Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Eternal Return

Recently, Steve Sailer blogged about Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis, which brought to mind an encounter, or sequence of encounters, between a friend of mine, Roger, and Daniel Day-Lewis years ago, which then brought to mind a post I'd myself written in Istanbul, late the night before my family and I were due to board a plane, after four years in Turkey, and return to America.

My own post had to do with the circuitous way that lives sometimes wind round each other, and people, sometimes strangers, find their lives intersecting once, twice, even thrice, over various points in space and time. Obviously, modern technology (the airplane, primarily) makes this just slightly less miraculous.

But back to Daniel Day-Lewis. Somewhere in the early 90s, my friend Roger abandoned his pursuit of a PhD in French at Chapel Hill (he just couldn't see himself struggling to hold the wayward interests of 18 year olds for the rest of his life), and, at a loss for what to do next, retreated to his ancestral home of Columbus, Georgia, on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

There, in something approximating bewilderment and despair, Roger located for himself a garage apartment, took up work at the Columbus Historical Society, and attempted to resign himself to the next half century of waiting in vain for something of significance, even he wasn't sure what, to occur.

One afternoon, while strolling home from work, he wandered into a card shop. His idle browsing was interrupted by the luminous presence of a woman wrapped entirely in white, an atypical clothing choice in Columbus. Intrigued, Roger gazed a half second longer, then another half second, then approached.

There was a certain . . . something. More than attraction. Familiarity. He finally summoned his nerve. "Excuse me," he said, "I know this will sound strange, but I couldn't help noticing that you bear the most remarkable resemblance to Isabelle Adjani, the French actress. Has anyone ever told you this before?"

She arched an eyebrow slightly. "That is because I am Isabelle Adjani." Immediately, Roger segued effortlessly into French. "What are you doing here?" he asked.

Adjani explained that she was staying at the local Hilton, or something, with her companion Daniel Day-Lewis, who was at that moment just across the state line in Alabama, studying with a woodsman in preparation for his role in Last of the Mohicans. Evidently, DDL was honing his skills in fire building and rabbit skinning while wearing a coonskin cap, that sort of thing. After some time, Adjani fixed my friend in a curious stare, then asked, in French naturalment, "And what are you doing here?"

Roger couldn't help but laugh. After he'd explained the sequence of events leading him back to his hometown, Adjani casually asked, "Why not join us for dinner? Daniel will be returning this evening."

Before arriving at their hotel, Roger, whose manners are well rooted in a prior century - and not the 20th - arranged for flowers to be delivered to their room. Upon his arrival, he was greeted by Isabelle, and ushered into their suite. There, in a corner, dressed in black and smoking a cigarette, sat Daniel. Despite the Euro-Hollywoodish trappings, and their color-contrasting taste in apparel, Daniel and Isabelle turned out to be warm dinner companions. Roger discussed with them his ambitions to leave Columbus behind, and, if possible to make his way to Europe. They exchanged addresses at the end of the evening, and Isabelle and Daniel promised to do anything they could to assist Roger in his bid to relocate to Europe - Paris, most particularly. The next day, Roger found himself in the stunning heat of Wet Willie's Waterslide, relating to his sister the events of the previous evening, squinting against the sunlight, enduring the kids' squeals of hydraulic joy, and pondering the wistful incongruity of it all.

Some years later, after much searching, Roger managed to secure a job interview with Nato, and fervently hoped that this might at last be his ticket out of Columbus and on to Europe. He arranged to fly into Paris, where he would stay with a friend for a week before heading on to Brussels and the interview. Arriving at the Atlanta airport, Roger checked his bags, made his way to the International Concourse, and started into space while biding his time and waiting to board the plane.

His eye eventually settled on a lone figure, dressed in black, wearing sunglasses, and slouched against a far wall. There was a certain . . . something. Could it be? It looked like it was, but how could you tell with the sunglasses, and even if it was, he wouldn't remember a dinner in a hotel suite years earlier.

A few moments later, the black-clad figure glanced from behind the shades in Roger's direction, straightened, then approached. "Roger," he said smiling, "what are you doing here?"

They were booked on the same flight to Paris. After catching up on old news, DDL invited Roger to join him in first-class for a drink once they were airborne. Once the plane was en route, however, Roger was stopped cold by the flight attendant, who informed him that - invitation or no - he wasn't allowed in the first-class section. At that point, DDL intervened, explaining that he had specifically asked Roger to join him for a drink. Nothing doing.

"Do you have a foot stool, then?" asked DDL.

"A foot stool, yes, we do."

"Would you put the stool in the aisle next to my friend's seat, and I'll join him for a drink there?" Day-Lewis asked. Which is what they, and he, did.

When the flight landed, Isabelle was at the airport, waiting to meet Daniel. The three were briefly reunited, and Isabelle and Daniel asked for the phone number of the apartment where Roger would be staying. They then agreed to meet up a few nights later for dinner.

Sadly, Roger only discovered after having been met by his host in Paris that he'd recently moved to a new apartment, and that the phone number which had been given to Daniel and Isabelle was no longer in service.

Roger had no way of contacting them, and never saw them again. After a week in Paris, he went to his Nato interview in Brussels, eventually resulting in reimbursement for the cost of his flight, and a polite letter of rejection. Some time later, Daniel and Isabelle had a son together, resulting in the quick demise of their relationship. Day-Lewis is now married to Arthur Miller's daughter, with whom he has two sons. I know nothing more about the life of Isabelle Adjani.

Roger eventually escaped Columbus, and landed on the Upper West Side, about a block from the Museum of Natural History. I visited him there in 2003, when I was in New York to obtain my residency visa for Turkey, a country I'd never before visited, and in which I was soon to live. After some slightly tense to and fro with the ladies of the Turkish consulate, I left New York with my visa. Ten days later, I was on my way. Roger, so far as I know, is still in Manhattan.

Speaking of Turkey, in April my family and I will again board a plane, this time back to Istanbul. To live. Again.

3 comments:

tvoh said...

I knew your were finally going to post something when the picture changed.

Great story. Worth the wait.

Bon Voyage et bonne chance.

grumpy said...

Hos geldiniz arkadas.
(You romantic fool!)

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