This is the third and final installment of “Travel with a French Writer”. You can find the first and second installments here and here

Each night I come back home, look at the post box, surf my email, but no there is no letter. I start cursing myself again and again for that letter.

Then one day, I forget about it. Six months pass. And then that horrible day which is destined to become also my most precious.

I am invited in a writing workshop in a bookshop on the Banks of Seine in Paris. Yes, Paris! The city I always dreamt of chanted of, breathed of.

Today is the day. It’s eight in the morning. I, while lying down, pick up the newspaper. All hell broke loose before me; on the very front page there is the news, “Woman jumped at the metro. Survived miraculously.” And below, there is a small color photograph. I start to shiver.

It is Suzanne!

I read through the news to find out the hospital name and am dressed in two minutes. I shoot out of my room at lightning speed and ask the concierge to arrange a taxi immediately.

“Sir,  will you come back soon?” he says.

“I don’t know.”

“Your workshop starts at 10 a.m.”

“Cancel it!” I shout.

“Pardon?”

“Tell the organizers I will not be able to go.”

“But, sir. . .”

“The taxi?” I stopped the receptionist.

“It is here.”

In ten minutes I am at the hospital where Suzanne is admitted. She is out of danger, and that’s a first good news I heard the entire morning.

I have to see her.

I have to talk to her.

I walk straight into the doctor’s room and tell him my situation. I am not sure if the middle-aged doctor understands correctly or not, but after keeping me long in suspense he says, “I will try to let you see her, but may be just for five minutes.”

“That will do.”

I wait for one hour. At last, I get the call. I enter the room where Suzanne is lying. The curtains are removed and through the glass the light falls on her face. Her face shows the trauma she has undergone. Yet she looks beautiful.

I find a strange peace within.

***

Suzanne smiles at me and says, “So we meet again.”

“I knew we would. But never thought in this way.”

“Life is like that. You never know what will happen in the next moment.”

I tell her, “But I think you tried to do just that.”

“What?”

“Know, what lies after death.”

She keeps silent. She just stares at me blankly and her eyes look tired.

“Why you tried to kill yourself Suzanne?”

No words came.

“Tell me,  Suzanne.”

She says, “I don’t know.”

“I don’t believe you. A writer like you who is so confident of everything–why she would try to kill herself?”

“Writers often commit suicide. They are unpredictable. See the long lists!”

“I know. But why you, Suzanne?”

She looks at me. She slowly stretches her hand and grabs my palm. Then she opens her lips, “Yesterday, I thought to end everything.”

“End what?”

“I lost my writing,” she says. “I am unable to write any more. Not even a single sentence will come to me now. Each night, I sit, stare at the darkness and my laptop’s white screen seems to mock me. I find nothing to write. For months, I have been in this condition, Ron. I cannot take it any more.”

“It happens to everyone. It’s writer’s block.”

“I have lost it for months. It is six months now that I’ve been unable to write. And I know the reason.”

I ask, “What? Tell me Suzanne.”

“I can’t,” she says.

“You have to!” I am suddenly shouting.

Suzanne shivers.

I feel strange. I hardly ever shout. The thing, is I cannot stand seeing Suzanne in this misery.  “I am sorry,” I tell her. I hold her hands.

She breaks into tears.

‘Please tell me, Suzanne. I cannot tolerate that you are suffering like this. Tell me the reason, I beg you.”

“Give me some time. May be, I will.”

I remain silent. My cell phone rings just then. The workshop organizers are calling. “I can’t come,” I tell them. “I have an emergency.” I cut off the call.

Again, they call. Again, I cut it off. Then I switch off the phone.

“Who is there?” Suzanne asks.

“Organizers.”

“Of what?”

I tell her, “I came to Paris for my first writing workshop, and my session is today.”

Suzanne looks shocked. “What? What the hell you are doing here?”

“I can’t recite a story in public when you are in a hospital bed!” I say.

“Ron! Is it you, who only knows the obsession of words?  Is it you, who always mesmerizes readers when you speak on writing? I will never forget that session of Jaipur Literature Festival when you read a story and there was just pin drop silence everywhere. I cried. I never have seen anyone in real life so engrossed in literature. Ron, and you are now in Paris, your dream!”

I tell her, “Forget it!”

“What? When is the workshop?”

“At ten in the morning.”

“Where it is?”

“Opposite Notre Dame.”

“You have twenty minutes. You have to run. Because no cab can avoid the traffic now. Running is the only way!”

“Suzanne, I will not leave you.”

“I will hit you now! I am well and alive you idiot! I am a writer, too!  Don’t insult the words which brought you here. Get up, just go man!”

I still sit in the chair.

Suzanne looks at me, and suddenly in a very soft voice says, “Do you know why I wanted to finish myself? Because of you. The letter you gave me, I lost it in the train and never came to know what you wrote it. So, I too was unable to write that one letter which I always thought of writing you. And from there, my crisis of words started. I feared of writing you the truth. So, I never wrote anything and ultimately, I lost all of my words.”

I need to know, “What is the truth Suzanne?”

“I am in love with you. That’s it. Yes, just this much. Now I don’t care what you feel about me. I have told you.”

“Suzanne. . .” I grasp her hands but can’t say anything.

“Will you go now? You have fifteen minutes left.”

“I will never reach there in time.”

“You will,” she says. “Who is your favorite author?”

“Why?”

“Tell me!”

“Hemingway.”

“Remember Moveable Feast. Every line of it. And do you know where you are sitting? Cardinal Lemoine. Where Hemingway lived. It’s just the next lane!”

I am breathless.

She continues, “Yes, so follow the shortcut Papa followed. Paris has changed but the old streets are still there, and if you run you will reach your destination before the clock strikes ten. Now run!”

***

I jump up. I look at her. “Suzanne, I love you and that is what I tried to write in that letter.” I kiss her lips then leave an astounded Suzanne in her bed. I come out of the hospital, the lines of Moveable Feast in my mind. I can utter each line thousand times. I know the road through which Hemingway used to walk to the Latin Quarters, to the bookshop of Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare and Company.

I come to the next lane. There is a blue door in front. 74, Cardinal Lemoine! Hemingway’s Home! I kneel down and kiss the dust on the street of Paris. I look peculiar in broad daylight on a busy street and people stare.

I don’t care. I utter just one line, “Papa, I am here!” Then, I run.

Along with me runs my shadow, and we both fly through the cobbled stone streets of Paris, collecting all those words which we wrote from childhood, from adolescence, from youth. And now we are here running to that one bookshop on the bank of river Seine across from the Notre Dame Church.

I looked at my shadow, and we both are happy.

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