Madame Pageau always appeared at Café le Conti just as the Vesper bells of Notre Dame chimed. An old sweet lady, not elegant but rather grandmotherly she was loved by the waiters and the regulars alike. Each and every person who met her more than once at the café knew her story.
Every day at Vespers hour she would arrive by taxi to the café. Her employer always paid for the trip to and from his house at 56 Avenue Victor-Hugo. You see, Madame Pageau was the housekeeper for one of the most notorious men of Paris. Rene Michel Petriz, the highest paid and most desired gigolo in all of France.
On this particular afternoon Madame Pageau was seated at her favorite spot on the sidewalk at the table which everyone knew as “Madame’s table”. She waited for her coffee and contemplated whether or not to take the three Italian Pistachio macaroons out of her Chanel bag (a beloved gift from Monsieur). Better not, she was saving them for bedtime. Marcel, her favorite waiter smiled as he served her the coffee. There were three chocolate macaroons on the saucer.
“A little surprise for Madame.” He was a shadow of a once very handsome man.
Madame Pageau touched his hand and smiled her thanks.
“And how is Monsieur Petriz? Well I hope?”
“Very well Marcel thank you. And if you think I will tell tales just for those macaroons…..”
“Oh, No Madame! I had no intention.”
“Very well… Just so we understand each other.” It was always the same pretense before she filled him in on the latest gossip.
After a few crumbs of scandal from Madame, Marcel retreated satiated with the excitement of such a glamorous life, a life he might have had if he had been bolder in his youth.
Madame Pageau sipped her coffee and smiled in the knowledge that once again she had filled in new pages in the legend of her employer. It tickled her that every word was a lie designed to enhance his reputation.
He did not sleep in white silk pajamas sewn with gold thread imported from India. He did not own five hundred pairs of Ferragamo shoes; He was not the illegitimate son of Franco Nero and Brigitte Bardot. There was no single rose delivered each day by a spurned ex-king whose mistress he had bedded. He was not in fact bisexual. That would come later in life. It was true that he liked to hang out at Bar du Marché with gay boys of the left bank (a few he even kissed on a lark). Such was his vanity that it demanded attention from all quarters.
Embrasser le beau mec au Bar du Marché. Pour le plaisir.
(photograph by Blaine Harrington)
There were many gifts from clients but not on the scale Madame Pageau would have the world believe. It was true that he bought most of his own jewelry except for that huge canary diamond tie pin from the American actress. He did not have his valet spay the sheets of his bed with Damascus rose scented perfume. On the contrary it was an orange and lemon eau de cologne. But Madame Pageau thought the rose was more romantic. It was true that all over Paris wealthy women luxuriated in the scent he left on their sheets for days after he was gone from their beds. So as it always happened, today’s tales were spread along with all the others from Madame to Marcel and on to the rest of the city. The tales she spun had stolen the very heart of Paris.
What Madame Pageau never told anyone was what he smelled like when he gave her a hug and called her “ma petite tante”. He smelled of tussled sheets the morning after, of champagne, sex, velvet jackets and expensive patchouli and plum perfume. There was always the faint presence of a woman near his skin. Rene Michel smelled like his father had smelled the one and only night she had met him all those years ago. This tiny detail of the legend no one knew but her. There were not enough macaroons in Pairs that could bribe from Madame Pageau the very true fact that she loved Rene Michel as if he were her very own son which of course he was.
Grégory Fitoussi as Rene Michel Petriz
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photo by Holly Revell
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VOLEUR DE ROSES L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR
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