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Matt and Marie get high, get back together photo

One of our other friends got mugged two blocks from home, two nights in a row. Same place, both times. The exact same staircase. Nearly the exact same step. On the second mugging, our friend had nothing left to mug. The stairs looked dangerous, but they weren’t. Weren’t, we agreed, until the strikes changed everything about nights. Made everything nice about nights into danger. Beautiful, mutual danger. We walked the long distances home, learning new shortcuts because there were no night buses or Métro. The nights were a beauty with people. People out in winter outfits, walking and wishing for safer transport, night buses that were never coming. Walking and waiting to wish, then walking on again, when they’d built up the courage. We walked and we saw couples and groups standing still, waiting out the cold for better options, inviting one another to stay over, saying they really shouldn’t, saying they should really get home, then relenting, agreeing, out of fear, in relief. We saw bars struggling to close, their bartenders nervous about their own journeys home, everyone lingering, working up to giving in. We agreed, one night, finally, to sleep together. So we could all feel safe getting home. We were walking when another group got to walking behind us. We didn’t believe it to be following. We didn’t feel nervous. We were all in groups. And we were together. And we just hoped that they felt safe around us, no worse than us to them. At a quiet place, in a shortcut that would get us home quicker, the other group got closer. One of theirs slipped a hand in the pocket of one of ours, sort of like a handshake. We were at a loss for words. We could not remember our names. All we could think about was screaming. And that was all we did. They screamed back, startled at our reaction. Then we all got quiet and looked at one another and both of us, all of us, looked extremely beautiful.



A Friday on the roundabout, its population mounting, bodies filling the traffic circle from the outside inward. The sidewalks becoming full and then people having to stand in the road. The cars slowing, muted drivers waving in their silent cabs, begging to be released from the scene. The spotlights of the Eiffel turning around in the sky, inescapable. The sound of hellos beating faster, smokers lighting cigarettes, giving cigarettes to strangers, to anyone asking. Everyone smiling, some stepping in the road to hug, to kiss, to be reminded of part-time love, weekend love, love with a beer in hand. The roundabout beginning to roll. Beginning to collapse in on itself. Friends stepping back into bars, more friends exiting bars, friends pushing toward the beech tree, searching for relief, for space to say hello to new arrivals, space to be introduced to new best friends, old best friends they never speak to. Space to smoke. Friendships being pushed to the limits, escaping slightly down the side roads, finding room for discretion, places to be lifted up, to say hello without being seen.

The drugs knew Rachel, Matt, Jude and Léa. Marie, Eli, Pierre, and Sarah. Rach, Matthieu, Judas and Lee, Mary, E, Pete, and Sally. Rachel Justine and Matthew Blake. Jude Butler and Léa Christine. Marie Séverine and Elijah Abraham. Pierre Paolo and Sarah Claude. All eight. They all knew the drugs. But they hadn’t seen each other in years. The drugs were doing well. The drugs were doing fine. The drugs were good. The drugs were good to run into again. The drugs were taller, maybe? Or, stronger? Had the drugs been working out? But then, there was something different about the drugs. Their energy. Their tone. Were the drugs judging? Were the drugs looking down at them? The drugs like drones, lifting? The drugs like new arguments, interrupting? Misinterpreting?

Jesus, these are strong.



            Where’d you get them from?

            Off some guy I know.

            Quel guy?

            Some guy.

            I didn’t know you still knew a guy.

            Just in case. You know.

            For these uncertain times?


            When’s the last time we did this?

            Ça fait longtemps, non?

            A while.

            Why do they have these little ghosts on them?

            Because they’re supposed to be good.

            You probably shouldn’t snort them.

            But I want to. Like we used to.

It’s going to hurt.

Non, ça va être bon.

Très bon. 

God, I can already feel them.

Wasn’t the last time that party out in Clichy?

Like, four years ago?

Oh yeah! Remember Eli?

Remember Rachel, you mean.

Was that the time Marie and Matt…?





You just spilled like a pill’s worth.

Don’t exaggerate. That’s just a key.


The dust worked its way into the capillaries of the asphalt and with winter moisture it dissolved quickly.

Drugs so strong they control the dialogue?


Drugs so good they begin to narrate?


