Paul lit one cigarette off another, as rain rattled down the drains and into the gutters of the boulevard. A young woman on a red scooter, her dress soaked and plastered against her lithe frame passed by the window, and Paul smiled, remembering other women in the rain.
Then he thought: Gunter is late as usual.
He nodded at the waiter, standing in the door, watching the rain and the girl disappearing around the corner, to signal he would like another red wine, a pinot noir, his favorite.
Cold fall rain is bad for business, he thought, as he finished the last drop in his glass before the waiter returned, but good for thinking and remembering.
He reached for his fountain pen, the Pelikan he bought in a shop in the Marais in 1987, when he had just arrived from Vienna, before he met his wife, the French woman who left him for the Brit, and wrote these words--hard writing. That phrase sounded a bit perverse or pornographic, he thought, but it expressed the sentiment, the sentiment he wanted to talk about to Gunter. It was his new theory, this idea of hard writing, which meant simply a new way for him to write. Perhaps everyone wrote this way but it was new for him. In the past, in die Vergangenheit--German was slipping back into his vocabulary--he had written through emotion. Without her and her Parisian French, spoken incessantly, he was falling back on the other language, the intermediate language, not his die Muttersprache, not Romanian.
He lifted the nib and pressed it to the white, thick paper of the cahier, starting again. In the past (la passé), he had written spontaneously through emotion but now he would not let a poem go until he had subjected it to his hard writing. Hard writing required time and thought; time, thought, and discipline; time, thought, discipline, and a rigorous eye. Was there more to it?
After hard writing an editor, he reasoned, should shrug and just publish it because it defeated him with its shape and being. Maybe he should call it diamond writing. He touched the cap of the pen to his lower lip and tasted its gold and silver.
The waiter delivered another glass. He put down his pen and sipped the wine slowly, tasting the earth of the southwest, with its berries and ash, as the wet girl, with the long black hair, passed a second time. Was she lost or was he dreaming of Plymouth where the pilgrims sailed for Virginia to become Prospero's children? Or was she the mistress of Setebos, Venus'moonchild, and he the sound of thunder?