Author’s note: What you’re about to read isn’t meant to be a positive or negative image or metaphor of Paris. Whether good or bad, beyond or besides all the clichés, and despite its possible arrogance, this book is meant to be Paris.

 

One possible September

Beau Patrick returned. Paris wasn’t there anymore. A year at Disney, Orlando included, a year of kids and McFatties and thirteen- twenty- forty-year-old teens and people in shorts, baseball caps, Gap sweatshirts and sweatshirt-families who aim to be sweatshirt-families consume consume consume and love love love the mouse god and his friends. More night and at the corner of Rue du Bac and Boulevard Saint-Germain the clack clack of high heels echoes alone so alone that someone on the other bank of the Seine can hear a clack (three Byrons arrive together), several clacks (with a fencing sabre Byron 1 slits the throat of the woman with heels, white leggings and a Vuitton bag), the final clack?, and everything Italian about them, suit hat boots, not giving a damn about the heatwave that won’t motherfucking let up in Paris, and then Byrons 2 and 3 poke the body on the ground without bruising the breasts, they never bruise a woman’s breasts, while Byron 1 goes for the best angle with an iPhone, I want full mouth, click, Give me more neck more blood more end of the world, click click click, but the woman doesn’t move, unlike the Borsalino that’s slipped ever so slightly on his head, Dammit, which he adjusts before sending the photos to Vogue, Just who are we, dear? Heirs of the gentlemen who invented elegance. Nineteenth-century, England. Of course you don’t know, but we know who you are. People who have no regard whatsoever for us. Why didn’t you stay in America eating junk food in front of the TV with your obese husband who was born with a beer can in hand? Let me guess, he wears a fanny pack, let me guess, you have sex every other year. Oh, you don’t speak French? Désolé, dying in English is so unglamorous, and he sinks the sabre into the woman’s heart and the blade stays upright and gradually leans and he orders Byron 2 to retrieve the Vuitton bag, looks for the serial number, It’s a fake, dumps everything on the ground, wallet lipstick semi-professional Canon future retirement in Florida. He steps on the Canon. Steps on retirement in Florida. Checks if the sole of his Prada boot got scuffed, it didn’t, hands the Vuitton bag to Byron 3 to burn and all the fires the fire and more Rue du Bac and Boulevard Saint-Germain now starring Beau Patrick, oui, oui, he’d already walked along Boulevard Haussmann gone down Rue de Richelieu crossed the Pont des Arts headed onto Rue Bonaparte and nothing, no one to make elegant, She’s American, had to be, they can’t resist Paris, and he watches from a distance the corpse of the woman in heels and white leggings as well as the little Vuitton barbecue that burns until the Byrons leave and then he goes down Rue du Bac running his hand over his head, no, he hasn’t got on the hat he had to wear at Disney, Orlando included, a year being more mouse than man, and his memories get even goofier, those people practically smacked each other to get on the rides. What did Beau Patrick come to do in Saint Germain? Visit the Tuuuumor (the Byrons thought they owned the place until one Beau day the Brummels invaded Deyrolle and stayed there). Beau Patrick isn’t afraid of God or the devil, all he fears is Made in China, and when he buttons his Saint Laurent blazer and enters the Tuuuumor, breaking news, Latest Paris tourist murdered on the corner of Rue du Bac and Boulevard Saint-Germain?

 

A year and two months earlier

The couple was kissing, backs to the world, on the low wall of the Pont de la Tournelle, people only kiss that way at sunset, and they’d stay in that position for years, sitting hugging tracked by the heavens and moons, the girl swinging her legs in the air and the guy saying things guys say when they want to get a girl, they’d be in the same position for centuries if not for a Byron in a red satin Gucci suit passing by and pushing the two into the Seine, and while the media forgot the case and while love’s love flowed freely at summer’s start, other Byrons attacked a Latino tourist who was walking along Boulevard Saint Michel in ripped-knee Levi’s and then the social networks went haywire, #sabregang became a trending topic and the government lamented the isolated incident and even though the worst crimes of humanity start this way, with what seems to be an isolated incident, governments downplay the incident at first instead of trying to prevent its proliferation, and so more days more Montmartre and poof, four or five Brummels wearing four or five Balmain and Jean Paul Gaultier overcoats and armed with tailored Comme des Garçons Tasers took aim at an Asian tour group, people in shorts and flip-flops, people who coordinate the colour of their belt and shoes, and paralysed them (love works the same way) handcuffed them stuck them in a van and in the midst of all this a guy named Patrick met a girl named Alina.

