After writing another 1000 words on the book, I went to Montparnasse Cemetery to mope at Baudelaire’s grave.
I was standing at the big map sign near the entrance, looking for Chuck’s grave, when an American couple came up and stood next to me, pondering aloud as to who was in the cemetery. The man mused that there were “lots of famous people” here supposedly but that he wasn’t sure who.
Me, thinking he meant that the map sign was hard to read, offered that there were a great many terrific graves to visit of very famous people. “Why, there’s the poet Baudelaire, then Maupassant (known as the father of the short story), the playwright Samuel Beckett, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte (buried next to his partner Simone, and what a terrific story that is), and the amazing classical composer Camille Saint-Saëns…”
They both blinked at me and shrugged, smiling blankly. They said they had no idea who any of those people were. I inhaled suddenly and wanted to scream, “GET OUT OF FRANCE, YOU IGNORANT FUCKING AMERICAN COWS!” But instead, I smiled back and put my hands together prayerfully. “Well, you might prefer visiting Pere-LaChaise. That’s where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried.”
These people they knew. They asked how to spell the cemetery name. I told them politely. I even told them about my favorite cafe there. They had never heard of Pere-LaChaise. Now they have.
For those who are wondering, Charles is doing quite well. His grave is covered in dead flowers. An elderly French couple found me moping on the last step across from his gravestone (which he shares with his family). I had a lovely conversation with them entirely in French. The old man told me the jar full of notes on the grave was like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem — prayers to God tucked into the chinks of the stone. I had noticed the jar before but never put it together. “I think that Monsieur Baudelaire is a bit deaf now,” I said. The wife laughed.
He might be deaf, but that didn’t keep me from complaining to him. When they left, I got the strong impression that Charles said to me, “You’re too healthy to be sitting here. Hell, if I had your youth and health, I’d be drinking, fucking and writing. Go home and drink, fuck and write.”
That’s when I noticed that he died at 46 years, almost exactly to the day 100 years before I was born.
I decided Chuck knew best and did exactly that.