Somewhere Only We Know
“Notre histoire est noble et tragique
Comme le masque d’un tyran
Nul drame hasardeux ou magique
Aucun détail indifférent
Ne rend notre amour pathétique
Et Thomas de Quincey buvant
L’opium poison doux et chaste
À sa pauvre Anne allait rêvant
Passons passons puisque tout passe
Je me retournerai souvent
Les souvenirs sont cors de chasse
Dont meurt le bruit parmi le vent”
Our story’s as noble as it is tragic
Like the grimace of a tyrant
No drama’s chance or magic
No detail that’s indifferent
Makes our great love pathetic
And Thomas de Quincey drinking
Opiate poison sweet and chaste
As his poor Anne went dreaming
We pass, we pass, since all must pass
Often I’ll be returning
Memories are hunting horns alas
Whose note along the wind is dying
The Hunting Horns
Guillaume Apollinaire, Alcools, 1913
The beauty I knew before La Côte d’Azur, I came to realise, had been a sham and an illusion of the most cruel variety.
Upon our passing through the mists of the Strait of Gibraltar into the open Mediterranean, I knew then that I had come to another world. Gibraltar’s parting veils revealed a sapphire sea framed by a cobalt sky lit by another sun infinitely brighter than could ever exist in England. English ‘pleasantness’ would be forever lost to me from that point on. How can a drab rose in a grey stone arboretum, lit by an equally grey sky, ever equate to the impressionist perfection of what the earth can be if lit by a proper sun!
Adrien and I looked out over this Buena Vista, as the Spaniard might say, in captured rapture. At least, I was captivated rapturously. Adrien seemed rather more transfixed by my rapture than his own. His smile looked ridiculously Cheshire every time he would look to me under his beautiful brown fedora. I believe my English reserve took flight from me upon my first glimpse of the Mediterranean. I think, this bemused Adrien to no end! I think, it beguiled him as well. I was a boy again, riding Percival for the first time and it was Adrien rather than Lucas who was the one to show me the reins.
(In the French: “You have tears in your eyes, mon chéri! Does the brightness hurt your pale blue eyes?”). Adrien teased.
In English I huffed: “If you must know, I have managed to get a bit of this bastardly sea spray in my eyes, thank you very much!” To which Adrien began to cackle madly (as did I.)
(“Somehow, I think, the truth lives in what the sea has given you behind your eyes that makes them water so.”) Adrien trilled with his ever poetic French. The missive had its intended effect of making my knees even more wobbly than the gently heaving deck could manage.
(“Monsieur, be mindful of your words, if you wish to keep me from falling into the sea.”). I sighed, lovingly, into Adrien’s own topaz eyes that were set alight by the Mediterranean’s flame. I made the attempt not to lean into him too closely for fear that prying eyes could find some error in the personal space Adrien and I were to keep between us as ‘gentlemen’. But, it was difficult as all I wanted to do at that moment was to fall into his arms and thank him forever for delivering me to this place in the world so much closer to Elysium than London’s parks could ever be.
We sailed this way up the coast of Great Spain, around the unsurpassably beautiful La Costa Del Sol and La Costa Bianca, stopping in Valencia for resupply and to pick up more passengers. Adrien prevailed upon me to take a turn about the Valencine frontage. I was not predisposed to do this as I was sure that the place should be infested with pirates and other ne’er-do-well of my imaginings. As would always be the case with Adrien, he was prompt to assure me of my childishness borne of my natural British reticence to all things new and different. Rather than the expected band of brigands, I found, instead, the population of Valencia to be most refreshing, actually. The Valencianos, as they preferred to call themselves, per Adrien, were invariable warm, friendly, and inviting in the most genuine and accommodating ways. Perhaps too accommodating as many a ‘Pare’ or ‘Mare’ or, especially, an ‘àvia petita (little grand-mama)’ were not shy about trying to introduce an elder daughter to either Adrien or myself with the usual prospects of marriage. More often than not, the young ladies in question were amenable to such an eventuality where either of us were concerned.
In this way, due to this abundance of such hospitality, we were quite invited into a little café with a remarkably lovely outdoor dining area they call a ‘pati.’ They then fed us a delectation of the region they call ‘Paella;’ a rather colourful, if strong flavoured, dish consisting of rice and sea creatures of an abundance one might find at Neptune’s table. It did tax my sensibilities, to a degree, as I was much more used to more subtle fair in those days, but Adrien insisted I try the sunset coloured dish. After taking part of the dish by spoonfuls, I was well disposed to appreciate it as, perhaps, the most delicious food in which I’d ever partaken up until that point in my young life. This seemed to delight the patron to no end and he allowed us the feast per his compliments. Such generosity I could scarcely find in London even at Christmas.