Before her, in the beginning was the byword. Et je m’en vais au vent mauvais, you like Verlaine, babe? Oh Patrick, you’re amazing and then they got to know each other better or worse and, Oh Patrick, you’re not that amazing, and the girls would leave and he’d go back to the Café Rostand in front of the Luxembourg Gardens, front table facing the pedestrian walkway, Best view of the sea of Paris, guys, and the last girlfriend didn’t even say ciao because at the same time he was collecting Michelin guides he was capable of, besides being a model she was Swedish, who doesn’t want a Swedish girlfriend?, he was capable of, When we have kids I don’t mind taking care of them while you work, and Marc and the friends from grade-school days he’d encounter on the street had to hear umpteen times How could I have lost that woman?

The Fashion Museum became the Fashion Museum once Patrick started to cover the walls with photos of supermodels, some blown-up and framed others stuck right on the walls.”

Patrick was living on the couch since he’d gotten involved in a fight in a hotel on the Rue des Écoles where he was a night receptionist, a job that Marc, day-time receptionist, got for him, Marc tells me you worked at a hotel in the Marais seven years ago, then did a quick stint in fashion. What else? I went to the movies with my mother. Every Tuesday. What else? That’s it. That’s it? Yes, you think it’s easy being a cinephile? Look, I’ll give you a chance because you’re Marc’s friend, got it? That’s the only reason. And that’s what being Patrick’s friend was like, Seen any hot girls around? Bring them to check out the Fashion Museum. Fine, but where will the two of you sleep, Patrick? I’ve got to be a respectable pimp. (……………). Patrick didn’t fit horizontally on the couch that along with the table and bookshelf with his Verlaines and Pierre Louys were the only furniture in the apartment, so few square feet that when his lower half went into the bathroom the other half remained in the living room. Putain, why haven’t you ever told me where you sleep? Am I not your best friend? (……………), and the Fashion Museum became the Fashion Museum once Patrick started to cover the walls with photos of supermodels, some blown-up and framed others stuck right on the walls, and he had two of Carla Bruni with personalised autographs and everything, and Linda, Naomi, Kate, Gisele, and Karen Mulder and Christy Turlington, Christy Turlington, Christy Turlington and Cara Delevigne showing her tongue and a section of just Victoria’s Secret Angels and Brazilian and Russian fresh faces in the area where he put the fucking huge TV he bought because he couldn’t dance at the VIP Room anymore (he used to go there because models go there) after the night he called the room of the English junkie who was bothering the guests, What?, the junkie had gone to the lobby and grabbed Patrick in a chokehold and the rest turned into fall screwed-up knee physical therapy, you’re fired, lawyer, suing the hotel, suing the English junkie, unemployment insurance that even covers the rent at the Fashion Museum, Putain, one day I’ll win these lawsuits, money from his mom, money from the girlfriend du jour, This lawyer of mine is fucking slow, more physical therapy, more Irina Shayk and Kendall Jenner on the Fashion Museum walls, and month in month out Patrick and his sweatpants and his Paradis band T-shirt and his girlfriend du jour watched every Netflix movie and series on the fucking huge TV and sometimes almost never they’d walk in the Latin Quarter and sometimes almost always there was a Victoria’s Secret marathon with everything everything everything that he managed to download about the Angels on his notebook with a fucking huge number of gigs, It’s not a parade, Marc, it’s a show, they call it a show, and they’d spend hours at it, Patrick on pause and play, Look at Karolina, you don’t know who Karolina is? How can you never have heard of Karolina Kurkova, Marc? Pause and play, Oh Candice, oh Behati, Behati, Behatiiii, pause and play, now for Generation A, Alessandra Adriana Ana Beatriz, and every year waiting for the Victoria’s Secret marketing director to announce the date of the show and then they’d celebrate Christmas that day, he, Marc, and the couch.

