Dream of: 28 February 1997 "Achilles' Heel"

My wife Carolina and I had just arrived in Paris. We were walking through the streets, still carrying our bags, trying to figure out where we were going to stay. It seemed like springtime and a carnival atmosphere permeated the air. People were walking through the streets past the elegant ancient buildings which surrounded us. Everyone seemed happy and I understood why Parisians would not feel the need to travel: they had so many good reasons to stay in Paris. There was so much to do and see – I felt extremely happy. I had longed for so long to be in Paris and now I was finally there; I was unsure I would ever leave.

We needed to find a place to stay. Just ahead of us rose a huge monolithic monument which seemed to be a famous landmark. I looked on the map of Paris which I was carrying and saw that the monument was called "Achilles Heel." I wondered what the French word for "heel" was, but I couldn't think of it.

My main concern was finding a place to stay. I didn't think I knew anyone in Paris; but then I remembered that there might be one person: John Cooper. I seemed to recall hearing that Cooper had moved to Paris, and I thought back over who he was. I recalled how I had met him and his friend Mark Upton back when I had been in high school in Portsmouth, Ohio more than 25 years ago. They had attended a small high school in the neighboring town of New Boston. Cooper and Upton had been gay and had been a couple while they had been in high school. They both had been quite intelligent, and when they had finally gone their separate ways, Upton had moved to Manhattan and Cooper to another big city. I also recalled how Upton had finally died in Manhattan of AIDS. I wondered how his death had affected his mother – a working woman who had doted on him and put him through college. But my real question was whether Cooper had moved to Paris. I couldn't quite remember; I finally decided that finding him would probably be too difficult.

My attention was distracted anyway, for as Carolina and I had been walking along a park-like area near the Achilles monument, a wreck had occurred in the street right in front of us. A car had scrapped the back fender of a police car, and then run into another car. The policeman was already standing outside his car; I thought to myself that of all cars, I would least want to run into a police car. The driver of the car which had caused the accident was also standing there: an attractive brown-haired woman dressed in a fuzzy green sweater and pants. I stared at her with complete contempt. For some reason – without even knowing the woman – I had conceived an ardent dislike of her, and I hoped she would be severely punished for her recklessness.

***

Carolina and I had found a secluded vacant lot, surrounded by old buildings, where we had decided to camp out for the night. We had also been joined by my father and a woman with him, as well as another man and woman who were with my father. The four of them had also journeyed to Paris for a visit, and my father had even driven his car: a brand new dark-brown Cadillac.

I was busily trying to decide exactly where we would stay on the lot, which resembled a parking lot, covered with concrete, except for several cordoned-off areas where plants were growing. And precisely the plants were occupying my attention. In each green area I noticed one plant which I found particularly offensive. Each of the ugly weeds was about a meter tall, and when I touched one, I found that it was only barely rooted in the ground. Unable to resist, I jerked up one plant. I then jerked up a second one and threw both plants on the ground, but then I began to worry that someone might come and accuse me of destroying the plants. So I picked up both plants, carried them to another small area of plants farther away from where we were, and set them upright so it wasn't obvious that they had been up-rooted. Satisfied that now no one would know what I had done, I returned to the others.

Since my father wanted to go somewhere, I got into the car with him and his companions and he began driving down the road. Almost immediately either someone in the car or someone on the radio made a comment about how many homosexuals lived in Paris. This immediately set the stage for a conflict between my father and me. I said the large number of gays simply demonstrated what an enlightened artistic city Paris was. My father made a snide comment, and I retorted that he was just showing how prejudiced he was. The word "prejudice" reverberated in my mind, and I thought how my father had so many prejudices against so many kinds of people. His prejudices seemed downright dirty.

At the same time, my father began driving very erratically, actually banged into a parked car, and without stopping, continued on. It looked as if one of the front lights of the Cadillac had been knocked out. I was appalled that he would simply crash into someone's car and not stop.

Suddenly something more important came to mind: I realized we had driven off and left Carolina standing back at the vacant lot. I quickly asked my father if he were going to return for her, so she could go with us; he said he wasn't. I was immediately angry and told him to stop the car. He suddenly turned the wheel of the car, skidded around and hit another parked car with one of the large fins on the back of the car (the fin looked like the old Cadillac fins of the 1950s). When the Cadillac came to a stop, I jumped out.

I looked back up the street; we had already traveled several blocks through a seedy desolate area of the city. I had no choice but to head back; I took off at a trot. I hadn't run far, however, when I heard something behind me. My father was driving the Cadillac right up on the sidewalk, following me. His front lights were on – except one had been knocked out. One of the back lights was also out.

What had my attention was my father's voice: apparently he had a loud speaker hooked up in the car, and he was calling me every name he could think of in the angriest crudest voice he could muster. I specifically heard him call out "faggot" as well as many other names.

He was also gaining on me, and I worried that he might even try to run over me. Up to my left I saw a small wooded space and I thought I might run in there. But that place also looked dangerous: thugs might be hiding in the woods. It looked as if my best bet was just to keep running and try to dodge out of the way if my father drove too close.

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