Our time was short in Valencia. Too short, I thought, at that time. I would revisit this beautiful city many times in future years, especially when I’d had more than enough of English iciness. Naturally, each time I would venture there, I would have to compare it to the short time Adrien and I spent there. There would be no comparison, of course. A few hours in Valencia with Adrien was worth 50 years of continuous habitation therein. So, without such indulgent hyperbole, it would be an impossibility.
We continued on our voyage up the beautiful Costa Brava into French waters and continued past Marseilles and then, to my surprise past Toulon where my father had said we would put in. I asked after this of Adrien and he assured me that we would be doing nothing my father would expect! Such delicious subterfuge only whetted my appetite for the absolute freedom I would then enjoy! Though my father had made mention of the little hamlet of Saint-Tropez as a destination, he was, instead, depending on our pulling into port at Toulon and then venturing into Hyères. All of this I told Adrien long before our embarking on our Mediterranean adventure. Apparently, by some machinations I still cannot fathom to this day, Adrien had managed to circumvent all of my father’s plans for us in a magnificently wilful way. I do believe he had to pay a handsome sum to the ship’s captain to skip us from our intended destination. His other passengers would not be put out as they were Nice-bound.
For the sake of ‘sight-seeing’ he pulled into the Golfe de Saint-Tropez where then he had us piloted into a harbour near the little village by skiff. Being lowered into he sea from the medium sized cruiser was quite the adventure. Perhaps, more of one than for what I was prepared, but, despite the concerning dip into the sea, I had a great deal of enjoyment while upon the waters coming into our new little world. To see the Saint-Tropez of that time, so unspoiled and virgin, really was akin to stepping through a looking-glass and into a Wonderland unlike anything that exists in England. The homes and buildings themselves were arrayed in rainbow colours. Even their tiled roofs were dazzling with myriad shades of brick red and earthen beige sparkling under the blinding Mediterranean sun. The town and the sea glittered just as the great Impressionists envisioned light and colour should. To see Saint-Tropez for the first time is to know that what the Impressionists were trying to achieve with their singular painting technique was to capture the play of light and colour as only it can shimmer in Southern France. Their way of painting could be the only way of reproducing such faithfully.
Upon landing, we were greeted by fishermen and their families as well as those who enjoyed boating just for its on intrinsic pleasure. Adrien was immediately greeted by one gentleman that came and hugged him close and kissed him about his cheeks in a way that it made me a bit green with jealousy. This was a gentleman by the name of Sebastian Suffren, apparently a descendant of the great French Admiral of the same family. Sebastian was a rather rolly-polly man with a jolly if rather extravagant disposition, but friendly enough. He was obviously well off in that his clothes were Parisian couture of the finest hand and he possessed a Swiss watch the likes of which I had never seen in its appointments. Gold and diamonds were resplendent all about the device. He suspended it from a gold chain out of the watch pocket of his sublime waistcoat.
This made me wonder more about Adrien’s connections as they seemed to be quite eminent. I was later to learn that Suffren was one of the heirs to the countship of Saint-Tropez, though such aggrandisement held and still holds very little meaning in Republican France. Apparently, Monsieur Suffren had made a tidy sum in trading chocolate. A very sweet sum indeed!
“Ah, voilà, and this must be your travelling companion, no?” Suffren came forward quite boldly and kissed about my cheeks in the very same way he had done with Adrien. My horror and shock was abated, somewhat, by the assurance that this must be a custom here and not brought about by any amorous advance toward Adrien from before. Suffren caught my reaction, though.
“A-ha! A young noble Englishman virgin to the ways of France? Splendid!” Suffren said with that same infectious jolliness one might ascribe to Father Christmas in a better mood.
Adrien smiled radiantly upon myself and Monsieur Suffren in a way that looked almost bashful. His lightly tanned cheeks developed a rosiness that must have told Suffren volumes. Suffren, for his part, was not coy and made a nasal chuckle that rightly raised the same blush to my cheeks as well as a touch of dread. Adrien and I were discovered!
