As I listen to the melody of this old song on the gramophone, even though the tune crackles slightly under the weight of the needle, I am reminded of our last days together. In particular, I remember the first time I spotted you leaning over the balcony of your Mother's trellis, this sad tune floating through the window.
The leaves had choked their way up the white woodwork then, the heavy perfume of the flowers threatening to overwhelm me in such a way that I felt weary.
For I was only a boy then... So very young and ignorant of all the things in Montmartre. I had come to Paris, like so many of my comrades, to chase a dream. It was so different here from home, the lights were so very bright and glamorous, people seemed so friendly. Women, in particular, I remember becoming enamoured of them. Courtesans and Prostitutes, Models and street Wenches. Every single one of them seemed to have something special, some force that drew naive young men like bees to honey. Where I had come from, no one seemed this free.
I was lost in the swirling romance of it all. I engorged myself upon sweet after sweet delicacy that Montmartre had to offer. I took inspiration like I drew breath, painting everything I saw, everything I touched, and everything I experienced.
In that one lonely summer I thought I had become a man, but my image of such a thing faded the very moment that the stars of heaven seemed to sparkle in your eyes. Everything I had learnt, everything I thought I knew disappeared from my mind in such a way that I felt newly born. Once again I was the ignorant boy from a small hamlet in Luxembourg, nervous and scared, and neither my long blonde hair nor my stubble that I was so proud of could hide it.
I did not know why I could not take my eyes from your face... I did not know why I could not turn and walk away, back down the path to the brothel I had just come out of, and forget you forever.
I... I suppose such things are wishful thinking.
My eyes stayed upon you as I stood in your garden, dumbfounded, until you were called inside. Even then, I could not move. For my very heart seemed to be doing turns in my chest. It took a while for one of my friends to get me to return to our merrymaking, though mine was not even half hearted, nor a quarter hearted, nor anything.
I felt as though with a single smouldering glance, you had stolen it from me. More lithe and graceful then an assassin in the dead of night, you were the keeper of my soul.
I came home... to my rundown flat... And I looked at every canvas my brush had ever touched. Every paper my pencil had graced, and every lyric that had fallen from my tongue.
And I destroyed every single one of them.
I know the look on your face at the present moment very well... I know that you must be in complete shock, for you thought that you knew me inside and out.
But my love, you must understand. Up until that point, every piece of work that I had done was flawed. Shallow and unreal, none of them could dare compare to the living Goddess that I had laid eyes upon that very night. None of them seemed to contain a single ounce of feeling, they fell short miserably.
I had seen perfection, and I was desperate to capture it.
The summer seemed to end so soon that year, and before I knew what was happening I had found myself in the harsh winter of Paris. The boarding house I lived in was not fortunate nor well equipped enough to afford electricity nor gas, and I found myself hoarding any scrap of cloth to put on my body. It was desperately freezing, the moment I would get enough money for coal and turf to heat water, it would freeze over again. My meager wages from working sweeping hair at a saloon quickly diminished.
I was not the only one finally facing the cruel realities of Paris. I suppose I was quite lucky enough to make rent, as half of my comrades found themselves out on the blistering streets. Three of them I would never see again... What happened, we shall account over that later.
All throughout that long winter, as I lived from scrap to scrap, I found myself following you from afar. I did not care what the temperature was, as long as I was allowed to sate my need to see you only a little bit. I would set out first thing after work every single day, pouring every street, nook, and cranny. I would walk past your house again and again... All the while thinking of your face... imagining the sound of your voice... the touch of your hand.
Never once did you come out.
I could not blame you, if I lived where you did I would stay inside as well. I was lovesick in the highest degree... As long as you were safe, warm and fed that thought seemed to comfort me.
It is odd, I know. I felt such a torrent of emotions for you after only seeing you one time. But I implore you, I swear on every tear I've shed, they were real. From the moment I laid eyes on you I felt as though I had known you from someplace before, long ago.
Each night I would go home exhausted, and try to capture your image as it was in my mind on canvas. But what came forth from my brush was only a wisp of memory, barely an illusion echoing off the shores of my heart. I tried to imagine your smile, but each time I painted it, it would only seem to smirk slyly at me. As if saying, 'I know of your torment. I know of your madness. And I enjoy every second of it.'
My dreams were filled of you... you would do so many things to me. Torture me with your caress only to draw it away again, give me a taste of your lips only to breathe poison into me afterward. Sometimes you would cry, and hold me as I did the same. Rocking me back and forth as I prayed for Death to be so kind as to take me when I was locked in your embrace. You would tell me that I was not the only one to suffer, and that you too felt the pain of being separated from me.
I lived in a world halfway between life and death.
Spring, as it does with all things cold, seemed to thaw my icy heart. As the icicles from my rooftop melted, a sort of calm sanity decended over me. I would sit on my balcony, sighing and watching the passersby on the street below. Sometimes I would bring my paints and canvas out with me, to capture mindless scenery. They, like the rest of my paintings from the winter, ended up discarded, lying face down against walls. I still did feel as though I could breathe life into anything, it all seemed quite dead to me.
By this time I had given up all hope of seeing you again. I still walked past your house, but only once a day, and only out of habit it seemed. Sometimes I would glance at it, othertimes I could not bear to. For you had still not shown your face. Your shutters were still closed, your hallways empty and dark, and your garden overgrown.
I did not know where you had gone.
It seemed as though your presence had faded with the winter.