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New Orleans Scene from ‘The God in Flight’

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Andrew’s childhood had been spent in a tall, narrow old house in the French Quarter, a house dressed in iron lace, a house with lines as graceful as those of a willowy woman. The house was even more feminine than most of the houses in that odalisque district, full of silky and velvety textures and fragrant silence… There was an enclosed courtyard where a fountain ran musically amid japonicas, camellias, green frills of ferns. The Persian carpets on the dark floors were very old, their colors muted by age to the dim, coal-lit glow that stained glass can have when you stand outside a church at night. There was a Pleyel piano, a library of scores… The town house was full of big and little pleasures and comforts, as if it thought that everyone within deserved a soft and perfumed lap to lie in… Relax, it seemed to say. Unclench your neck, breathe deep and slow. Read my books. If you’re tired, sleep. Sleep, for that matter, when you want to. Sit on the veranda in the sun and watch the clouds go by.

Winter here was a manageable enemy, held well at bay by a little fire in a toy fireplace like the one in this room… There was also a peculiarly New Orleans detail, an ormolu gilt plant stand that held an ancient and flourishing feather-fern plant. A bookcase with bowed glass doors yielded a cache of French novels and poetry: George Sand, Balzac, Lamartine. Simion had awarded himself the pleasure of drying well before the fire and got into bed in one of Andrew’s old silk robes. He had hung it on the back of a chair before the fire to warm while he bathed and slipped into it with a sigh of delight. Andrew had given him this robe; it was a heavy yet liquid damask silk the color of strong pekoe tea. He brushed his hair and thought how nice it would be to have someone else do the brushing so he could concentrate fully on the pleasant sensations and fell into one of those strange states that came upon him in this house, at once abstracted and relaxed and utterly alert. The mirrors reflected him, still as a picture, hand and brush poised at the end of a stroke. There were lots of mirrors. Three, in fact; the one above the fireplace holding him full-face, the two on the side walls offering his profile. This was how Andrew found him when he knocked on his door and entered, wearing a sherry-colored dressing gown and looking particularly golden and godlike.

“Come, don’t turn away. You let those heartless mirrors see you, now let me.”

~ Laura Argiri, The God in Flight

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