“Pavel, Paris, Prague” Essay published in Dorothy Parker’s Ashes.
Excerpt: “I left New York for France in September 1968, a few months after les évènements de mai — the student riots, the barricaded cobblestone streets, the Molotov cocktails—and the end of a two-year love affair. The civil unrest in Paris still made the news but no longer the headlines. In a mood as gloomy as mine and a cityscape as grim as la Ville Lumière, I would easily fit in, dressed in black, sitting in sidewalk cafés, drinking endless cups of exprès, and smoking Gitanes.
It was not to be.
At the Alliance Française, one of my classmates is Czech. He fled to Paris soon after the Soviet Union invaded his homeland with $5 in Western currency in his pocket and a visa good for three months. For two months, Pavel and I practice our French together, explore Paris together, become lovers. With ten days remaining on his visa, instead of seeking asylum and remaining in the West, Pavel decides to return to Prague with stops along the way in Avignon, Nice, and Rome. He asks me to accompany him as far as Rome. I say yes.”