Lara Fabian

Lara Fabian (photo unknown)

Little boys have dreams. For me they began in 1967 or ’68 or later; I can’t be sure. I tend to be bad at placing memories in the right time slots but when I think of my youth it helps in a perverse way if I decide something happened before or after my father’s death, which was in July of 1968. This helps and hurts at the same time. It’s like explaining a right cross by punching yourself in the face. I remember running into my mother’s room to tell her about something that certainly must have been magic or divine. I had noticed as I read my book about space travel I could picture what the narrative described in my mind. It was an awakening. It was my first hit of the heroin that books can be.
The next book I owned was “King Henry and His Knights of the Round Table” by Roger Lancelyn Green. I loved the story so much that I began to cherish the physical book as this enchanted box that held Arthur’s world captive within the binding. To this day, some 45 years later, I am always careful not to crease the spines of my novels. I’ve never folded a corner to mark my place and notes well; they’re for notebooks. I suppose I’ve marked up non-fiction works for study and reference but not my novels, not ever.
Books are precious. Books allowed me to visit places where my father wasn’t dead. He wouldn’t get the chance to die again in someone else’s story, unless I put him there, imagining him the vaquero, the astronaut, the guy who came home after work. So I read whatever I could, and for a time, lose myself in the story. I did not have to feel sad and I did not have to be reminded that life isn’t fair, or that once in a while, it felt so awful I surely must feel worse than my brothers or my sister or even my mother. Determining which of us felt worse was as good an excuse as any to begin the lifelong skirmish between shared loss and sibling rivalry.
But from novels, the knights pushed deep into the heroic center of my brain those unassailable virtues of chivalry, wisdom, bravery and the poetry of love’s spoken word. These virtues, which I regularly abandoned throughout my life, still haunt me, calling me from the great misty forests of Camelot to be the better man than the one I’ve chosen to be too many times, so I might slay the dark knights in my head to win out over regret.
I can always find the better feelings listening to the future angel Lara Fabian sing in a language I don’t understand, but still enjoy because of the way it makes me feel. When Sophie Marceau or Audrey Tautou or a black & white Catherine Deneuve speak in lyrical tones, or when one of them whispers in that way French women do that always, always, makes me want to run gasping to a departing train and find her there inside—warm, safe and perfectly pretty, looking up at me from under the sad brim of her hat.
Isabel Allende says, “We all feel younger than our real age because the spirit never ages.” When Lara sings, when Sophie smiles, when I find Catherine late at night in an unexpected movie—I am a boy again. I see Guinevere. I see why books are written about kings and armies and the men who fight them, if only for the chance to return to her, and promise never again to abandon her side as she pulls me close and says, “Si vous me laissez encore, je vais vous traquer et trancher la gorge.” Those French chicks are tough.


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