Seasoned In Heaven

Guaguin and Samuel John montage For Seasoned in Heaven 3

painting: Montage Gaugin and Samuel John


Opening a gift in silk wrapped papers. Hands trembling with excitement. The moment is frozen in time. No! Not a moment, an event. What am I saying? An Eternity! And not frozen but warm, like hot morning chocolate. Rays of sunlight streaming through the windows. Bread and butter glistening on the table. Eyes mesmerized, hearts sizzling with expectation. To unmask of love the thousand flavors. Ravenous!
We met one sullen evening in Paris. My brother decided to take me out. We were going to meet his friends at a popular restaurant. Having been your sempiternal homebound boy I recoiled. But he would not hear any of it. So I obliged. I had just arrived in Paris perhaps a month earlier. There is nothing like a new city. Everything has the smell of caramel, the flavor of candy, the gusto of your favorite song. As if each step that you take brings you closer to grace.
The restaurant was full. That was Paris in its happy hour. Soon she arrived with her sister and my brother’s friends. As destiny had it, she was seated next to me. The conversations went on. The meal was great, the company was wonderful. I knew some of them from before. A couple years ago they were guests in my parents’ house. Daddy gave them a VIP reception. They had a car with a driver, a maid, free meals and everything else needed to make one comfortable. It was an old tradition. Guests were person of honor and had to be treated well. We developed close friendships that lasted to this day. They were excited to see me, and vice versa. My brother told me that I was like a little brother to them. I felt the same way. We were indeed very close.
I was in Paris in my graduating year. The decision was my dads’, not mine. I was dreaming of crossing Africa on horseback with a camera. I was going to travel through wars zones and capital cities. Taking pictures of social contrast to raise world’s awareness. I made my plans that summer. I knew where to buy the horse and where to start my journey. The Biafra war was going on. That would be my first step. Then I would continue on, all the way to Senegal. Then cross the Sahara desert and follow through all the way to South Africa. I had already begun my journal.
Daddy knew me well and understood that I was planning something. That summer, I had already told him that I was going to study mechanics. Why? He asked. It was out of curiosity, I said. So he introduced me to his job mechanic since their organization had a private mechanic department. The brave old man welcomed me to his shop. He had a wry smile. Not too happy to have this spoiled kid in his environment:

“You’ll be here every morning at 7.00 am sharp! He said. And you better be on time. Ready to be dirty! One day late and it is over. I don’t care what your dad says. This is our rule. And you shall follow it just like anybody else!”

