One morning, in the Jeu de Paume, LJ found his own true love. The sun rose in Giverny and cast rose colored petals across the lily pond. And there she was, his Lily Marlene, floating in that watery space, her face framed among the lilies.
He remembered what she used to wear as she waited for him, standing beneath the lamplight where he could see her. He recalled their tender whispers and felt once again that wave of love sweeping over him. His tongue touched base on his lips and he swallowed his saliva: so sweet, her resurrection. She lazed there among the blossoms, each flower gigantic beneath the Japanese footbridge. LJ gazed on her, that Lily who toiled not, nor did she spin, and sighed as she rested there, cushioned among the lily pads, a work of wonder in a watery labyrinth of fragmented light.
He remembered the night they sent him away. “All troops confined to barracks,” the notice said. He thought of her standing out there, waiting for him. He remembered too that first encounter with the enemy when fortune rattled its poker dice leaving them to fall haphazardly, never to be recalled, yet not falling by chance, and the cast dice turning into flowers, red flowers, that stained his knife crimson. He gazed at her as she lay there, a conjurer’s trick her floral eyes pulled from a dark sleeve and floating in a pantheon of mysterious magic, a thicket of flowering water.
Each day he came to the Jeu de Paume to pay tribute and to see her reclining on her lily-pad. Very soon he saw her everywhere, coy in shop windows, languid in pavement puddles where raindrops rippled her eyes, couched among the floating clouds as evening stole color from the day. She became once more his Lily of the Lamplight and, as dusk’s shadows stalked street and square, he kept watch at street corners, from dusk to dawn, hoping to see her again, highlighted in the early morning by the rising sun.
LJ dreamed that one day they would walk together, hand in hand, at noon, perhaps, when the cathedral wears its strawberry suit, or in late afternoon when a blueberry blush descends with prayers and bells to sound the magic of Vespers. But it wasn’t to be. One evening, in a fit of despair, he threw myself into those clinging waters and sought her side. Dark bells rang out their bull-frog chorus as he plunged through shadowy waters in search of the light of her countenance there, where dusk is a violent bruise, scoured purple and red across the horizon. Yes, he followed in her footsteps, his Lady of the Lake, and became one with those waters.
LJ still doesn’t know who drew him forth; but when he emerged, he sensed that all had changed and that nothing had changed more than the viewer, this once-young man, now old and arthritic, typing away, one finger at a time, battering his key-board to recreate the wanderlust of those day-dreams wrought sous le Pont Mirabeau, along the banks where the Seine flows, or up by the bouqinistes and the Marché aux Fleurs, and past the Marché aux Esclaves where he searched for her, but he didn’t find her and raindrop words bounce off the page as photos of Monet’s Lilies bewitch with the staring madness of her drifting hair that floats through the cathedral’s eye, through the great rose window of Notre Dame reflected in the waters where his Lily still waits and holds a place in the rippling river for his un-drowned heart.