Another autumn sags bleakly across the face of France, its arrival heralded by the flock of fat geese I saw crossing the sky this evening just south of the Seine. The braying and squawking they produced reminded me ineluctably of the National Convention; for a moment I was quite homesick. Fortunately the sensation was fleeting. I went searching almost immediately for a musket to shoot them down, but there you are: never a violent weapon around when you need one.
Oh, the times when I have longed for weaponry and had none at hand. Any afterlife suitably paradisiacal considering my earthly sacrifices would have been stocked fence-to-field as a full armory. Perhaps occasionally Gilbert Mottie, Jacques Brissot, and a complement of faceless aristocrats could have been summoned up from the black depths of hell in which they currently reside and permitted to run, screaming, round in little circles while I took potshots at them with a variety of exquisite pistols. Such were the dreams I dreamed of death, and never could I have imagined the true horror of my post-mortem state: still gazing out the dreary warped-glass window of my subterranean domain, casting a considering eye on the ever-changing generations of spiders.
I am considering organizing an arachnoid colony, and testing my political theories upon it. It seems potentially instructive in all ways.
September is so full of memories. Not, I am obliged to say, very pleasant ones.
You know, a woman once left flowers in my passageway. I remember the color of them, though of course the only scent was the burnt oak and ice water smell that everything takes on, here. Nowadays there aren't even leaves falling. Just people-- in waves-- faceless, unfamiliar. Are we here under Providence?
I've been waiting for an answer for years.
The days are turning darker now. I can hear the doves calling from their autumn nests in the eaves. What do they do, what do doves do when winter comes? They can't very well stop being doves. They settle down with their strange little birdish memories of summer and weather the season out. I wonder if they even know it's cold. They're all nerve endings, doves. Quick and animal. Not like us. Antoine would have said--
I was fiddling with the old dates today, you know, for a bit of a lark. Completely useless, I'm prepared to admit it. But there's not much else to do in this heat, unless you're in the habit of taking a siesta. And while there's no shame in a well-earned catnap, I can't be settling down and throwing two or three hours out the window every day like just so much piss. Unlike some people, of course.
, speaking of whom . . . it's nearly your day, Camille. 30 Thermidor.
In Rome it's always very hot, much hotter than Paris, much more humid. I think I would like to go to Venice, I would like to see the canals: the ocean come to man. It would be wide and bright under the sky, but once you were between the houses there would be scum, it would be dark and mysteriously green; it's always like that where people live. Not a place for swimming, not the sort of water you can touch . . . it would not be friendly any more, not so much in the shade. You might drown, or Max . . .
I want to breathe again, I want to breathe deeply in and feel all young and new. The air here sticks in your lungs; it's much too old; too many people have breathed this air. It's quite used up, exhausted, dead and buried. Yet we go on dragging it into ourselves, like the fishermen's children who don't go to school and their thick rope nets, their identical futures. They, too, are in Venice of course, not here. Still I don't want to leave; I am looking for something, or maybe someone.
Yes, I'm in Rome. It's monstrously hot, and I'm forever pulling you-know-whom out of holes in the ground, the great sod. Apart from that . . . well, that's about it, in fact.
Except for my secret connections.
Rome is lovely, dark and de -- no, that's not right, although it does describe the catacombs. There's something queer about them which is both peculiar and fascinating, and of course very powerful. I'm drawn particularly to the moment of descent, to the down-going into the dust and the gloom. At first you can't see because your eyes are accustomed to the sun, and the cool air strikes you physically, like a blow to the gut. On s'habitue à tout, however. People lived there once. Their graves, too, attract me; they are smaller than ours, meant for an older race. Ages and ages ago somebody carefully scooped them out of the walls; they made neat little curved spaces, perhaps (certainly) with their hands. But if you put your own hand inside now they are empty. When it comes out there is dirt on it. It's like that for everyone someday.
The angry month of July draws once again to a close. Once, I admit, I rather looked forward to summer. So much blood to be boiled, so many riots to be raised among the sticky dust of the city's districts. Now, however, all that rises from the assembled faubourgs is the phantom force of my rage. It hangs like a gloomy miasma over haute-coutured Paris, seeping into the fine wines and expensive foods of the tourists who crowd the streets, perpetrating inanity. Perhaps I flatter myself to think that they can taste my ghostly wrath like a bitter liqueur upon their tongues.
Yes, the goddess Anoia is certainly among us in Paris, these days. Perhaps that is why I have glimpsed so few of my former comrades. I hear rumors, now and then, of some ridiculous pilgrimage Desmoulins has undertaken to Rome, yet of Danton and Robespierre: nothing. Probably they have gone off on some grand voyage and left me behind. It would be in all ways consistent with their previous behavior.
Still, the spiders spin their webs, humming comforting spider-songs about the demise of the civilized world and the coming of all things to ruins and dust in which future arachnid generations will continue to weave. Reassuring things, spiders. Perhaps it is their fatality that makes them such faithful companions.