I was not offended by the tone. Nor was I frighten by dirty oil of old cars. However, waking up at five AM, to make it at seven sharp in the morning was a major problem. The fact of the matter was that I was suffering from a heart condition though I did not know about it then. Sleeping was a problem. All my school year I went like a zombie. Summer time was my only reprieve to catch up on an entire years’ worth of insomnia. What he was asking me to do was physiologically impossible. To this day I regret not taking that summer course. It would have helped me greatly. In inventing, since that is what I end up doing. But we shall not cry over spilled milk, shall we?
Seated in our little corners in the restaurant, we were the younger of the bunch. Quiet like doves. We listened to the conversations happening around us, and exchanging civilities with smiles, and gestures. Sharing a dish here, serving a neighbor, offering drinks or gracefully thanking waiters. Out of a sudden we felt ourselves discarded. Rather, we became the center of attention. Not for a long time, but just enough to make us notice. Then they all erupted laughing haughtily. Happily you might say. But we were not laughing.
“Oh! Les tourtereaux! Someone said. (Loving birds?) And the conversation went back to normal. My brother was only four years older than I was. His friends were young too. Folks in the beginning of life. They were all graduate students.
A little embarrassed, we did not know what to do. What? We were Loving birds? But we just met! We did not even know each other! We exchanged a glance. The feeling was mutual, we were dubiously outraged. What were they talking about?
That night as we left the restaurant we exchanged phone numbers. I am not even sure whether we did it on our own or whether someone forced us to do it. I can still hear the laugh. Gentle, friendly, amused. They were angels and they did not know it.
I lived in the southern suburbs in Villejuif. She lived in Paris’s thirteenth district. That would eventually be in the same neighborhood where I would have my first flat as a young man.
Going to her place for the first time was a little challenging. I had to take bus, subway, and walk a great deal. Got a little lost but eventually found my way. She was waiting for me with a smile. There were friends of hers to whom I was introduced. All night we talked. Excited about everything like most young people. We were all artists and dreamers. We talked philosophy, dabbled in society envisioned knew worlds and imagined greater ones. I discovered a French liqueur and had my first bourbon. A taste I will never forget. It was one that inspired a dialogue in one of my plays. It was clear that we liked each other. It was clear to all around us. The night dwindled down to a silent pose. Soon we were left alone, only she and I. It came a time when we looked at each other eyes with sparrow-like innocence. We were seated upon floor pillows and she was next to me. She took my hand and kept it in her palm. It was so warm, so calming, and so endearing. Our eyes found each other and our hands began dancing together. We could have stayed that way all night long. It was pleasant beyond imagination. What is eternity but a moment in time? That night I went back home. Yes! I braved the cold of winter, the lonely walk to the subway, the chilling breeze of winter, and the long wait for my bus to Villejuif. Why? She too wanted to know why. It was simply because I grew up sheltered. I had to go back home.
She said two things that night, two very important things that remained with me forever. These two things that were the mark of my personality, and I did not know it. I had great talents, she noticed to my amazement, for I did not saw myself that way. But there was something missing she said. That was “Enthusiasm!” By that she meant certain buoyancy about life, Perhaps something reminiscent of young Obama. “Oh! Alexis if only you had that! The world would be yours!” The other thing that she noticed was a heart condition that would eventually land me under a surgeon’s scalpel twenty years later.
We met again and again. We were in love. We did not call it love though. We were too afraid of that word. Perhaps it was because we were romantics. We both read all the classic and we loved nineteenth century French writers like Alexander Dumas and Georges Sand. She was a feminist and got me to embrace the movement. Hence my first play: Ahmal/Alevei. Satire of a married woman accused of killing her betraying husband while all along she was innocent.
One day Catherine said to me: “I want you to meet my folks. This vacation I am going to Normandy. And don’t you tell me that you will not come! I am sending you a ticket with all directions. Be there!”
She did as she said.
The post man came one morning on Boulevard Maxime Gorky where I lived with my elder sister Louise; who knew everything about us. He left a mail. In there was my ticket and all the necessary directions. Which train station to go to, the time to board, where I would have to stop, how far to walk, and how to find my way around. She had everything covered. It was so neat, so precise, that even a brigadier general could not have done better. My sister laughed at me, happy that I found someone that loved me dearly.
Catherine was a special lady indeed. Well! A damsel, since we were both very young. She had the most pristine eyes, a heart full of love, and a personality that could charm any crowd. Did I also mention that she was a great intellectual? That was perhaps her most admirable character, though she was very beautiful indeed!
