Do you have some songs that immediately remind you of someone? For me, Last Goodbye by Jeff Buckley takes me back to the brief period that I knew a certain AF. I met her almost exactly ten years ago when I was moving into her room as she was moving out. It was during the tail end of my divorce when I was trying to get back on my feet and out of my old flat. I found a room in a large apartment in the Marais as a sublet to the owner. AR was the previous renter I was moving in just as she was moving out on this Saturday morning. More precisely she was still packing her boxes when I arrived with my movers. Rather than get upset, I sent the movers off for cigarettes and coffee and waited on the couch with that morning’s Le Monde while she tried to finish. Her brother and father took all the boxes downstairs and she was just leaving when she came over and introduced herself. We exchanged numbers in case I had any questions and I was finally able to move in. I decided to invite her to my mini-housewarming party two weeks later…suffice it to say that she slept over after the party. Actually, she had found it incredibly sexy that I was calmly reading the paper while she was flipped out moving and all. Anyway, the sultry relationship only lasted a couple of weeks. She had moved into one of Paris’ most notorious neighborhoods because it was cheap and she needed her own place and space. Mostly, we hung out over there which was fine other than the random gunfire which sort of interrupted love-making one on at least one occasion. I remember listening to Jeff Buckley (“You don’t know his stuff? Let me put some on…”) and smoking cigarettes while lying on her mattress on the floor in the middle of the afternoon. One day, she led me to the door scantily clothed and said goodbye. The Last Goodbye. For a few weeks, she wouldn’t answer calls or anything. It was a little disturbing for me, but I was impatient to move on and life took me a completely different direction. Months later, I had moved out of that minuscule sublet room (the owner was a lousy roommate) and into a real Parisian bachelor’s pad with two friends on the Left Bank. By then, I had met the woman who would be my future wife as well. I invited AF to a party and she actually showed up much to my surprise. We chatted a bit and then saw each other over coffee for a couple of years. What I found really funny – and I was the unique person in her life that figured this out apparently – was that every time she switched guys, she changed cigarette brands. She switched from Camels to Marlboro Reds when we went out. At the party I just mentioned, she was on Pall Malls. New boyfriend. The next time I saw her, she was on Gauloise Blondes. New boyfriend (or fling perhaps). Like I said, this was kind of a pattern and a running joke between us despite the fact that we only saw each other roughly once a year. About three years ago before Christmas, we had a beer and she was just ending a (short) relationship and in a pensive mood (and back to Marlboro Reds – apparently it was a bit cyclicle). We talked for a couple of hours and then parted our separate ways. A few weeks later in early January, I heard from her via Facebook. She complained of having stomach pains and I stupidly joked that perhaps she had drunk too much at a New Year’s Eve. I never heard from her again. Instead, about three months later, her brother (whom I had never talked to and only briefly saw when we met) sent me a message on Facebook announcing her death from a particularly violent and incredibly rapid cancer of the liver. She was gone. That week, I drove out to her funeral in the Parisian countryside of her youth and felt sad and alone knowing none and having lost AF forever.
I guess I am reminded of this anecdote every year about this time because despite the short length of the relationship, she was one of those people that are so different from me that they make a deep, lasting impression. There was something inherently unstable in her – always searching for something and just as she got close to it, she’d change direction. During our last conversation, she spoke of her recent travels in Thailand and Southeast Asia and she was not really sure what she was going to do next. May her soul continue to drift in a place of no pain or memory and find rest at last. RIP.