“This city is not made for me,” Marjorie said as she flicked her cigarette into the ashtray.
It wasn’t as if anyone was there to hear her complaints. Still, she brought the cigarette back up to her chapped lips and took a breath in. Bitter, tart. Outside it was raining; mocking her for not having seen the sun in days. Stretching, her joints squeaked. Each gear in her bones felt rusty, creaking from being bent over her typewriter. Reaching for her coffee, she drank it slowly while watching droplets of rain raced down her window. The coffee had long since lost its warmth, thick from being undisturbed. Marjorie sat there, consumed in the musty silence of her studio apartment. How long had it been since she came here? Two months? Two years? It might’ve been ages since she had last been in the French countryside. She had come to Paris with the intent to write a novel, such is the dream for any passively romantic young woman. Yet, each morning she sat at her typewriter, with the same cup of coffee on the desk and the same brand of cigarettes between her teeth. She didn’t feign disinterest in her new surroundings, despite its lack of insulation and onslaught of noise from the traffic outside. After a year of attempting to move past the only sentence she loved, determination kept her at her seat. She’d long cut herself off from friends, family and a decent shower.
She, quite frankly, craved a damn good cinema.
The first sentence of the novel hung over her neck. She cradled it over and over in her palms, like a newborn child. Every time she attempted to write the next sentence, it seemed ugly and barren. So she crumpled it up, and began again. And she began again, she began again so often that her floor was littered in paper, surrounding her bony ankles. But a sentence alone does not become a novel, and a sentence does not sell. Marjorie punched at the keys, hoping something would appear on the paper. Instead it just became another addition to the clutter of her apartment. Putting out her latest cigarette, she shifted from her chair. As she got up, she made her way to the window and pressed her face against it. It was cool, refreshing against her skin, damping her hair. She had cut most of it off, in what might be called a break of insanity. Though, she just preferred to it as artiste spontaneity. Closing her eyes, Marjorie allowed herself to stay there for awhile. A minute passed, rolling over into five.
Knock. A singular knock, heavy as a boot on a floor but not invasive enough to upset her.
It came again, and this prompted Marjorie enough to stand and walk her way to the door. As she opened the door, she came face to face with a boy. This boy was in fact, supposed to be her delivery boy. Delivery of Chinese food, since it was all she could afford. Yet the regular boy was gone, replaced by one much smaller, and much less attractive. Not in the sense he was ugly, but so bland that no woman would ever consider bedding him. Opening her door, she let him in. He walked to her desk, eyes flittering between her muteness and the layers of paper mounding against the desk’s legs.
Marjorie reached into her pocket for a 5 Euro bill, “Here,” she said handing it towards the boy.
The boy took it gingerly, crumpling into his pant pocket.
Marjorie eyed the boy; he couldn’t have been older than fifteen. His voice shook as he spoke, falling up and down an octave.
“Where is Ansell?” Marjorie inquired, referring to the former delivery boy.
“He is ill, mademoiselle. I am Emile, the new delivery boy till Ansell is better.”
Marjorie nodded in contemplation, lighting herself another cigarette and puffing at it gently. Emile turned to leave and was almost out the door when Marjorie stopped him.
“Oui?” asked Emile, looking quite nervously at the gangly figure of Marjorie, hanging over him with the cigarette hanging from her lips.
“Ansell sits with me when I eat,” Marjorie remarked, closing the door.
“Ah,” Emile replied and sat down on the windowsill, appearing fidgety as Marjorie opened her cartons of fried rice and General Zao’s Chicken.
Marjorie hummed as she dug into her food, taking a moment to amusingly shout, “C’est la vie à Paris.” This is life in Paris.
A moment passed between them. It then sidled into a longer moment, the only sound of Marjorie emptying the cartons into her skinny frame.
“Are you writing a novel?” asked Emile, blatantly surrounded in failed attempts of genius and sitting right next to the typewriter.
Marjorie managed to control her juggling between the food and a new cigarette to mumble, “It’s drawn down to writing a second sentence.”
Emile looked over to the only paper lying flat on the desk. He picked it up and mused over the line. Done with it, he put it back.
“There hasn’t been a good cinema out for awhile…” Marjorie continued eating and soon, the rain slowed down and outside began to darken. It couldn’t have been more than forty minutes as they sat there in mutual silence. Emile had now resigned to lying on the floor, facing up at the ceiling. He watched as Marjorie began stacking the empty cartons on top of each other, an Eiffel tower, and sinographic insignia on all its sides.
“Why can’t you write the next sentence?”
“I’ve been asking myself that for months,” Marjorie muttered, teeth working around the tobacco.
“How old are you?” Emile, as any young boy was, determined to not let an awkward silence occur.
Marjorie pondered this for a moment before stating flatly, “Twenty-six.”
“You look as young as my sister, she was nineteen.”
Marjorie decided to indulge the boy with curiosity, “What happened to her?”
Marjorie wasn’t usually this talkative. She typically just ate, tipped Ansell, and went back to sitting at her typewriter. Perhaps she pitied the boy. Yes, she pitied this boy who was so bland and sad. It doesn’t hurt a starving artist to pity someone other than herself.
“My sister was nineteen, and very pretty,” his voice cracked, but Marjorie didn’t mind, “it was a couple summers ago, she was with her boyfriend on his motorbike when they crashed. It was on a Sunday, which was her favourite day. She believed all life’s adventure could begin on Sunday when everyone was in church, singing to a man who as she claimed didn’t exist. It was Easter Sunday, which my mother claimed to be fitting as it was the most holy holiday to die.”
He was just as crazy as she was. Or at least, that’s what she thought. He had the mentality of a derived artist, that was for sure. Emile at that point had stood up, claiming it was time to head back home. Marjorie pulled out the money she had from her pocket and stuffed a couple Euro coins into his pocket, more than she usually gave Ansell.
“Au revoir,” Emile said as Marjorie closed the door behind him.
Marjorie didn’t leave the door. She stood there, puzzling over words in her head. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Within a second, she found herself running back to her desk. Grabbing her typewriter, she pulled it towards her. The chair rocked with the viciousness that Marjorie exerted on it from the rush back to the novel. For the first time in a year, her fingers began to type away at the keys with a purpose behind them. It might just be another burst of genius which would then dwindle into another crumpled paper. Even though it could become a jumble of nouns, verbs and dead words, Marjorie felt a force as she ticked away. And within a few seconds, it was there. Beaming, shining at Marjorie like the sun which had eluded her for so long. The next sentence, fragile as the first was now sealed in the tiny hammers connecting with black ribbon.
She, quite frankly, craved a damn good cinema. But it could wait till Sunday.