The Road Runner

When I got home that day, the door had been unlocked and I could smell the crepes cooking on my bad stovetop. I smiled, Gaspard was home.

I sneaked up behind him and just stood there for a second admiring his back and his long chesnut hair with beads, string and feathers braided into it. I smiled, I remembered that it was february and it was the time a year they made crepes in France and Gaspard was French.

I didn't know much about his past but I knew France was the country of his soul and he'd rather be caught dead than prepare American-Aunt Jemima®-thick-stuffing-plaster-like-Pancakes, "c'est de la merde" like he said.

He turned around and hugged me, almost choking me to death.

"I'd recognize your footsteps and your smell anywhere." He was wearing an apron and he was smiling with that enchanting smile of his that would make me melt.

"You smell like old books and coffee, you smell like oranges and peach shampoo. It's totally you." He continued.

I smiled, he knew I spent most of my time in the old book's section at the library, that coffee was like a drug, that oranges were my favorite fruit and that I washed my hair with the same peach shampoo for 6 years now. Ever since I met him in fact.

"That brings back memories." I said, without even thinking.

***

I remember the first time we met. We used to pick peaches on the same plant and we often paired up because we were about the same age and English was our first language. I was working to increase my capital and he was working to continue his travelling around the world: he was a hippie, a hobbo, a exentric, a liberal, a musician, a road runner (those are his own words).

We connected quickly, he rarely talked but laughed constantly, I felt comfortable and warm with him: so opposite to my usually timid nature, I could be myself.

After 6 weeks of picking, our contract was over and he was leaving for Pennsylvania to meet up with some friends. I thought I'd never see him again, and though I tried not to show it I was having a hard time ignoring my feelings.

It was the time when I would change shampoo all the time, I'll never forget what he said after we parted from a last goodbye hug. We were both a little immature at that time.

"Your hair. It doesn't smell like peaches."

My answer was lame.

"Well... Yeah, I changed shampoos..."

"Peaches are my favorite fruit, they remind me of you."

"Being compared to a peach is a compliment?"

"More so than being compared to a cow."

"More so that being compared to a cockroach."

He smiled.

"Goodbye, Cow."

"Goodbye, Cockroach."

"Just one question, what's a cockroach?"

I laughed:

"A black, terrible animal that invades dirty houses."

"Ah! Les Cafards, nothing to do with me, but you really are une vache!"

"I hate you."

"Wouldn't it better to part saying: Farewell, my sweet Moutain Rose Peach, ma petite princesse Pêche?"

"Or to say: Promise you will come back, Prince Charming? Hey, by the way do you know I love it when you speak french?"

He looked a me very seriously and answered:

"Je sais."

With that, he smiled and left. And I don't know why, I knew he'd come back.

I never changed shampoos again after that.

***

I shook my head and went back to present day conversation.

"I see you've set the table and opened a bottle of cider."

"You do not imagine all the hardship I went through to get a real Normandy cider, I had to ask a friend to smuggle it for me and apparently he had problems because they thought it was some sort of bomb, but anyway: I got the bottle just on time and it's good traditionally aged cider! Enjoy!"

We had a toast and ate our crepes. They were perfect.

After a few glasses of various alcohols, we both went into "journey to the past" mode and we just kept talking.

"Remember when you showed up at my house in May, I really freaked out that day when the neighbors almost called the cops."

His eyes folded and he smiled.

"Undercover drug addict tries to get into a perfectly normal suburban house by playing guitar till the door breaks?"

"Probably, I think Mrs. Carson locked her kids in front of the TV to avoid them making contact with a bearded/hairy hobbo and the widow on the left, Mrs. Knawler, was probably thinking: "Oh! Another of Kimberly's -dirty, alcooholic, satanic, rock'n'roll addict- boyfriends! That's not surprising, thinking of how often she goes to church, how high she wears her skirts and how often she goes out on Friday's to come back at 3 am!" It must've been hilarious!"

"It was, I'd never been to singing into a suburb and people were acting as if I had a terrible disease like leprosy, or worse... like I hadn't washed for a month 'Attention, c'est un français, il ne se lave pas'!"

"They were so shocked, you were the number one conversation topic for a week, my mom thought she was going to die of embarrassement! But she didn't say anything, she's an angel!"

"Your father didn't look as understanding..."

I knew what he was talking about, I remembered that time where when I was old enough, I postponed my admission at Georgetown University to leave and explore the world with him. My parents were against it, and it only resulted in our quarrel: I didn't keep in touch with them for an entire year.