(In the French: “It would seem that I touched a chord! Virginity, by any name, may live as goose or gander. But, in all, both geese and ganders taste of the same richness.”) Suffren made as an aside, attempting to use a colloquialism that he may have thought too subtle for me, but Adrien’s reply was as smooth as his skin.
“(Indeed, while the gander may be cock, birds always speak the same language.)” Adrien trilled with his Flemish tinged French while favouring me an eye. Despite myself, I was made to chuckle, though temperately. Somehow, this silly interchange had quelled my fears. Suffren was indeed a man of the world and a child of progressive France and particularly Provence. He was schooled and mediated by long exposure to cultures wide and wild.
“(For all this talk of ganders and cocks, I find myself quite famished after our long journey. Might there be a Café nearby that we might take luncheon?)” I delivered this with a knowing innocence which caused Adrien to break out in decidedly intemperately guffaws. I believe Adrien caught my double entendre.
“(Ah! Splendid! An Englishman that can understand almost all of French!)” Suffren threw up his hands in an exaggerated joy that I do not think was exaggerated to him at all. “Touche, mon ami! C’est vrais! Well met, as you English would say, no? Come then! Let us partake in a fête sublime! I know of a friend who is a chef extraordinaire! Though we may not eat of the cocks, perhaps we can satisfy with eels en gelée, eh? We are en La Côte d’Azur, no? Hehehe!” Alas, though with the most bizarre reference imaginable, it was, indeed, satisfied that we should travel with Suffren to a small cottage estate fronted by the Mediterranean herself and her garden of sand to separate us from her lapping shore!
“Adrien! Son of my heart, behold, votre chalet en bord de mer: your cottage by the sea. (We preserved it for you in memory of your father and your father’s father’s fathers harkening back to the days of le régime ancien)” Suffren offered a courtly bow to Adrien to my utter astonishment.
“(Oh please, Suffren! You embarrass me in front of Lord Temple! Such things still have meaning to him and his countrymen.)” Adrien positively squirmed in front of me at this somewhat expected revelation. Noblesse is inborn. Even by generations, it cannot be bred out entirely. The French may delude themselves, now, that they never had an overclass that represented the very model for chivalry in the world, but in the presence of echoes to that lineage, an aristocrat always knows one of his own. Adrien d’Saint Michele was a descendant of that lineage and this, may be, why his soul echoed with mine with such reverberations.
“Ahhhhh! C’est vrais? Voilà! You see? I am always correct about these things! You are a peer in the ‘Golden Realm!’ Enemies the houses of England and of France were for generations, but only so much as are brothers competing for their father’s attention as to who would be grandest! In the process, the two kingdoms grew each other like two competing vines to make the best wine! There are those of us still, Mon Signor, who secretly bare the Bourbon Flag and the Sacred Blue in our hearts. I am one. It is why I travel often to Monte Carlo which still has a sense of the Old Regime, as we like to call the time of France’s flowering. May I . . . ?” With this Suffren knelt on one knee before me, took my ringed hand, and kissed my signet there. I was loathe to wear the jewel as I thought it would be pretentious in France, but Adrien assured me it would not be. It would be very good to do so. I was to find out why as my knowledge of France became a bit deeper.
France was and always will be a very mysterious place to me. The complexities of the place match the complexity of its fine cuisine, a delectation I was soon to enjoy that afternoon in the most exquisite supper I would ever enjoy.
As it so happened, Suffren had befriended the one and only Armand Fournier, the preeminent chef of France in that day. Apparently, they had befriended each other in Monaco and Chef Fournier would often take much needed vacations in the South of France to escape Paris and London. I had heard of his fiasco with the Savoy shortly before my leaving London for my trip. Reading between the lines of the whole incident, I surmised that there was some kind of subterfuge going on in the service there. I did not believe half of the things The Sun was writing about Fournier and company. The scandal was entirely a xenophobic reaction based on some made up nonsense, in my opinion. After taking the relaxed repast that Chef created for us there at our first afternoon in Saint-Tropez, it made me realise that the Savoy had lost the star in its crown. It never recovered fully. The Carlton, which later acquired the great Chef Auguste Escoffier, became the premier hotel in London and the Ritz likewise in Paris. Both kitchens were created by Fournier and after my time with him in Provence, I would regularly take my meals at the Carlton whenever I could.