Drugs so bad they raise the dead?


Drugs so pure they free the scene?


The roundabout spun back on itself, clockwise, against traffic. An old Lada honked and pumped its brakes. The roundabout’s eyes rolled back and it could feel the beech tree’s dormant seeds. To the east, the yellow moon of winter, but only winking. And on the ground the yellow moonlight licked. The light warmed white and reddish cells, the crescent shape of moons, slicing quickly through pulsing arteries, down only one-way roads. Directions spilled from out its nose, leaking, accelerating, merging onto streets and highways. In the moon heat, the reds left behind with whites inside turned quickly brown, dried, then let the gutters take them. And in the gutters, now running clean, a needle here and a dented canister. Pleasures eddying the flow.

Why don’t we do this more often?

You’re one to ask.

What does that mean?


What’s everyone think about this shit?

What shit?

This shit everyone’s talking about.

Give us a break man.

Don’t talk about it.

Remember the time we found Jude all the way down in front of the cathedral? What were you debating that guy about?


Of course. Always laïcité.

How did you get all the way down there?

You were fucked.

He did win the debate. That’s for sure.

In the sharp air of a cold midwinter, the scented sounds of the city bloomed. A scooter ripped the night with diesel, and where its wheels kissed the flowing gutter concrete blood and motion rose. Road sent moonward, gaseous now, toward desperate, huffing lungs. An air of pleasure to be passed around. The scent, strong in the nostrils, of boy groups and girls strutting for one another, incapable of anything but to snort and exhale. Jaws grinding and heels grinding and the last strands of street cut freer. The first fears of freedom. The paranoia. The security of other smokers, politeness holding doors that frame the sidewalks, foundations making subtle claims of guilt, scolding the evaporating street and pushing it onward.

Qui a du feu?




Tu es belle toi.

Shut up.

Non. Comme le disent les Américains. Tu es AH-may-zing?

Comment ça se passe avec Nathan?

Behave yourself.


He’s right over there?

Ça va. Ça va faire un an, non?

More like six months.

Vraiment? Seulement six mois?


Tu n'es pas encore défoncée?

Pas encore.

You want to take another?

The smell of the asphalt’s pleasure collects over crowded terraces, where it’s tugged up by their pulsing heaters, thrown down by waiting cold, taken into lips through cigarettes, then blown free to higher vistas. The vents of shuttered bakeries get their turn at it, stealing some of the pleasure to ferment and tint the pastries waiting for tomorrow’s eating. Gas-brushed treats like advertisements, screaming. The night’s fog body builds its odor, hoisting itself into windows above the bakery, the building windows fitted with debating parties. Arms and arguments of parties, spilling out of windows, hands flapping upward in disagreements over politics, fingers whipping and flicking the faulted pleasure a little higher, to better parties, where love is being discussed, one, two, three stories higher. A ladder of stories told and retold, until the inflated roundabout lands upon the roof. The clouds arrive for opportunity, make bravado and dramatic huffs, throw their gusts in a stinging churning, freeing the built environment into the night. And so, this total convection of our pleasure, chemicals converted into more refreshing states, an air of rocks and evolutions. Inklings of things to come. Of things to be. Of things forever bound for our atmosphere. 

            How many did you take?

One and a half.

Slow down big man. It’s only eleven thirty.

Who do you think you are, giving me advice?

Basically your brother, at this point.

Well then I distinctly remember my brother tweaking, thinking he was having a heart attack last time we did these together.

My point exactly.

But your heart attack was a panic attack.

Fuck you.


I asked you not to tell anybody about that.

Sarah must know.

What are you two talking about?


Matt, you ready for another half?

Finally, free to crack its back, the roundabout reached out its arms into the small universe over lower Paris and felt its first true pleasure. The circle kneeled at the sight of what it was connected to, but above the traffic now. The moon grew quickly full at the sight of such pleasure kneeling, wriggling beneath it. Unable to bear it any longer, the roundabout stood and let itself become the breeze. A pleasure in the air. 

I feel like we don’t really see each other anymore.

We saw each other last week.

Not like that. You know what I mean.

What do you mean?

I don’t know.

You know I love you.

Is that the drugs talking?


