Finding Maupassant

Yesterday, I found Maupassant.

I’d tried twice before. The first time was in January 2004. I wandered around and around what I thought was the 26th Division of the Cimetière du Montparnasse and never found him. The second time was in October of last year. I returned to the cemetery around dusk, realized where the 26th Division really was, and didn’t find the grave due to falling darkness and a sudden terror of being alone — not because of anything supernatural, but because of unsavory living types wandering the vacant cemetery.

Yesterday, I went back. It started to rain as I paced up and down between the graves and mausoleums. The map says it’s in the center of the 26th Division, but I couldn’t locate the center. My blood sugar was plummeting despite a snack. The frustration was throttling me. Finally, I stopped and said aloud, “Monsieur Maupassant, j’ai besoin d’aider! Ou êtes vous?” I took exactly three steps forward…

et voila. There it was.

I was overcome by a surprising amount of emotion. The energy around Maupassant’s grave is completely unlike that of Baudelaire’s, which is crowded with flowers and prayer jars like old Chuck’s grave. Instead, an iron gate surrounds Maupassant’s sparse garden of what looked like freshly planted bulbs (and other things I couldn’t identify). At the head of the grave, a simple but beautiful prayer is painted onto an open porcelain book, which extends from a tall, off-white headstone. It seemed only one person had left any kind of “offering.” Maupassant, the father of the modern short story, the man who wrote The Horla, or Modern Ghosts, which inspired Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu. A pauvre who died in madness himself a year after attempting suicide.

I stayed there a long time. It didn’t feel like I was lingering at a grave. It felt like I was visiting a grandfather. The emotions I felt stayed with me long after I left.

Then that night, The Frenchman and I went to see Bell, Book and Candle. We laughed a lot, and he told me I could call him Shep. Of all the great lines, the best line of that movie occurs at a romantic moment, when James Stewart’s character says to Kim Novak’s character before he kisses her, “And now I’m gonna smoosh your nose…”

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