The bricks are cold and rough against the back of my head as I lean
against an apartment wall in a room I've never seen. A musky scent of
hashish and cedar hangs in the air, at times obscured by the
never-ending cigarette clasped firmly between my fingers. It's warm in
here, both the air and the furnishings put me at ease and soothe my
tense spirit. Ancient, dusty Persian rugs cover the worn floorboards,
held in place by mismatched couches and weathered wooden chairs. I don't
know how I got here, but I am remarkably content.
An old man enters, sitting on one of the couches and beckoning me to do
the same. His hair, although thinning, is remarkably red, as is his
bristly beard. In his hand, he holds a hefty pipe of briarwood and
tortoiseshell. Clouds of smoke obscure his grinning face, giving off a
rich smell of cherrywood and warmth. As I sit, he hands me a steaming
cup of coffee that rattles on a broken saucer in his trembling fingers.
His hands are lined and spotted, having seen more in their long lifespan
than I ever will. Though the old man's eyes are friendly and
good-natured, I can tell they have beheld terrible things, heartbreak
and death and sorrow, but they also teem with love, adventure and
I can hear the wind outside, coupling with the lonely, mournful call of
a single, circling gull. The only window in the room is covered
completely by heavy drapes of a rich burgundy. Something compels me to
look out, I begin to rise, but I feel a tug at my sleeve. The old man
smiles, still silent, and hands me the pack of cigarettes I'd left on
his coffee table, almost as if he thinks I am leaving for somewhere. The
smoke from his pipe makes strange and wonderful shapes against the
velveteen air, I nod and shake his hand.
Approaching the window, I am met with some trepidation. I light a
cigarette, drawing deeply and watching the thin, wispy smoke curl up
from my lips. It is nothing like the old man's, but I feel as though it
will be someday. Taking a deep breath, I pull the curtains aside and
stare wide-eyed at the scene before me.
It is night in Arles, the view over the Rhone is nothing short of
spectacular. As I look out, I feel something welling up in my chest,
something deep, earthy and untapped. Then, in an instant, I am ripped
apart at the seams by an otherworldly force. I bleed not red, but
cerulean and gold, staining the midnight sky and inky waters with a warm
yellow light. My body is gone, become part of the cripplingly beautiful
scene before me, and my mind is free to float up, away, puffs of smoke
in the warm French night.