Well, when you put it like that?

Stop. Things are just weird with work.

But you just got a promotion or something. Didn’t you?

Yeah but it’s confusing.

And Matt just told me you’re buying an apartment.

Trying to.

Why didn’t you tell me?

I don’t know. The bank hasn’t approved my loan, so nothing is certain.

But this is what I mean. Why did I have to hear it from Matt?

Because I don’t know if I’ll get approved.

Of course you’ll get approved. You have a cigarette for me?


We’re spending too much time with Jude and Matt. They’ve got us speaking English.

Putain. We’re just high.

Yes we is.



Putain de merde.

Tu parles encore à Maxime ?

Jamais. Ne-ver.

C’est bien ça. If you ever do, that is something you can forget to tell me about.


Are you talking to anyone these days?

Pas du tout.

That can’t be true.

Believe me. 

The new breeze eyed itself between the needles of the Lebanese cedars that savage Buttes Chaumont. The pride-pleasure of being evergreen set the trees’ parakeets to calling, making the birds greener and less foreign. Pleasure had put them there, on foreign soil, though clearly someone else’s broken pleasure. And in the broken places the birds had fled their bounds and integrated the pleasure-test of northern winters, steadied in the public park. There’s a certain pleasure made mythic by the glory of house pets devolving, escaping their faulted owners, thriving outside human care. The moonlight slapped the cocky smile off one of these parakeets. It squawked and puffed its breast. A young girl out shockingly past her bedtime noticed below, pointed, and began to screech. The girl recognized her sibling, her sister across species, green and hiding in the trees. The girl expressed her pleasure in the French, not the birdsong, and was shushed by her mother’s foreign tongue. Scolded with older, more violent, indecipherable sentences, this daughter answered calmly. No, she was not an embarrassment. She simply had her mother’s pride, but pride of a different place. The mother and her child. The terrifying pride of different self-recognition. The wet calm pride of pleasure that, though strong, cannot prevent our secret crying.

You okay babe?

I’m fine, yeah.

What’s wrong?

Are we bad, for this?

For what?

Aren’t we just a bit old for it?

He’s fine. He’s with your mother. She’s great with him.

I know he’s fine. I’m not talking about him.

You used to love this.

I still do. But isn’t that the problem?

I don’t know.

I know you said you needed this.

I never said that. I said I wanted it.

What is it you want?

The freedom, I guess.

From what?

Not from you babe. We’ve waited to do this until you were ready.

I know. Sorry.

Don’t apologize.

Do you feel good?

Yeah. Do you?



Take another with me? One last time.

It would be my pleasure.

Can we sniff it?

Of course we can. Do you have a bill?

Yeah one second.

And still the wind continues, it spins the air with the pleasure in it. And still, our pleasure. The roundabout. Teasing. Blowing. Licking the earlobes of the smudged and smutty churches. Firming the architecture. Setting the streetlights a little straighter. Then fleeing to the other side of town, its newfound right. Above the gates of the Luxembourg Gardens hang the cold-dead arms of grand horse chestnuts, tree skeletons dead temporarily, like the heat-dead limbs of desert horses. The fear-pleasure of all opportunities occurring before our death. And the sounds that play when wind blows through them. Knocks them down. Underneath the nightshade of the branches stand a group of migrant workers, thick-fingered and dusty from labor, drinking their pleasure out of cans. They huddle together laughing and exaggerating, lying for a pleasure warmth to face the winter with. So much sex in a well-timed joke. So much opportunity for eye contact and a slap on the back. One of the men, of the boys, feels the fear-pleasure of whistling distance, the nearness of his favorite coworker’s swollen shoulders and sweated neck. He bets on the nearsightedness of his other coworkers’ searching eyes. He feels his arm lifting, senses the solitary arm wrestle of fear, of his arm flexed to searching, and of that same dead limb as it pinned itself in shame, the bravery too heavy. The bulk-toned fear of pleasure in saying it can wait, that patience, and the knowing that it really can’t. That it never will.

Thanks for getting these.


You feeling good?


You can’t still be mad.

Can’t I?

It’s a different year.

It’s the same life.


You speak French now?

Ta gueule.

Well done.

I said I’m sorry. I was drunk.