Armand Fournier was a humble man. He was, naturally, round and moustached with a gentle if sometimes crude demeanour. He was a craftsman of his trade, not unlike what my beloved Lucas became, at some point, when he mastered blacksmithing from his father. The old French Chefs thought of themselves more as working class tradesmen as opposed to great names of distinction. In that time, artists were given a bit more aplomb than chefs. Chefs were master cooks and the most senior cook in any kitchen in France, but it was not until after the Great War that chefs became ‘Great’. Escoffier spearheaded this, but chefs like Fournier made it possible.
I watched the Chef with interest as he used his knife and hands not unlike a master sculptor would. He fashioned food rather than simply preparing it. When he was finished with his ‘simple’ dish he had made a ‘soup’ that he called Bouillabaisse which is a traditional dish of the Côte d’Azur. I cannot regard what Chef made as a true ‘soup’ because, although a divine broth was present, each of the numerous pieces of sea food he added to the broth were all individually prepared so that they would be “perfect” per the Chef. The ‘soup’ was brought together at the last minute after some time was spent simmering the mysterious components of the broth.
We sat under an arbor positively dripping with grapes while dining as the sun set on our first day in our new paradise. The air off of the sea was cool, but not cold. It was refreshing, and the flavours of Chef Fournier’s Bouillabaisse seemed to match to perfection the freshness of our environ. We sat under the arbor until late evening under the light of a fire ring and lit candles. We spoke of many things and drank too much wine which made the night velvet in its every aspect.
As time drew to the midnight hour Monsieur Suffren and Chef Fournier bid us a fond ‘bonsoir’ and left Adrien and I alone together in the subtle warmth of the Mediterranean night. The moon shone in the sky before stars that sparkled like diamonds and the blue velvet sea echoed these lights. With none to see us, we both settled in a loveseat affair as we listened to the waves lap on the shore. We fell asleep like this together out there and no one found us and if they did, more importantly, I believe no one would have cared.
This was a place that was somewhere only we knew. A place hidden in our hearts where I still live and pray to return to one day when I can be slipped from this Mortal Coil. If God exists and he is immune to the hateful rhetoric of a power obsessed Church, then I would hope that the Lord would see fit to return Adrien and I to that beach-house on that shore in Saint-Tropez. I would hope this because, honestly, I can think of no better heaven than that place. It suits me just fine as an eternal paradise and, I have a feeling, that it would suit Adrien just as well.
We awoke in each other’s arms after sleeping what I believed to be the most complete rest I had ever had. I would sleep this deeply for all the time we were in Saint-Tropez. The place encouraged late evenings as the “Tropezier” were fond of late nights and later mornings as I would find most Mediterraneans are, though the fishermen often awoke before dawn. I came to know this because I came to find that I gathered the habit of waking before Adrien (sometimes much to his unconscious clutching dissatisfaction) to greet the sunrise.
This would become my lifetime addiction thereafter. The light of the morning sun, even on a grey misery of a day, would become my opium to salve my future discontents.
That first morning, however, we both awoke in tandem. We had fallen asleep only in robes and are nakedness was exposed to each other’s wants. On that first morning we made our first love in France. The morning was clean and cool, but not cold. The saltine breeze was fresh and completely invigorating to our young bodies. The goosebumps raised were not induced by the beautiful sea breeze, but by our desire for each other freely given.
I prepared Adrien with the moisture of my mouth which nearly brought him to climax too soon. I brought him down from the edge by lightly pinching his sweet wine-gum nipples, an act that brought Adrien into a full on panic of desire. Never before had he kissed me so forcefully. Roughly, though in no way abusively, Adrien lifted me by my naked hips and softly impaled me upon his sensually throbbing dagger. The momentary sharp pain of my tightness relaxed and I felt myself sink lower into his lap as he slowly thrust deeper up into my beautiful shame.
With him now deeply engaged, I found my instinct was to rotate my lower body in the attempt to find that place inside of me that itched for his erotic touch. After groaning adjustments, my itch was found and made to turn into a sensual wave of unequaled pleasure. My body tensed around Adrien as the wave hit me. This caused him to gasp and me to moan most lasciviously. Adrien lost his composure for a moment and collapsed into me. I felt his face bury itself into the hollow of my neck as he cooed with an almost painfully strained whimper.
(Oh, my God, you are so very tight. So very hot! I am losing myself in you!) He purred in breathless French. His lips applied suction to my clavicle and then his hot tongue tasted the rising salt on my skin. This sensation coupled with the commencement of his reflexive thrusting beneath me drove me into animal madness!
