LOVE YOU LONG TIME – CHAPTER 1 by Peter Nolan Smith

In the summer of 1986 I shared my bed with a raven-haired flamenco dancer from Madrid. Elana’s boyfriend called from New England in late August. She left for Gloucester the next day. My elderly Puerto Rican neighbor cursed me in Spanish for not asking her to stay. The Honduran super translated Mrs. Adorno’s words to inform me that I wouldn’t love another woman for years.

“No sex?”

“No one love you.”

“No one?”

“Only women you do not love.”

The old bruja slammed shut her door.

The Honduran blessed himself and I laughed thinking it was a joke. I should have known better. Witches have no sense of humor.

Women stayed out of my life throughout the fall and winter. I begged Mrs. Adorno to rescind her curse. The old bruja cackled in my face.

Mrs. Adorno was four foot-two. Size didn’t matter to a woman that short. Everyone was big to her. She was scared of no one.

Hoping the curse was strictly American I crossed the Atlantic in the summer of 1989. I landed in Paris and caught an early-morning train out of Gare De Lyons. My best friend, Bertram, arranged a beach shack on the Mediterranean. He was too busy with his nightclub to vacation with me, but his parents greeted his friend as a long-lost cousin, because I spoke a little French and played a decent game of tennis. That first evening I drank wine in the medieval port of Collieure and the next morning attacked the typewriter with a hangover from two bottles of Cote Du Rousillion.

I wrote every day from 9am to 4pm.

Evenings I swam in the luke-warm Mediterranean and imagined falling in love with a girl from the South. None of the bikini teenagers on Carnet-Plage looked at me. At 35 I was old enough to be their father. Sometimes the police followed me down the promenade. They regarded all foreigners as suspect, but my only crime was loneliness.

Despite my dyslexic typing and 6th grade grammar, I completed fifteen stories by the middle of August.

Hearing my Boston-accented ‘au-revoir’ Bernard’s mother insisted that I swear an oath to return to the South. I drank several pastis with her husband, Do-Do. The next morning I hitchhiked north to the Luberon. My English friend, Tiki, had restored a farmhouse in Oppede. The ancient valley was ripe with grapes. I read my best story at dinner for their rich guests. His wife declared they were in the presence of new Henry Miller. I toasted Annabelle with wine from the neighboring vineyard. The bottles were big. I danced on the table and fell asleep on the lawn. Ants bit my legs and mosquitoes slaughtered my neck.

I woke with my manuscript on my chest and read the first page, then another. The stark sunlight was a cruel critic and a repeating whisper evaporated the previous evening’s acclaim.

“Everything is nothing.”

This spike of self-doubt was more than a hangover.

My friends in the Luberon had jobs. They slept with their wives. Children played tag in the 19th Century villa. I was depending on a collection of badly-typed tales to carry me into the future. My bed held one body and I didn’t even have a pet.

I recounted to Annabelle the tale of the curse. She laughed and said, “Silly man, there is no such thing as magic.”

“I haven’t slept with anyone in ages.”

“One day you’ll fall love again and you’ll forgot all about magic and a curse. Trust me I know.”

She gazed over to Tiki. They were very much together. I had had enough of being alone.

The next afternoon I walked to the top of Luberon Plateau. A quarry had created a sheer cliff. I was committed to certain death, except at the very edge of eternity I was attacked by wild pigs. My body smashing on the rocks was an acceptable death, however being gored to death by boars would only ridicule the emptiness of my existence. I ran for my life to climb a wind-seared tree.

That evening I entertained my friends with my tale of the close escape without mentioning the attempted suicide and we dined on a delicious porc au moutarde. Upon leaving for Paris Tiki wished me luck in New York and drove me to Avignon train station. Three hours later I was in the city of Light. I had dinner with artist friends and ran into an actress with whom I had been in a film two years earlier. Gabrielle asked if she could drive me home.

I said her place would be better.

I moved in the next day.

Gabrielle made dinner every night in her Marais apartment. She was a great cook. We had sex every night. She had access to a France of power, beauty, and wealth. Luis Bunuel’s son and I saw HOTEL TERMINUS. The three of us attended the Biarritz Film Festival. I surfed the beach and nearly drowned twice.

That night I told her that I loved her. She cried for an hour. She said she loved me too, although her words sounded as if she had read them off a cue card.

Back in Paris she received a phone call from Berlin. A director had cast her to star as Marie Antoinette’s friend in a costume epic. It was time for me to leave. Our good-bye at Charles de Gaulle Aerogare was final. She didn’t even send a Christmas card. The curse of Senora Adorno had a long shelf life.

During my extended absence the subleasee on East 10th Street hadn’t paid the rent.

My funds were going fast, but I was confident that my collection of short stories would free me from a 9-to-5 existence. A New York agent loved the writing, but the book publishers hated the typos. The short story collection was retired from the submission circuit after twenty rejections.

Without money my writing block rivaled the Berlin Wall and my fingers were exiled from the typewriter for a year. I worked six months as a press agent for a fake jewelry designer. She screamed at the staff every hour of every day.

I was planning her murder, when my friend Richie tore his ACLs skiing at Jackson Hole. He needed someone to schlep diamonds around 47th Street and I became the shabbatz goy for Manny Winick and Sons. Richie groomed me to be his star salesman. I learned how light travels through a diamond at half the speed of light and that customers understood less about diamonds than love. At the end of six months I sold a 10-carat diamond. The commission for that sale amounted to almost 5-figures and I contemplated a six-month writing vacation.