You’re always drunk.

We have that in common.

Touché. I’m touched.



What do you want me to do?

You could say you’re sorry.

I have. Many times.

Not like that.

Fuck off.

That’s more like it.

Are you fucking with me?

Always, baby love.

So you’re not still mad.

I didn’t say that.


Change the subject. You’re boring me.

What do you want to talk about?

Mmm. How about you and Rachel?

Stop man. Don’t fuck with me.

Odd. I could have sworn you were a bottom.


You sound more and more like me.


Don’t be sensitive. Most goals are hotter left unaccomplished, tu sais?

A break in the wind so that we might really feel it picking back up again, blowing so, but from new directions. A pause so that pleasure might be granted the chance to please itself. The roundabout gets itself lost in the lonely extremities of the city, in Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes, caught in their rubber trees and endless sycamores. Too much oxygen. Too much breathing to clear the head. Not enough dirty city between its lungs to dumb its thinking. Deep-breathing hate-pleasure of expressing ourselves clearly. Too many words. Too many complexities that shouldn’t be expressed for fear of treasoning our real feelings. A couple walking, separate but equal, equally edging the fences of the city’s coupled woods where the wind is hiding. Each half of the couple containing newborn ideas hiding. Ideas of hate as explanation waiting to be thought. The couple walks in rhythm. Their internal monologue becomes a dialogue. They agree and let the other finish. Across the roofs of an entire capital, their knuckles bump repeatedly and both apologize. Giggle, and apologize, and try to remain hateful. But both begin to argue in the other’s golden-scented best interest. Their own interest. They stop. Not their own interest, they remind themselves privately. They start again. They do it all over. It’s torture, the earnest considerations of hate and the failings to perform. It’s horror, the waiting to say things we do not mean. Things we have to say regardless. The couple, having placed an entire city between themselves in hopes of misunderstanding, makes plans to talk tomorrow. To really talk. To start with real speaking knowing full well they will say more confusing truths. Things they do not mean. Things they’ve perfectly understood already. The jaw-clenching hate of pleasure made by really and truly smiling.

There’s something different about you.

What do you mean?

Something about you is different.

Is that a good thing?

It could be.

Could you be more descriptive?

I’m not sure I can. It’s something familiar. Something I always struggled to understand about you.

But it’s better now?

It might be.


You’d be more interesting if you realized you weren’t that interesting.

What is that supposed to mean?

That you’re not that interesting.

Yeah? Says who?

Says me. And I should know.

Great. Very nice talking to you.

You’re not listening to me.

Yes I am.

Well then you’re not hearing me.

Maybe you’re just not speaking loud enough.

Do you need me to scream it?

Maybe that’s where we got things wrong.

Did you ever realize how much I liked you?

But did you ever love me?

See, you’re not hearing me.

I must be too dull to understand.

No, you’d understand if you were duller.


At least smile. Doesn’t it feel good to flirt?

Is that what we’re doing?

What is it you say, who’s buried Grant’s womb?


The breeze sets down in a trickling fountain, bathing its pleasure. Preening it. The high expands in the cold of water. The high, for a moment, thinks it’s liquid. The roundabout’s eyes dilate. Its muscles tighten. Its heartbeat taps its many toes. We take another to be safe, to safely maintain the storm. The moon tugs, beckons us as a referee does, away from the chaos. The fountain at the center of Place de La Réunion ripples, tries hard for its right to remain silent, to hold still. But the moon and the wind force motion fast upon it. The forces elicit the fountain’s reaction. Without the fountain’s permission. The stone pines of the Place come to life, and to the fountain’s aid. Strong, sturdy, encircling, like our friend’s friends we do not know. A couple of friends, same exactly as a couple in romance, enter the Place like a square, treat the Place like a boxing ring, though the square is circular. Obviously. The friends argue. They fight. The guilty pleasure of knowing we are completely right, inextricable from the sick sensing that, at the same time, we are entirely wrong. A guilty pleasure. The friends speak in phrases without objects, in a language unlearnable to the world. Unknowing cuts. Unspeakable slights. And yet we glimpse the irreconcilable chance at retribution. Only the friendship knows how so. Not even the friends the chance concerns can see it now. Because friendship becomes the friend itself. An extra body in combat. One who says, You’re both being stupid. The couple each say, How could you. I didn’t. You did. That isn’t what I meant. Each feels ridiculous, from the sound of the friendship laughing. They each bear down, scream, fine, knowing that it isn’t. Knowing that it always will be. The guilt of pleasure in getting one over on a competitor when we know well and good there is hardly any prize. 

