Up high in his Parisian apartment lingers a man who no longer recognizes himself. His face is angled downward at the window, past his ownerless reflection, and at the grey world beyond. He beholds a forest and the frozen shrieks of children whose pale shirts are as colorless as the setting sun that strikes them immobile, as all else.
She can never love me. It occurs to him without stopping.
Last night, past the clamor of the evening’s drunkards, beneath their swinging bottles and through the currents of lust and anger and unconcealed terror of their loneliness, he drifts homeward immune. Again he feels the warm pressure of her hand on his arm as she swept him suddenly from the street and away from car, his surprise glancing off hers. As gangs of hooded figures descend into Rues whose walls have scratched faces, he can remember only her fascination with the fractal variety of ferns they had studied at the Jardin de l'école de botanique.
As children they escaped the spinning sun and crawled into the leafy caverns of the Labyrinthe du Jardin des Plantes. He heard again the disapproving parental whisperings outside their kingly enclave as he was ushered home above the cutting fragments and pooling urine of the street. And all the while the man knew who he was.
Now the memories lay fallow in his gloom. Her glances never happened. The man in his apartment has cleaned his clothes and his dishes and the rotten yogurt from his fridge. He has meditated and walked through the monochrome park where he has tasted various stories and games of differing genres and found them all to be hollow. He has called a friend but soon thereafter hung up, not recognize his friend's voice, nor his own. Along with the fading present, his past too begins to disappear.
Shoved away on his desk lays his notebook: no longer his own. He had drawn her once, in the glittering white complex, in the woods of Vermont. The book's wrinkled spine is splayed to the page that should depict her, but another woman's profile was there and upon shifting his head the drawing itself belongs to another. He riffles through other memories and sees only strange images. Then the language itself becomes unrecognizable: the mistaken marks of an empty mind.
And so, unable to look and again not see her, throwing his glance elsewhere, he notices the ad.
The payment takes seconds.
She is there.