I still have a picture of you taken on the Pont Alexandre III long before we met, your favorite bridge you told me one day when we were there together, walking on the banks of the Seine, with the river churning alongside and Notre Dame above us.
You know the photo I mean, the faded black-and-white, dog-eared at the edges. Unlike you, it's still here. It was taken right after the war, the big one. You were in civilian clothes once again, your gabardine coat flying in the wind and your hair like wings.
You had climbed a lamppost, and when you turned toward the camera and smiled, someone snapped your picture. Now you are forever nineteen and in Paris, with your teeth gleaming and straight and your stomach flat and the world newborn amid the rubble of war—walls of buildings cracked or tumbled by tanks or riddled with bullet holes, grenades lying unexploded in the streets where dogs peed and children played. Yet life throbbed with a vibrant shimmering, you told me. No more bread lines or guns.
People filled cafés and drank wine, toasted the Liberation and danced. Some got enough petrol to fill the tanks of a few rusted Deux Chevaux that choked and sputtered and belched down tree-lined streets.
Soon everyone went back to living. Painters filled large canvases with exuberant strokes, putting down swaths of cerulean or ultramarine deep to create a sky, their brushes dripping with cadmium orange to make a sunset, squeezing out Naples yellow from a tube into little stars while Piaf sang to the world and sailors took full-breasted beauties into their arms for one last hungry embrace.
And so we come around to one and last and hungry, and my questions remain: if I stare long enough and hard enough and right enough at the photo of your everlasting splendor, can I hear your heldentenor laugh again? Can there just be, please, a little more more?