If I have a kid, I want you to be the godfather.


Of course.

What does that entail?

I have no idea.

Does Jude’s and Léa’s baby have a godfather?

Yeah, me.


Yeah. Not that I treat him that godly, let alone fatherly.

Can you be godfather to more than one kid?

I don’t think there are any rules against it.

So would you be my baby’s godfather?

You don’t want to interview me first?

Brilliant idea. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Godfather to two beautiful children.

Love the confidence. And how will you provide for my child, in the event of my untimely yet romantic demise?

You haven’t heard? I’m rich.

Oh no, I’ve heard. Everyone’s heard.

My reputation precedes me.

Confidence, check. Richness, check. And how will you teach my child the ways of the world?

The belt?

Not funny.

A little funny.

Only because we’re high.

The streetlights are on, the moonlight is out, and the chemicals are ripping us open. Our winds of pleasure, breezy, like the children we will be. Children who must return home eventually. And so we go home, to Ménilmontant and to Belleville Park, with its platform overlooking the city. Every pleasure there you could possible imagine, in cumulation. Our pleasure here, shaped as hills, constantly exploding with lindens. The linden trees have grown tall enough to partially obstruct our view. That park’s access road, this pleasure’s fast lane, Rue des Envierges, like a love tunnel, emptying us backward, returning the roundabout to itself, a black-lit traffic circle we know better than our lives. Our life. Its love. The breaks. We are only weights and fantasies. We are only heavy pride, heavy hate, heavy guilt, and terrible fear. And then we are a feathery yearning. With chemicals, we give in too quickly, to the fantasies, the rushes we were bound to bow down to eventually. Inevitably. Predeterminably. Weight slips away. The speed of our age gets chilling. Thins us. The preempted arrival of our futures feels great. The cold wind creates a sniffling. Voices carry on it. Our own voices. Memories and future tellings. Our sniffing mixes with the huffing of how we cope. The pleasure wind gets in, smelling of roundabout, finding our pleasure’s source. A snow must be coming, for the kids are shifting, and though we sometimes shift in punishment, we mostly shift from coming weather.

More? One last one?


            What time do you have the babysitter until?

Don’t worry. He’s with Léa’s mom.


            A whole one then?

            Split it?


            Do you want one too?

            Yeah. Of course.

            Ah, a whole one then. Come on.

            Are there enough?

            More than enough.

            Go on.

            That’s more like it.

            There’s no way we’re sleeping tonight.

            Isn’t that the point?

            I guess it is.

            We’re all going back to Jude’s and Léa’s, yeah?

            Yeah, we’ve already blown up the mattresses.

The mattresses be damned.

No Shakespeare shit tonight.

No drama kids this time.

Rachel will sing with me.  

            Where are Matt and Marie?

            Outside, no?

            I just came from outside.

            Is Nathan outside?

            Yeah, with Pierre.

            But not Matt and Marie?

            I didn’t see them.

Back up. Or down, depending. The ups and downs of love. Our love, caught in the wind, caught up in itself. The histories of our loves past are all the same, same as all our future lovers, all the weathers, every precedented event felt as something new. Something uncanny. Every snowstorm, every winter, the same as every heatwave. Sometimes we hurt the people we love with how much love we have for them. Only sometimes do we remember the bad a person’s love has done to us, and what punishments our love has done them back. Mainly, when we remember, we remember the lying down together, in the snow, trying to make an angel. In time, upon reflection, each and every love gets better. Because it is love. Every old story becomes new, and so, then, forgotten. Our better memories grow dangerous potential, our bad memories get covered in comfortable moss. But God, the drugs are good. Drugs so good that we re-narrate. Only now, from the inside out. A cycle of folding in on ourselves. We find dark and damp and private places, sheltered from the wind and the weather in it. We catch its pleasure in a trap. We free ourselves to reenact the past and thus begin regrowing.