When Alina arrived at the Fashion Museum with Marc, Look at the frightened Russian I brought you, Patrick’s first reaction was to pin the girl up against the wall next to Natalia Vodianova, We were tanning at the Paris Plage when Brummels turned up everywhere, they almost trampled her, and then the Fashion Museum kitchen, Marc, Patrick, I went nuts for the Russian, mon pote. Did they destroy the damned fake beach at least? Don’t talk like that, she likes it there, even wanted to go topless. I’ll give you the lowdown, twenty-two years young, ten in Paris, no boyfriend, works at the Vuitton on Saint-Honoré and speaks perfect French. You got it? Thanks, Marc. It’s catching on, Patrick. There’s a video online, the one of the gays at a bar in the Marais. Putain, I saw it, they had their throats slit. Some Dampierre claimed the attack, right? Right. So? So, the gays were in polo shirts, we wear polo shirts, so if they catch us we’re fucked. I’m not into clothes, I’m better at taking them off, hahaha. I don’t know, you’ve never been to a sauna with me. Wonder why? Haha. This isn’t about us, Marc. It’s about tourists, immigrants, who knows. The gays were Parisians, Patrick. You should be more Simone and less Sartre. Putain, Marc, you make me think too much, my head hurts.

Alina came back from the bathroom. We forgot about you, sorry. I didn’t forget, you like Verlaine? Et je m’en vais ou vent mauvais. Patrick, mon pote, her country’s already got Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, why don’t you tell the hottest Vuitton salesgirl ever that you’ve worked in fashion? Um, OK. It was at a party at the beginning of Fashion Week, a Chinese TV reporter came up to me and invited me to help cover the season, just like that, out of the blue, you know how Paris is, things happen, but only to a few, and he paced back and forth the way you could pace back and forth at the Fashion Museum and as he kept talking it happened, the same electric charge as on the day the Chinese guy stayed at the Marais hotel where he and Marc met and became BFFs. Marc checked the guy in, Marc delivered him to Electric-Patrick, and all the Chinese TV team had to do was show up in the lobby and he’d say right in the Chinese guy’s ear, the stylist this, the model that, and the guy would answer in Chinese and Electric-Patrick would go back to the lobby cursing him. Talk about the Fashion Museum, about Victoria’s Secret, go on, and Electric-Patrick listened to Marc and the Chinese guy answered in English and went to check out the Fashion Museum and was an Angelmaniac too and he told Electric-Patrick to resign from the hotel and the Chinese team found him a Givenchy suit and the two went backstage at the shows and Electric-Patrick saw many of the Fashion Museum photos come to life on the runway and then in front of him, and interviews with stylists models celebrities fashionistas, and selfies before the word selfie existed, blasé smile blasé cry and real cry and jitters and looks held for five seconds and one or another model’s cell number and, Call me, Patrick?, and the Fashion Museum’s collection just kept getting bigger.

In the electric world there were no truths or lies, just the willingness to believe, and she opened her it’s-late-and-I-need-to-go-eyes and Electric-Patrick went ahead to go down the building stairs in front of her.”

Did you notice that the sonofabitch Byrons were wearing overcoats in the video? And in this heat? but Marc was no longer part of Electric-Patrick and Electric-Now-Too-Alina’s world, words between the two running into each other, full of evil intentions, the only ones that matter. Then Fashion Week ended, the Chinese guy went back to China and Electric-Patrick got an indecent proposal from a superfamous superold announcer there, who still calls now and then to find out if he’s changed his mind, Alina, if you see me on TV one day, it’s because I’ve turned gay haha. In the electric world there were no truths or lies, just the willingness to believe, and she opened her it’s-late-and-I-need-to-go-eyes and Electric-Patrick went ahead to go down the building stairs in front of her and before Electric-Now-Too-Alina went out the door to the street she had already become Lili.