What attracted us that faithful night in the restaurant was divine grace. It was something which was so visible to others, but strange to us. The feeling was akin to something as old as time, yet still fresh as spring. Picture a fourth dimension odyssey. Frequencies in unison embedded in space and time, tied in a tango that only angels could see. Cherubins playing songs, seemingly straight out of heaven. Why? God knows why. Was it innocence? We were not that innocent. Perhaps yes. In some way, we believed in humanity. I still do and I am sure that she still does. We understood our world and loved it too. Racism was foreign to us though we debated it intellectually. We shared the same ideals, and nourished similar dreams. She wanted to travel. Go to England and learn English. I wanted to travel. Go to the USA’s and learn English. So we were dreamers, but also doers for we live to fulfill those dreams. So as strong as we were glued to each other, we were also pulled away by our personal ambitions. Here was an impossible mixture that was going to mark us with the indelible ink of destiny.
Normandy was divine. My first shock was the purple bottle of wine. It was homemade and kept away for the perfect occasion. Saved by her father for this moment she said. Her father was no more, neither was her mother. I saw their pictures in the family room. But her sister and brother were there to represent. They liked me. I like them too though I felt a little awkward at that time, perhaps it was a clash of cultures? Who is to say? I began my childhood in France, so I could not say that I was in unfamiliar territory. Youth it was, I’ll say. After all I was just 19 then. And Catherine was the same age as I. The next morning she took me to the market place where we bought groceries. Then she brought me to her grandmother, her only surviving elder. Her grandmother was a brave lady. The most wonderful person I met in my life. She saw right away that we were in love with each other and that made her happy. We spent some time with her. On the table was the picture of Mr. Chirac that she admired. Since then I learned to respect Mr. Chirac who later became president of France. If a noble soul liked a person so much, there must be something great about that person.
Behind her grandmother’s house was a prairie, a beloved place full of her childhood memories. When she said it, I understood it right away. I recalled moments back home, reimagined the divine flavor of fresh herbs and flowers. I embraced the security of parent’s dwellings not far away, Feeling the familiarity of one’s own compound. That was the pure innocence of childhood. She saw in my eyes that I understood her.
“Let’s go run! She exclaimed. Once again she pulled me by the hand as we bade farewell to her grandmother who looked at us with those eyes that said: “Go children, go! This is your moment. This is your time. Makes the best of it! And that we did.
If you have never ran across the prairie holding the hand of your beloved. You do not know of life the pristine delight of awe. Oh! We felt like we had enough love to share with the entire world!
It was a moment seasoned in paradise. A moment I will never forget for as long as I live. What was it? What is it? We were taken away in the heaven as soon as we jumped hand in hand over the sunny garden of flowers. Time stopped and space vanished. Laughing and singing, we were running like children. We were children. Hand in hand we were dancing with the gods, our hearts beating in harmony, perhaps catching the rhythm of life itself. And time did indeed stop. We were one and that we remained to this day.
When I left for Paris her grandma gave us her Paris apartment. “I want you to be happy! Cathy later told me. I told her that her grandma really loved her. She agreed and we were both humbled by such love.
As days went by, we were suffocating. We were so much in love with each other that we were afraid of it. There was that pull of ambition. That desire to discover the world. As powerful as our attraction to each other was, we decided that in order to save the future we had to nurture the present. That meant to part from each other. It was a difficult decision. My best friend thought that we were crazy. We disagreed. Yet after that important decision, we could not live without each other. We met one last time, and then chastised each other for our weakness. We felt that life was going to dictate itself to us anyway. The only thing we could do was to dictate back to life, our will. We were going to have the audacity to honor our faith in each other as well as life itself. The only way to do that was to dare challenge our own destiny. We had to do it, to keep alive and embed that special moment in our memories forever.
“If one day we meet again and we are still singles, we’ll marry!”
Looking at each other eyes in the apartment her grandmother gave us. We made the decision to break apart. We had chosen certainty over probability.
This was how Catherine and I bade our first farewell. In exchange we got a little diamond called eternity. Well! All did not go that smoothly. It was only a couple of days later and we discovered that we could not live apart. We called each other and met again. This time, it was at her friend place somewhere in Paris. One more ultimate moment, one that will be the last.
Today we are well beyond our prime. We have lived and endured the thousand and one frivolities of life. We met new friends and had countless adventures. Yet that moment in Normandy is still alive and well. Paris will never die. We are young forever, still running freely and happily in the prairie of childhood.

Author: Alexis Maxime Feyou de Happy

Fiction and non Fiction writer. Published books includes: Fairy Tales From Propagamar, Intellectual DNA, Kosmicks, Ahmal/Alevei (theatre), The Book of Quarma, Zirkular, Essence Of Law (translator), The Chronology and a number of French books

Alexis was the CEO of Caryatide 75 Inc. and is now the CEO of Inventors For Hire LLC



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