Are we the extras?

What do you mean?

Are we the plus ones?

What makes you say that?

Sometimes I feel like we’re the only two who see things coming.

I didn’t see this coming. Did you?

From miles away.

What’s that in kilometers?

Shut up.

Do you really feel like we’re different?


I guess you’re right. 

I feel bad for them.

For who?


Who do you feel bad for?

Shit, I don’t know anymore.

My point exactly. If they’re happy, can’t we just leave them alone?

How long do you think it will last this time?



I promise.

I love you. Have I told you that already?

At least two hundred times this evening.

I do feel bad for him though. Don’t you?


What do you mean who?

Him? Fuck him. He’s not even an extra.

A worn-out roundabout, coming down, desperate, making silence. Behind our bar we find a wet-black back alley hiding. There are no toilets in it. No brooms. No cause for population. In the alley, all alone, are only two familiar people standing. In limited space. With limited time. Within selective memory. We are all the entire history of two people. We are used to forcing ourselves tight within our limits. We wait for nothing. We want for everything. We try, for a moment, to wake our guilt, our hate, our fear, our pride. We can’t get them up. We go to ground. The cold wet ground of love. Our memories remember one another fondly. Green memories like the soft trees destined to outlive us. The time in the movie theater, surrounded by pulsing scenes. The first time, in the living room, surrounded by sleeping family. The best time, in the small park, surrounded by the trees. Matt and Marie, like all of us giving over to our truth. Giving up. Giving in. Caving to our pleasured airs. They know the bads and breaks of their action. They feel the we of their example. We feel the glory of our failures. How easy it is to only right our wrongs.

So then you, me, sweet drugs, old high, what do lovers make us? Rachel is right to feel jealous, toward a thing she doesn’t want. This is the love psychosis, the love mathematic, the fear of passing chance. Pierre and Sarah are right to feel jealous, in their comparisons of passion. When love transcends the body, it can so easily obsess on lust. Eli is right to be a critic, wanting love in cleaner forms. Mess is so much faster made than any sort of magic. Jude and Léa are right to protect a belief that they are not the only ones. Love is a lonely justice. It frets at finding itself alone.

Have you guys seen Marie?

Wasn’t she with you?

Clearly not.


I haven’t seen her for twenty minutes.

Sorry, Nathan.

For what?

Nothing. For nothing.

Is Matt gone too?

No idea.

Are you still high?


Do you feel like another?

I don’t think so.

Tu te casses?

Je crois, oui.

Get home safe.

Nathan walked off, or rather, drained away down Rue des Couronnes. Rachel, Jude, Léa, Eli, Pierre, and Sarah watched him go. Soon after, they were joined by Matt and Marie, who didn’t ask where he’d gone. The circle stared at the quiet roundabout and pondered. Bracing. And rightly so. A wind now from the left, from the west. Rightly so that it should be the wind that lets us gently down. And so it was. Wind, with its divisions, icy gusts of individuality. The wind became again what it has always been. What it is. A sensation. The cold, simply. The chemicals of our pleasure done diffusing. True cold hugged their bodies, sending them shifting, unlike the climax it sent before. The circle prepared in their lonely ways to face the comedown. A downshift to the drug night was always sure to come. But the bodies were together, bumping and rattling, wide-eyed at their closeness. A closeness that had forgotten faces, drugs that had forgotten their purpose, a night that passed without recognition. But one that the circle will remember later and have no idea why.

And then, with the night at its quietest, its most memorable, a stranger appeared out of the deep dark of Rue des Cascades like bleakness was his queue, sprinting wild and checking over his shoulder as he entered the roundabout. At the dead center of the circumscribed circle, he tripped and splayed. And so then appeared three shadowy figures, clearly in pursuit, who were, the three, triplets in the dark. They set upon the stranger, who from his splaying had made himself fetal. None of the eight friends spoke and neither did the roundabout. The three men, like boys with their ball, began to kick at the stranger’s head. The kicks grew harder, as if they were trying to kick it in, as if they were trying to ruin their plaything. And harder. Harder. Nothing stopping them. Nothing getting in the way. Nothing intervening. No one so stupid as to get involved.