The Sunday New York Times travel section advertised a NYC-LA-HONOLULU-BIAK-BAIL-BANGKOK-KATHMANDU-DELHI-PARIS-LONDON-NY trip. My commissions diamond sale covered the cost of the ticket plus six months of easy living.

I informed Richie about my plans to travel to Asia.

“I’ll be leaving in two months.”

“To do what? Write? Working as McDonald’s trainee pays more than writing and you earned more in three hours selling one diamond than you have writing your book.” Richie enjoyed drinking with me and also loved my getting up early to open the store. He liked sleeping late.

”You going skiing next year?”

>“Of course.” His casts had come off the previous week.

“Why?”

“Because it makes me feel alive. Same as love”

“I feel the same way about writing.” I looked in his eyes like he was my lover. “I’m not going forever.”

I didn’t tell him that it hurt to be alone in New York. I had asked Mrs. Adorno to lift the curse. The 😯 year-old had been deaf to my pleas, but her curse wasn’t the only reason for my celibacy.

A 36 year-old male without a million dollars in the bank was a pariah to New York women. They sought a paycheck to support their shopping like a rich divorcee and I couldn’t blame them for looking over my shoulder at a party, so I worked six days a week for another two months and flew with the sun west.

On the LA stopover I saw an actor friend. Bill had recently finished a film in Bangkok.

“You’ll love it there. Temples and go-go bars. A heaven of sin. Just don’t fall in love.”

“Love will tear us apart.” I didn’t know what else to say other than the title of a Joy Division song.

“You say that now, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Smart guys falling in love with bar girls right off the rice farm.” Bill had lived with the same woman 13 years. The scandal sheets had yet to link his name to an actress or singer or model. His devotion was either an admirable abnormality or a tribute to Oscar-winning discretion.

“I’m done with love.” This trip was dedicated to completing NORTH NORTH HOLLYWOOD. Nothing could be further from love than a novel about pornography.

“Done with love. I know you and you want to be in love worse than anything else.”

“I’m living under a curse.” I explained about Mrs. Adorno and he laughed, “That’s all in your head. There are plenty of women in New York for you.”

“Not one. What about LA?” I liked the swimming pools, palm trees, and Mexican food.

“Sorry, but the love ranking in LA goes this way. Producers, first, directors second, actors third, and valets before writers.”

“Great.” It sounded like another curse. “I guess I’ll keep moving on.”

“You know I wish I had traveled more.” Bill’s stardom determined that his life was not own. “We were filming atop this mountain in the North of Thailand. A little village was about a mile away. It was in Burma. The valleys stretched one after another all the way to China.”

“Sounds like someplace I want to go.”

Bill scribbled down the name of the mountain and I promised to check out Chiang Dao.

Jungles, waterfalls, a cheap bungalow, good food, and cold beer were an ideal location to write NORTH NORTH HOLLYWOOD, which was loosely based on my cousin’s exploits in pornography. Sherri had performed more than two thousand XXX films. She lived on the other side of the Hollywood Hills in the Valley. I wanted to speak with her before I left and called that evening. She answered with a raspy voice muddled by too little sleep, “Where are you?”

“Hollywood, you want to meet later.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Yesterday I crashed my car into an earthmover.”

“Are you okay?” Sherri’s driving skills bordered on terrifying, since she was near-sighted and colorblind.

“Yeah, but I can’t find my glasses. You have any money?”

“Some.” She wasn’t looking to pay an electric bill.

“Can you spare $100?”

“What about $50?” A C-note of Mexican tar was a death warrant.

“Can you make it fast?”

“As fast as I can.” Sherri was in a bad way.

Giving her the money was a mistake, although not a fatal error. I took the 420 bus to her bungalow off Ventura Boulevard in the North Hollywood. The swimming pool was empty, but the garden was in full bloom. Her parrot squawked out either a welcome or warning. My cousin opened the door. She looked like she hadn’t slept in a week, but Sherri’s beauty before the camera came from within and I saw her as I always saw her.

As an 18 year-old girl from New Jersey fresh out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

“You got the money?” I handed her the $50. Junkies like to take the high moral ground anyway they can and she said, “So you’re going to Thailand? What to get laid by whores?”

“I’ve never been with a prostitute.” I protested without conviction, for TIME magazine had published a long article about sex in Asia and the thousands of lone male tourists hadn’t flown 10,000 miles to visit Bangkok’s Emerald Buddha. I had read the story three times for future reference.

“Nothing wrong with paying for it. All men do some way or another.”

“I guess so.” I was a romantic at heart.

“Just don’t fall in love out there.”

“You’re the second person to tell me that in the two days.” I suspected she wouldn’t be the last and assured Sherri “I’m no stranger to the ways of the flesh.”

“If you think you’ve had all the answers, then you haven’t heard all the questions.”

The doorbell rang and Sherri jumped from her sofa. The transaction took five seconds and she was already preparing her arm for the needle by the time she reached the sofa. Once the spike touched blood, she would be gone and I said my good-bye.

“I’ll send you postcards.”

“You can be my eyes and ears in Asia.” She was already nodding out. I would say prayers at temples and churches around the world. Some would have to help, because my cousin was no longer capable of helping herself.

The next day I left the USA at LAX.

I wasn’t coming back this way either.

This was a trip around the world. All my tickets were westward bound. Somewhere beyond the Pacific I would outrun the curse, but only if the speed of a jet was faster than magic.

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