From Book 2: Josette and Youki

            Artaud’s own hair, neatly slicked back earlier, had slid loose because of the heat and now hung around his face. It looked strange, for his hair still had a few centimeters to grow until it attained the length it had been a year ago; it fell only to his cheekbones, a chestnut bowl of hair not unlike Justine’s. “Love the bob!” Desnos teased him. Distractedly, he whistled a tune that broke off—he had done this since our trip to the Loire.

            In disgust, Artaud raked his hair back. “I suppose I’ll have to cut it again,” he groused. “It might help me find work.”

            “Maybe you should instead focus on trying not to alienate every director you encounter,” Roger muttered as he stared into his glass. “That might help you find work.” Justine’s hand tightened on a tuft of his hair and gave it a yank. He glanced at her angry eyes and shrugged.

            “You’d think an actor could be paid to look for a job, as that’s work enough,” I put in hastily, again attempting to sweep away Roger’s sarcasm. “A writer, at least, can have another job while he pursues his writing, but an actor spends so much time at interviews and auditions, he hardly has the energy for another job. A writer can always scribble away with his notebook beneath the desk, or read during lunch, or—”

            “You are wise, Geoffrey,” Artaud said. I was startled to hear him say my Christian name. “You have your life figured out. You earn an income which gives you independence, so you are not at the mercy of your family, and yet it’s simple work, useful, and doesn’t interfere with mental pursuits. In order to create anything, one has to rely on a certain amount of stability in life, I’ve discovered. Boredom and inspiration go hand in hand. I’m so busy writing letters to directors, telephoning them, meeting with them, that I’ve neither time nor energy to earn money, except by these humiliating little writing projects that occasionally come my way.”

            I objected, “Your letters have become poems. And your poems have the form of essays. Nothing you write fits the old categories, and that is real work in itself.”

            “Yes, but it does not pay,” Artaud groused.

            Desnos, who had sagged in his chair at the first mention of work, now sat bolt upright as the door to the café swung open. “There’s Youki! Let’s go say hello,” he begged.

            Artaud pushed back his chair and scowled in contempt at that auburn knot of hair suspended gracefully over the back of her fur collar. “You keep your mind off her.”

            “‘You keep your mind off her…’” Desnos imitated his friend in a whiny voice as Artaud left his chair and walked up to the counter to buy cigarettes. Using both his hands and legs, Desnos propelled himself out of his own chair without a word of good-bye to us and walked toward Youki and Foujita. After the three exchanged some pleasantries, the couple invited him to sit down with them and he did. Artaud noticed this, made a face, and leaned against the counter, waiting for his cigarettes. The tension between him and Desnos was mounting every day. I could see it behind Desnos’s smile; his tolerance in the face of Artaud’s harsh manner was wearing thin. And Artaud was issuing orders now as if he were—well, André Breton.

            Left alone at our end of the table, Louis and contemplated our cups for a moment. Then I smiled up at Louis. “Can you imagine Desnos and Artaud getting into a fight?”

            Louis looked horrified. “It would split the atom!”

            “Nothing’s the same anymore,” I muttered, looking over my shoulder at another pretty blonde stranger, not a part of our group, who had risen from her table and was now talking to Artaud at the counter. Artaud pressed his lips to her hand, leaned an elbow on the zinc, and smiled a very charming smile as he answered her. He could be very charming when he felt like it, and when he felt like it, he had no problem attracting women. Women approached him and they approached Roger. And Desnos, not nearly as handsome as those two, moved as easily between women of different backgrounds as he did between different states of mind. I did not attract women; but then again, I didn’t approach them. I was still locked up tight in my secretive self without knowing why.

            Louis hit my arm. “Quit drooling over Artaud’s new butterfly!” I raised my eyebrows. “Yes, you heard me. Her name’s Josette Lusson.”

“It did not take him long to find a replacement!” I noted. Louis nodded wryly. “Artaud works fast. He went after Genica, after all.”

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