But my ideals of travelling at Gaspard's side quckily became a nightmare, I couldn't stand the long long trips, the dirty motels, leaving the joyful hippie camps were we stopped for a while, I hated beeing on the move, I hated the road, stopping truck drivers to reach our unknown destination, the fast food and cookies we ate, the rare showers. It was not a life for me. And Gaspard realized it, he simply said:

"Your hair does not smell like peaches."

I was to tired to even mumble that I hadn't taken a shower in days.

"It smells like sweat, and fear and frustration. Kim, do you want to go home?"

He always guessed my inner desires without me even thinking about them, as soon as he said it, it was clear to me. I wanted to go home, study in a good university, maybe one day I'd marry a nice guy, we'd have kids, work 40 hours a week and enjoy our weekends. Such a normal life. I'd let Gaspard have his chance, but I wouldn't wait forever, if he didn't settle down, he'd have to forget about me.

That night, he borowed a car and he brought me home.

It was midnight and I felt like tumbling of fatigue, I kissed him on the lips and I waved a farewell. He took my hand and I turned around.

His eyes expressed pure sadness and they were shining like blue diamonds, he wouldn't cry but I could see he was suffering. I took him in my arms and I whispered:

"It wasn't me you took on your adventure, it was my shadow, someone else. I love you but I can't do it any longer, I just can't... It's my fault."

He pulled me towards him and our lips crashed. He had never kissed me with so much passion, our embrace was hot like ember and if I hadn't heard the key turn from the inside of my parent's house, I think he would've had me, right there, right that instant and we would've made love under the full moon with no care for the world around us.

We parted at the second my mom opened the door and threw herself at me. She was crying of glee and calling me her baby (again). Gaspard stayed back.

My father went out, he didn't say anything but he shot a glare at Gaspard which clearly said: "Your presence is accepted this time because you are returning my daughter but I don't want to ever see you again." My friend took his cue to leave and just before he entered the car he yelled:

" Je t'aime, ma petite pêche !"

I cried like a baby because of the emotion and the stress and my Dad had to restrain himself to not run after the car, pull Gaspard out and punch him: they never were in good terms after that.

***

There was a blank in the conversation.

"So, how's school going?" He asked (again) to loosen the atmosphere.

"Good, it's not anything like road running but it's cool, I've met new people and the classes are really interresting..."

We continued talking for hours, just enjoying each other's presence and drinking glass after glass of wine and different alcohols I couldn't remember.

Every time Gaspard came unexpected, I always cancelled everything I'd planned and we'd always end up making love. Making love to the man you love most is like having a glimpse at paradise. There's nothing on earth that compares to it. We always waited until the last minute, until alcohol and desire started to consume us. It was always a blissfull success.

The next day while I was still asleep, he would leave and I never knew when he'd come back. He kissed me on the cheek and whispered: "I'll be back soon."

The strangest was that he always came back when I needed him the most. When I wished for him to be by my side, he would come.

Some might find it strange, they'd try to find answers, but I didn't care, as long as he came back.

Today was no different from the others, only this time, something was missing. I felt slightly awkward all evening, the bliss of our embrace wasn't as powerful as usual and the next day he didn't kiss me goodbye.

I didn't really pay attention, it just struck me on the moment but it became a problem after I hadn't seen him for almost a year. There was no sign of him, not anywhere on the papers he usually gave his artcles to, no sign of him on his facebook, his friends had no idea were he was and I started to worry. I started to doubt.

I remebered my promise that I wouldn't wait for him forever but maybe he would be the one who would move on before me. The more I thought of that option, the more it's reality hit me. It had to be it. The question was: would I be ready to move on as well?

Time went by, still no news.

Mother got sick that winter, she was withering day by day. I was tense, I was having a hard time keeping up with school and my family, I needed comfort more than ever. My father looked like he was weakening just as fast as my mother was. He was as pale as a ghost and when he looked at me with his empty eyes, I wanted to run. When my mother coughed that she would get better, that it was just a winter flu, as if I was a small innocent child, I wanted to scream. I needed Gaspard.

I received a simple letter from Dakota:

"Kim, Merry Christmas! I'll be back soon, hope everything's okay, a surprise is waiting! Love, your french lover Gaspard."

At the time it filled me with hope but weeks went by and he didn't come, I knew that time had no hold on him and that "soon" to him could mean a year but I wasn't in my usual state of mind and I was angry at him. He had forgotten me, he was ignoring me, maybe the surprise was his new girlfriend? Who knew, my heart was full of bitterness and anger, mostly because I didn't know and there was nothing I could do about it.

