Monday, June 19, 2017

Concerning the Stable Walls

 Concerning the Stable Walls

Maybe I want these murmurs to mean something and to be perfectly clear neither my French nor Latin are very good, especially when listening through stone, so much of what I hear may be prayers or muffled masturbation or old rocks doing what we expect when we put a conch shell to our ear.

When we first began, more than a decade ago, staying in the ground level apartment on rue Ferou, we had no idea it had been the horse stable of the convent that housed a canonized Saint. It had not been a convent for some long time, but that did not keep gangs of curious Catholic tourists from peering into our courtyard. One day, returning with groceries, I caught a group of these pilgrims in rapt fixation. Several were clutching rosaries, which I later discovered was the key to this particular Saint. She had founded a society for the praying of the Rosary.  As a child, I considered the rosary to be more or less a gaudy, hand-held necklace. I was unaware of its symbolism.  If only I had known about the significance of repetition, rows of beads, and the timelessness of putting dots into alignment.

Probably the building had changed much or maybe not at all from the time when this modern era saint occupied the convent. Certainly the stable was no longer there, converted into the apartment we visited each summer for a couple months at a time.  We rent the apartment from an elegant woman who lives in Provence, St. Remy to be slightly more precise. In all these years we have never met her, only sent her rent money.  She stays in her Paris apartment a short time each year.  It was converted from stable to a living space some time before she made it her pied a terre.

The stone walls of the convent stable most certainly have soaked up as much sound and history as rocks might absorb. Or, as boulders are not known for their absorbency, it could be the sound waves that have glanced off these hard surfaces continue to reverberate selectively. The sounds are not made by the current occupants above and across the courtyard.

There are no neighbors on the other side of the wall. Of that I am certain. There are people who live above the apartment whose main amusement seems to be rearranging the furniture by dragging or pushing it across the wood floor.  If the floor were carpeted or they lifted the chairs and table we might never know they were home. There are other inhabitants across the courtyard and some can be quite vocal or play their music with no consideration for others. A monkey on the top floor could be expected to howl much of the day while its keeper was away. Fortunately, none of the other residents worked at home. Only those who ate their lunch in their apartments heard the monkey.

The violinist, two flights up and across, practices her instrument when it is appropriate. Most who live in the former convent have an awareness that others might hear their actions, whether vacuuming, talking on their phones, or more intimate relations. I recall a mother explaining to her little girl that the sounds coming from across the courtyard were not of someone being hurt. She told her daughter that it was more an expression of happiness that she would someday understand. The little girl returned to bouncing a rubber ball on the wood floor directly above me, as her mother quickly closed the windows.

No one lives on the other side of the stone wall.

Possibly the wall is filled with characters created by Alexandre Dumas. After all, he used our address in a number of stories. For instance, The Count hid in our stable, disguised as a priest. Yes, That Count.

Edmond Dant√®s acquired the ability to speak and hear through rocks over many years of forced practice.       

Sandy Kinnee

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