Every so often (weekly at the moment), I’ll be writing a commentary about a story from EMPTY ROOMS LONELY COUNTRIES. I’ll tackle the stories in the order they appear in the book. Given the nature of this exercise, I cannot guarantee that I won’t spoil specific details from the story. So you may want to return to the commentaries here when you’ve finished reading the book. If I don’t address an aspect of the story you were interested in, by all means leave a question at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to answer it.
And here we are in the middle period before I ended up in Poland. This was the trip that reminded me that it was time for me to make my way to Europe. A week in Paris does that to an American. Those paying attention to the earlier stories will recognize Emily. The story of our meeting in London and Paris isn’t given in the book, and honestly, I don’t think it’s necessary.
“Paris” repeats a couple of the motifs that’s been prevalent in Empty Rooms Lonely Countries, from metafictional encounters to a fairy tale within a framing story, and I really like how it comes together here:
Papillon had never been called before the Fairy King before. She wasn’t afraid of the Fairy King, but she was certainly nervous. The night before, she could barely sleep. She found herself floating above her bed riddled with anxiety. When morning came, she put on her best blue fairy clothes and flew to the castle. On the way, all of the children begged her to come play with them, and every bakery smelled of chocolate; there were a hundred distractions to make Papillon late for her meeting with the Fairy King. She made it, however, with plenty of time to spare.
I also like how the story is setting you up for it being a love story and then it becomes something else entirely. Granted, when it was happening, I’m confident I wouldn’t be able to say that. The fallout from this story carries over into “Bookends” and helps to conclude the South Tampa portion of the book.
It’s funny how I have no photographs from this trip. It’s as if the memory only exists in the story now. No matter how it played out, I’m thankful for this experience, as I simply would not be where I am today without it. Which, I feel, is the most important part of Empty Rooms Lonely Countries, the acknowledgement that all this pain and missed opportunities happened for a reason, to provide me with happiness and newer opportunities later.
Try telling that to younger me though.
The night was starting to build confidence. The wind was gentle. My feet were sinking into the sand; I could feel the Earth between my toes. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The world turned dizzy. I fell back, landing on my ass. My empty beer bottles shifted in the sand. The stars were waking up. I tried to swat the stars away like fireflies. In response, the constellations formed the faces of all my past lovers. They looked down on me like judgmental goddesses. When I had enough of their stares, I stood back up. I faced the ocean and felt insignificant, like an afterthought to the idea of loneliness. The waves kept insisting I listen; each wave seemed louder than the last.
NEXT TIME: “Bookends”
#1 “Cowboys and Indians”
#2 “Little Conundrums”
#2.5 “Playing With the Dead”**
#3 “The Illusion of Swing”
#4 “Kicking Love’s Ass”
#5 “On Being Velma-less”
#6 “Muted Porn”
#7 “Defying Gravity”
#8 “The Fifth Ocean”
#9 “One Dead (Potted) Plant”
#10 “Remembering Drajra”
#11 “Pancakes, Wishes and Other Tales”
#13 “Before Waking”
#15 “This is Not for You”
#16 “The Mariachi”
#18 “Paying the Tab”
#19 “Father Groove”
#20 “Geneva Street”
#21 “A Lot Like the Ones Back in High School”