Agent Moi. So there I was turning over the Euros in my pocket at Charles de Gaulle Airport. That and eating an orange waiting for Mother. We agreed to meet here where we had parted a week before.
That’s when I saw him from the corner of my eye–a chubby, bearded man in a trenchcoat running, pursued by three airport guards. He was yelling something in French which I couldn’t make out in the din of announcements, bells, and crowd noise.
They tackled him, but he threw them off one at a time as they tried to handcuff him–this escaped mental patient, drug addict, or perhaps escapee from security. When the three guards were finally lying across him, the crazed man’s head gestured upward as he became aware of something on the floor high above us. “Regardez la femme, la vielle femme.”
Then the passengers around him were looking up and exclaiming, “Les anges”. I lifted my eyes briefly too, but saw nothing, before they punched him out, angels not being a common sight at Charles de Gaulle.
My mother and I had stood in about the same place just a week earlier. We were relatively separate souls, mother and son. She had a friend on the Left Bank she would visit “after all these years”. They would do the usual city tours, l’ Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tour and so on, while I headed out to the countryside. I wanted to see Monet’s Garden at Giverny and Dieppe’s beaches. I’m that kind of mix of personal interest and had already ‘done Paris’ the last time over.
She is seventy-eight and we had buried Dad three months before. She declared herself ready for a big trip, the two of us, and we pondered several possibilities before settling on Paris.
My mother is her own person and I am too, so there was no need for checking in on how the other was doing. She is active for her age and once cycled fifty miles and back when she was seventy. I respect her freedom and admire her energy. She has been way busier than me in my retirement.
I did call the number she had left me at the airport when we arrived, but there had been no answer.
And so Agent Moi suddenly surrounded by gendarmes, who named me correctly and flashed a picture of my mother. She had died in the taxi on the way into town and so never saw Paris or her friend. A stroke. I suppose within the realm of possibility given her pack a day habit that had once wired her for previous physical feats.
I wanted to feel something, standing there in a sea of international tourists, mostly French-speaking, but nothing came to me. She had died the way she lived—on her own terms, doing what she wanted I thought, the two of us now separated forever.
And I thought about the woman these many strangers could see, but not I. Her and her heavenly host.
an imaginative piece from a decade ago