The story of Proust and I
Have I told you the story of when I dined al fresco with Proust?
He wanted to meet in the afternoon for tea but he kept telling me — “I want to dip you in tea and have my way with you!” so I said to him, “darling, it’s either dinner or nothing.”
We dined in the woods, on a long table under a tree with crystal chandeliers hanging from it. The table was set with silverware, and plates with floral patterns drawn on them. There were crystal vases filled with peonies, silver candelabras lit with ivory candles; Hermès silk scarves to place on our laps and the moon to light it all up. We sat on chairs with velvet cushioned backs, on opposite sides at the head of the table, drinking milk from wine glasses and dipping our madeleines.
“I dosed off right before coming here Madeliene; when I woke up I thought I had been gone for months but time on the clock had barely moved!”
“I know what you mean darling; sometimes I’m away for a very long time without even dosing off and yet time on the clock would have moved but an inch.”
“Is it not Madeliene?”
“Oh darling I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening. You were saying?”
“It’s alright Madeliene, where were you?”
“I was at a long forgotten December day.”
“Ah, in a world where time is not fugitive.”
He lifted his empty glass, grinning with the ends of his black whiskers turned milky white. As I made to get up, he rushed over and pulled the chair for me, then he went to sit back in his chair. I walked over to him, with my Marchesa ribbon embroidered ball gown rustling in the silent woods; my bare feet cold with the slightly wet moss. I poured milk in his glass and left the jug near the madeleines.
“Merci Mademoiselle! Please, allow me,” and taking my hand in his, he escorted me to the other end of the table, pulling out my chair once again and waited for me to settle in my seat. He made to go back to his chair when he turned to me and taking my hand in his once again, he bent on one knee and looked into my eyes. He looked like he was going to propose and I thought of a hundred ways to refuse him politely, during the five longest seconds of my life.
“I will always remember you here Madeliene, on this chair, in this dress, under chandeliers lit with the light of the moon. I will visit you here often when I start to miss you.”
“I hope you will forget me darling. I hope you will forget all of this, so that when you do remember it all it will feel like the story is just unfolding.”
He stood and went back to his seat but not before kissing my hand and grazing it slightly with his whiskers. We stayed here for a long time, recalling stories about our mothers and kisses goodnight; willing our past selves to come to life so that we could discuss them and arguing over the art of day dreaming.
Story credits: Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past; Marchesa; Moda Operandi; Hermès; Farfetch.