let do the blowed up wind of the Atlantic take over according to the irregular rhythm of the gusts sweeping the city since dusk.
And what else behind the cold drops ? Decidedly that customer was not interested as any ordinary tourist by the Empire State just to his left. The Empire was illuminated in three colors rising along its facade. A facade that narrowed towards the summit, due to its design controlled by the Zoning Resolution code, established in 1916.
On the other side to his right, a vast space appeared, occupied by an aerial parking lot storing the cars one on top of the other in open structures of steel beams where the valet guy was transferring them by aerial lifts. In the courtyard, a huge inscription painted on the wall recited a verse of the Bible. The Bible in its version of the 21st century : Stop Praying, God’s too Busy to find you a parking spot.
Less far than God, in the terminal dedicated to the Port Authority Bus between the 9th and 10th, all the buses put in impeccable order for the night were proposing each one their wide four-digit numbers painted on their white roof. Seen from the 26th floor, it looked like it has been impossible to slip a debit card between them.
Empire, Bible, debit card : none of all this was interesting the customer of the 261.
The customer glanced towards the building just across the street on the south side of the 39th. A scene had attracted his attention : behind a Persian blinds, an undressed young woman bustled : she was thawing in a microwave a ready dish, probably bought when exiting of work one hour before at the Duane Read shop of the bus station.
That would be her only meal of the day. The young woman has appeared bare legs, the rest of the body covered with a single short jacket of unbuttoned pajamas. Pajamas belonging to an ex-lover who had abandoned it to her because she had abandoned him ? or was it a lover still in progress who had gone for a few days for a congress in Carnegie Washington ? or even, a secret lover remained to spend the night at his lawful wife.
But, maybe she just has bought the jacket herself for taste ?
Watching the erotico-culinary show developing in the apartment across 39th Street, the customer of 261 was not a voyeur. Since this client was a woman. A very pretty young woman ; divine goodness that Chimène could be beautiful.
She arrived that night from Newark Airport. When she presented her passport to the immigration official, identified as Comford according to the inscription on the golden badge brightening her black uniform, he had been rather unpleasant. He was not without reminding the West Side Story officer Krupke by his attitude of contempt. It must be said that Chimène was too provocative of beauty, so she could read in Comford’s eyes at once a violent concupiscence and the suspicion hardly retained that such a beautiful girl could come to New York only to engage in prostitution.
In the 261, television was now broadcasting the midnight edition of a continuous news channel. Chimène had turned off the sound of television... Sounds of silence. Perhaps the name of the unbuttoned pajamas woman was Mrs. Robinson. Chimène smiled for herself.
She turned to the kitchen at the entrance of the suite. She had forgotten her instant coffee ; cold. Anyway, she didn’t now want to.
Opposite to the kitchen, the doors of the open closet were covered by a full-length mirror and sent its image back to her. She was hardly more dressed than the girl in the pajamas jacket across the street. Chimène left the sight of her own almost naked body reflected in the mirror and returned to the American fridge suggesting the urge for an ice-cold beer.
Then, Chimène, her lips moistened with foam, resumed her intrusion towards the apartment of the building in front where the girl in pajamas always evolved standing and eating the hot meal from the microwave. Chimène watched, deprived of the reigning sound in the girl’s apartment - just as she could watch on her TV the night edition scrolling her breaking news unnecessarily without the volume. The girl across the way might as well have been Chimène herself : in another life. Is the life we are living the life that was vested in us ? Didn’t Chimène walk next to her own life?
A feeling of embarrassment had seized her. What was she doing in such a luxurious suite ? Rather, she should have gone to rent a bed in these tenements where tens of thousands of immigrants had failed in New York for over a century.
The double glazing was removing the rise of all the noises of the city up to her twenty-sixth floor : the strident sirens of ambulance or police cars, of fire-fighters trucks, all that piercing the eardrums ; all that she had heard immediately from her exit of Penn Station by the train that had brought her from Newark. The double glazing was eliminating also the raucous noise of compressors for road work just down the street, the grinding of garbage trucks, and some offenses of horns thrown at crossroads and daring to defy the ban stipulated by panels ‘$350 Penalty - DONT HONK’. Considered from the country where Chimène came from, this could only make her smile.
Chimène had turned on his MP3 player and chose the random playback mode. And that’s the way it was the opening of Cosi Fan Tutte: «All the girls do it».
Chimène offered a last vertical look from the sidewalks to the roofs. The city features were appearing : the water towers with their cylinder structure of cedar or redwood boards surmounted by a conical roof, and the external metallic stairs in shape of Z against the facades of the Brownstone buildings. The city where the inhabitants of the whole world wanted to come, paradoxically was exhibiting as its symbols, those of exfiltration services : to extinguish a fire, to evacuate a building.
Chimène was going through in the night now anchored on the city ; the city that never sleeps, and a city that remains an unknown world. A world adorned with an unknown language whose accents Chimène did not always grasp. Sheltered behind her window, she would remain a European full of complexes, even if she was able to answer : NO.
NO, when she did not understand the question asked of her - while an ordinary stranger answered YES not to offend his American interlocutor to a question that remained incomprehensible - Chimène answered NO, because her beauty was so impressive that she could afford to say NO to anyone, whatever the subject of the request.
The pajamas girl opposite had definitively passed in a room at the bottom, leaving the living room lighted and empty. A lighted and empty space, all offered to an external gaze that could see all the lives lost, the lives it will not have. Chimène stood behind the glass. She was in the city. But not belonging to it.
In the midst of the King size bed too much large for a single person, Chimène had laid a book designed to support the next hours of insomnia that will relentlessly come. Its title was "Le Million" written in old French.
Chimène thought it was men like books. The pages of a book are printed on both sides of the sheets. Men are also written on two sides.
And if a sheet represented a man, books side by side from a library could represent the whole world.
Now Chimène don’t have the courage to read. She just wanted to look at a book that would have been opened in front of her ; whose pages would have been turned for her ; the open book was New York City. In the rest of the hours until the dawn will come, Chimène was reassured, a city where one never sleeps, could only be a city where one never dies.


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Champolion · ago
Le récit est très fort . Après en avoir lu la traduction française,je suis retourné lire en américain pour m'imprégner de cette ambiance de huis clos qui n'en est plus vraiment un grâce à "l'autre femme".L'analyse psychologique est très fine, le texte,outre ses références au sage West Side Story ,a les couleurs et les senteurs étranges de "Fenêtre sur cour"de Hitchcock et des "Trois chambres à Manhattan"de Simenon.
Hugonem,tu réalises là une éblouissante réussite pour laquelle je vote avec grand plaisir