Please, could you take a photo? We love Paris. You love Paris pourquoi? And the Byron looked at the American in jeans with bunched-up hems, at his wife and two kids infected with the same blue virus and with Notre-Dame in the background, Where do I press?, and as he clicked the joy that exists only in Paris, more Byrons arrived together. And more Patrick and Alina through the Latin Quarter and Oh my knee and then more Patrick and Alina at the Fashion Museum and Oh my knee, I can’t go out anymore. That’s all right, the deliveries love you, mon amour, and more July and the Parisians went to the beach and Paris was deserted but the tourists didn’t let Paris stay deserted and au revoir Asian necks in the queue at the Louvre and bye-bye American in the polo shirt with that monstrous horse on the chest and white sneakers with white crew socks posing open-armed in front of the Eiffel Tower for the camera of a busty blonde American with a busty blonde American accent, and then more government, All under control, all’s under control, and more people fighting and more Brummels, Why do people think they have to be romantic in Paris? and more Byrons and more despair shouted in sexy languages like Italian or alien languages like Russian or Swedish, and Dampierre hit five hundred thousand followers on Instagram and a Parisian who didn’t go on vacation gave a close-up in her cropped top in the Marais and more Brummels, electric shock, van, all-un-der-con-trol, and the president of France appeared on Patrick’s fucking huge TV prohibiting love in public places and asking the population to dress better, What? No one’s going to tell me how I should go about. They’ve got to put the army in the streets, that’s right, army, cavalry, the whole shitload, and he pulls hugs kisses Alina, At least I don’t have to worry about my stylish Czarina. There’s no way to know what these gangs are after, Patrick, you should retire your tank tops and floral shorts. Better yet, we could spend some time with my parents in Moscow. Are you crazy? And what about your job? We can’t live on my measly unemployment insurance. And waiting for Alina to get back from Vuitton became Patrick Patrickievitch’s agenda and she didn’t even sleep at her studio on Rue Monge anymore and they would eat have sex watch a movie have sex laugh watch a series wake up and she’d go to work and he’d stay glued to Netflix and text and voice messages, What’s my Czarina up to? Oh my knee, How about some of Berthillon’s pineapple sorbet? And he’d use the sheepish emoji and just before Alina brought the pineapple sorbet with extra summer flavour, queue of tourists, he’d order dinner for two with the money she left and eat the sorbet alone and that way went on getting fatter screwing sleeping waking up and while Alina was at Vuitton he’d stay inside any old day.

There were more and more comings and goings of vans at Fashion Makeover Central created by the Brummels in the 16th arrondissement.

Salut, Paolo, my usual ravioli, please. No can do, Patrick, they killed Milan yesterday during a delivery on Boulevard Haussmann. I’m going to close up, I don’t want to live in a Pasolini film. I’ll go there, fuck it, only two blocks, I’ll go in shorts. Lili will be home late, no one’s going to keep me from eating my ravioli, and on the way back he came face to face with a posse of Byrons and did he ever run, fucked-up knee, what fucked-up knee?, and in the mad dash to open the door to the building he dropped the ravioli and found Hadn’t-Gotten-Home-Late-Alina on the steps, They almost got me, Lili, they almost got me. Where’s the police, the army, the cavalry? And Alina hugged her Czar with the same snow the same Red Square the same St Basil’s Cathedral where she prayed the same Rolling Stone Bar where she danced swinging her thin hair, and then double sleeping bag, Sleepy-Alina, Wired-Patrick, What if they’d killed me?, who would bear traces of my marvellous existence? My mom? Mothers don’t count, Emanuelle?, maybe, if she forgave me for going out with her little sister, we’d already ended things, I mean, more or less, Nina?, she wouldn’t remember me alive much less dead, for her it was just a wine night in a Marais bar, for me it was a bright spot, the Swede? for better or worse, she’ll remember, Lili? sure, I’m her Czar, but for how long? We die twice, I think that’s how it is, first we die physically then we die forever, it takes time to die forever, until the last person who remembers us dies too, then that’s it, it’s over, oh my head, since I’m not famous or anything, fuck, how many friends do I have?, Marc, Marc and Marc, yeah, I don’t think it’d take long to die forever, what a delusion wanting to be more alive in death.

Excerpt from Rua dos Garotos Maus, translated from the Portuguese by Kim M. Hastings

 

Hector Bisi was born in Belém, in the Brazilian Amazon. His first novel, Copacubana (2011), was published in Brazil and Argentina. His second, titled Rua dos Garotos Maus in Portuguese, was published in France and Belgium by Bozon2X in 2019 as Rue des mauvais garçons, translated by Stéphane Chao. Hector’s short stories and excerpts from his novels can be found on the sites La Cause Littéraire (France), El Malpensante (Colombia), and São Paulo Review (Brazil). A former contributor to L’Officiel Hommes Brasil, he has also participated in literary events at the Sorbonne. Hector currently lives between São Paulo and Paris.
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Kim M. Hastings is a freelance translator and editor based in the US. She lived in São Paulo for several years, studied Brazilian language and literature at Brown University, and holds a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese from Yale. Her translations include Edgard Telles Ribeiro’s award-winning novel His Own Man (O punho e a renda) and short fiction and author interviews published in anthologies and magazines including The Book of RioWords Without BordersReview: Literature and Arts of the AmericasTwo LinesLitroMachado de Assis and Bookanista.
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Read Kim’s interview with Hector

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