Mong & me

September 27, 2020
Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris ©Ann Scott

During the day, Paris is just another big city, rough, loud, tiring with its insane streams of cars and currents of people in which you slide, resigned, because you are one of them. But come nightfall, its avenues turn to orange under the street lamps, backstreets fade into semi-darkness, and there is nothing left but the city and you. Its space is back, you can have it all. And none of the day’s burden awaits anymore. Morning might never rise, the night is endless. Time ceases to exist, it’s not midnight or 3 a.m., it is just night. You can walk in any bistro, any brasserie or any hotel bar, there will always be a waiter to talk to. These places are like journeys that take you elsewhere. At the same time, sit at any small round table on any wooden chair, you will feel at home. And in this maze of terraces, backroom parlours or crumpled sheets of grand or not-so-grand hotels, you will find Mong. Her name is Margaux but I call her Mong because when she drinks she clowns around, and she drinks almost every evening. 
At night, Paris is stripped bare. It lays out everything we are, while daytime only reflects what we have to be. And La Seine is its soul. The bridges glittering in the distance, the banks, the illuminated cruise boats passing by and turning walls of nearby apartments into movie screens. La Seine, dark, smooth as silk when the boats end their ballet, and where the lights shimmer like jewels. Like the ones Mong drops here and there on carpets of hotel rooms when she undresses, bracelets and rings from top jewellers she loves to wear but doesn’t care to lose and that I pick up behind her. La Seine and its current turning wild on windy days or during floods, like Mong’s brief fits of anger when she hangs up on you, slams the door or leaves the table.
She says that before me she often loved grey people. Grey as ash, melted snow or elephants crushing everything in their path. That for a long time, she mainly chose selfish people who would be unable to give her what she was scared to want. She feels she is several persons in one and none of the ones she thinks she is. That unfortunately for her, she always wants one thing and its opposite. That she loves the violence of the ocean where I live, but when she joins me there, she ends up feeling disoriented because she has no inner compass.
She works in fashion but never talks to me about it. When someone asks her where she got her blouse or her shoes, she doesn’t name-drop brands, simply says she can’t remember. Her clothes scattered around at dawn are as much vintage as couture. She finds personal chauffeurs vulgar and always gets around in beat-up taxis. She refuses the favours that come with her job to never feel she is being bought or is indebted. She does botox between her eyes so that people can’t see her frown when she’s appalled by what they talk about. She does pilates every three days, only buys creams produced by cellular co-resonance biology, always carries a steel water bottle as a refusal to use plastic, and there are greens in her plate at every meal. But whenever we settle down at some café, whether we stay for an hour or half the night, the burgundy keeps flowing and, at over forty, she has almost forgotten what it’s like to wake up without a hangover.
She sprays her grandmother’s hairspray around her living-room when she misses her to call her ghost. She knows her demons make her act unfair and sometimes cruel but she won’t hear about it. She dreads that the little flame burning inside of her could die. A tiny flame, she thinks, that she tries to protect, when it is actually a huge one. Too big for what goes on in her mind, where too many questions, feelings, illuminations cross like on the interchanges circling above high-speed highways, and that she can never hold on to long enough. She falls into spirals but doesn’t need to be rescued from that, she needs to lose herself in them and they die out as suddenly as they had started. When it happens, she says she leaks like a slightly defective gas burner and then goes back to functioning again. When she shows up, there is no point to hope that she won’t drink, it’s the only time she can get away from her need to control everything, to never have to rely on anyone, never risk trusting, never end up betrayed or abandoned. She likes destruction because it is always followed by revolution and construction. She also says that the only way to understand her is to accept that you can’t. 
What I have understood is that all the men and women who tried to keep her lost her. That all the men or women who loved her before me only saw what they wanted to see or only took what was in it for them. For some, she is the most fucked up, uninhibited and sexual being they ever wanted to possess. For others, the most inaccessible, airy, amoral, like these women you sometimes see walking through airport terminals while a lover runs behind with the suitcases. But Mong never lets anyone carry anything for her, no way she’ll depend on someone. For me, she’s the most alive, most moving and funniest ever, and it’s just as well because as far as she’s concerned she just looks like a silly little mouse. 
Of course, she tears me apart too. When we argue, she refuses to analyse what she says or what I say, she leaves that up to me. But when I feel too intense for her or too withdrawn, she assures me that it doesn’t matter because everything is a question of oscillation. When I worry that we are too different, she says that we are complementary, that if I pick daffodils, she checks the wind, and that if she melts into a sea creature, I show her ground. All this lies somewhere between the grace of her ways, her pale throat, her skin warmed by the wine, her dark hair that tangles hysterically in bed and makes me laugh every time. And the first time I was scared of not being enough for her, the next morning, in one of those hotels where we end up because at her place, there is a child sleeping and it wouldn’t let her be herself all night, the words she left on the pillow in her uneven handwriting read :
What can calm you down is that I miss you when you are not around.
What can calm you down is that you have the real me.
What can calm you down is the freedom of no perfection.
What can calm you down is that I will not change.
What can calm you down is my strength all around you.
And my fragility all around you.
It is so simple.

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