***

Mother passed away by spring, doctors weren't even capable of telling us that name of her illness. They didn't know. I cried like I never cried before. My studies suffered of my mourning, my soul was torn by the emptiness left by the loss of my mother.

My father was barely alive himself, he was a shadow. He woke up, got dressed, took care his garden, and read the same books over and over again every day. He bought his daily food for the next day, always the same thing. He looked fine from afar, but he was a zombie, he was doing the same things he had done for years, mechanically, without thinking. He was lifeless.

I was lifeless. I went to class, studied my books, ate and went to bed. I woke up the next morning with no memory of the things I'd learned the day before. I couldn't focus, I didn't listen, I needed someone.

My friends were supporting me, they understood my grief, they took me out and I smiled and laughed and I played along. But in the inside, I had no idea what was going on. I was completely lost inside my own head, I wanted to find my way back to sanity but I didn't know how.

***

One evening, have no idea when, an unexpected guest came to visit. My father. His eyes didn't look as empty, his face wasn't as pale and he had a hint of a smile on his face. For the first time in weeks, I felt something stir in me and I threw myself in his open arms.

We spent the entire evening talking. He left Sunday afternoon and we both felt that maybe we were on good way to reconciliation with ourselves. It would take time and hardship, and things would never be like they were before but we'd manage.

I'd manage. My father's visit had told me one thing, I was ready to move on. If Gaspard never came back, I'd find a way to live without him.

***

It had been almost 3 years since the last time I'd seen him, now I know how a year can seem long to people you love, 3 years is like a knife in the heart.

It was a day of autumn, rainy and boring.

The doorbell rang. I opened the door and saw a tall, handsome salesman standind on my welcome mat.

"Good morning Miss, are you interested by some wine perhaps?"

I smiled, I'd guessed who he was the second he spoke, he could hide his looks but not his voice.

"No thank you, sir, I have no one to drink with."

"Vraiment? I could take some time and help you in your task."

"Then I'll take 3 bottles, your best red, your best white and champagne."

"Champagne's for celebrating."

"This is a celebration."

I let him in and closed the door behind him.

"Gaspard! What took you so long?" I couldn't wait any longer, I needed his grasp, his warmth, his embrace. It had been so long since I hadn't seen him and I couldn't just stand there while I was acking for his love.

He almost crushed me, he held me against him and I had the feeling he'd never let me go, which was exactly what I wished for. I never wanted him to leave again.

After what seemed like an eternity, we parted and in my haziness I could only say:

"Gaspard, your hair..."

"I cut it, like Samson cut his hair for Dalila, I cut my hair for you but insteed of loosing my strenth, I loose my freedom, but for an infinitely better reward: being at your side and protect you forever."

My mouth dropped. I was speechless.

"Before you wonder where the heck I got that from, I'll tell you it comes from an interresting book called the Bible, remanied by an interresting magazine called "PsychoMag", it's french, you see I realised how much I needed you the day I met a guy named Oscar, he was a pan flute player and we ran roads together for a few weeks and he told me that he was exploring the world because the world was the only thing he had left since his true love, Emily left him for another guy and when I told him I left my true love in Washington DC, he was shocked and he said that I must leave and join you before you'd leave me and than I'd realise it's too late. I pondered his words and indeed I left my hobbo life and got a job, and then when I felt like I my job was stable enough I left to tell you the news and I didn't tell you anything for so long because I wanted to surprise you and then I realized it was stupid because 3 years is a long time and you might have moved on so I was really afraid when I came here, I thought I'd meet your new boyfriend or something so I decided to do everything by the rules (I read them "Best ways to seduce her" section in Psychomag) and came here in a suit with flowers but I forgot the flowers and..."

"Gaspard, when you're nervous, you talk to much, get to the point!"

"I'm staying with you. No more trips, no more road running, no more..."

"Leaving?"

"Yeah, guess that came up a lot, I was really stressed out and... I forgot! I wrote a poem for you! It's in french, the language of romance, I came up with the words:

Une odeur de pêches flotte dans les bois,

Je sens que c'est toi, mais tu n'es pas là,

L'odeur me prend de folie, me rend fou de toi,

Et je n'ai qu'une envie, c'est de te serrer dans mes bras.

A scent of peach fills the woods

I feel like it's you, but you aren't anywhere

The scent drives me crazy, crazy of you

And I have only one wish, it's to..."

"Shut up..." I said and I wrapped him in my arms and kissed him passionately, like I never kissed him before.

Je vous laisse imaginer la fin...