Atop him I rode as I once rode Percival! My rider’s instincts came into play, my eyes latched fiercely onto Adrien’s as I roughly pushed him back against the back-rest of our couch. The delicious look of shock and unexpected, explosive, agonising ecstasy upon his face as I rode him thus caused an animals growl to rumble out of the pit of my chest. Adrien almost looked terrified! I felt such sudden unexpected power!
Up and down my thighs and knees pistoned my body upon Adrien’s. He tried to match my violence with his own thrusts but found he could only writhe and wriggle beneath my assault.
Our sex together was unrestrained. There was no one around. No one to ‘council restraint!’ No one to rebuke us. No one to cage us and chain us to a world of loveless lies and burning repression! We were both free, but I was freest! Adrien could never know the slavish ‘continence’ an English Gentleman must entertain. How ‘nature is a fault all men of valour must overcome and conquer’ sets in a man a guilt of living that invites death as a release. Death or liquor or both with laudanum as a chaser were the only escapes. A living death that one simple act of unrestrained, natural passion can cure.
The beast in me was released and as I felt the fountain of my seminal fires rise within me I found myself taking Adrien’s arms by the wrists and roughly bring them up next to his ears as I bent forward over him allowing him some leverage. I saw the tendons in his neck tighten and saw my sexual fire light in his topaz eyes and we both locked like this moving synchronously in a concentrated frenzy to finish one another’s race.
The sounds we both made were vicious and angry! The violent collision of flesh on flesh resounded in the little courtyard of our love, but with only the overarching grapes, bougainvillea, and dolphins by the sea to hear or know our frantic mutual rape.
With a cry of surprised supernal bliss, Adrien reached his ‘Petit Mort’ first, thrusting himself up into me with a rapier’s stab into the seat of my masculine secret. His cries ejaculated with his spilling seed. His ecstatic distress was heightened as I held him down against his will as he wanted so very much to grip me and hold me still as he let himself explode inside.
But I could not have allowed this. I had not finished my ‘Little Death’ yet. To Adrien’s hyper-sensitized agony I ground and bounced him a few more times, milking him like one might a cow until he was near to screaming. He cried for me to stop in both French, English, and surprisingly Flemish, and so I did, but only because I had used him shamelessly to find my own supreme satisfaction.
I bellowed loudly as I erupted like Vesuvius. I through my head back and held it as if to keep it attached to my body as my sex spewed forth its wicked contents without even touching it. I prayed to the gods repeatedly as I felt my muscles convulse. Inside, Adrien convulsed also . . . with a second Little Death. Adrien’s second must have been his undoing for he bellowed with me and seemed to fall into near unconsciousness as he took me around the waist with his now free arms and withered under me.
I fell off of him and to his side as his sex disintegrated out of me leaving his seed to run out from me freely. I had to sit upon my side as I could not quite cope with putting my full weight on my throughly exploited nethers.
After spellbound panting silence we both found the strength in shame to look at one another sheepishly. Our countenances were such that it brought us both to laughter unto tears. We both looked so boyishly shameful and yet so wonderfully pleased with our shame. We hugged and kissed each other gently and lovingly. That lovemaking had been quite earth shattering and it would be repeated for most of the day until evening when our friends would come to feed us France again.
That afternoon, however, I would be given food to feed me for all the rest of my days. After we had taken pleasure from one another for a fifth time on that second day in Saint-Tropez, Adrien sought to bathe in the sea. I was content merely to stay upon the veranda of our cottage and watch him at play. The sun lit the sea in a shimmering reflection the like of which I had never seen before. The sea seemed to turn into gold shards as the waves rolled and crashed about. Within the stream of this golden light Adrien stood. He became a naked shadow eclipsing the very light of Heaven. He raised his arms in happiness and became, to me, something angelic. I could see his strong back and his supple buttocks, but only in vagaries as the light that surrounded him was so supremely bright.
He turned and waved at me, enticing me to come out of my fearful hiding to join him in the surf. The great sun scared me as I knew that I could burn in it’s light so easily. England had conditioned me to clouds and night not unlike that vampire creature the Irishman Brahm Stoker had invented. But, in the light of the sea from the sun, my Angel of Love drew me out of my darkness and into his light.
Adrien had saved me. He had given me life with his love. In that place only we could know as only we could know it, he taught me what it means to be free.
I was no longer the walking undead. I was a man, in love, there in our place with my reason for being made flesh and in my arms. I still live there.
It is the only place where I am real. A souvenir of reality that reminds me now that I once knew what it was to be really truly alive.