To Delphine, With Love and J. D. Salinger

by William Starr Moake

It was raining again in Oostend, a bone-chilling drizzle that blew in from the North Sea. Pulling up my coat collar, I slipped and nearly fell on a wet cobblestone street enroute to the bistro. The outside of the tiny building was painted like a mural in gay colors with a large eye across the gable roof. It looked out of place in this cold gray city known for its busy shipping port.

I went inside and shook the rainwater off my coat as I looked around the room. There were only a handful of customers in the place and I immediately spotted Delphine sitting alone at a table. She was a young British woman I had been corresponding with via email for a few months. She always ended her her emails with "Love, Delphine," which intrigued me. It was a customary farewell to a person who was emotionally close, but I was a stranger to Delphine -- just another chat junkie on the World Wide Web.

Delphine looked exactly like the photo she emailed to me. Winsome was the descriptive word that came to mind. She was thin with short brown hair, dark eyes and a cute face. She glanced nervously in my direction when I approached her table.

"We finally meet," I smiled.

She gave me a limp handshake and I took a seat.

"You look older than I imagined," she said.

"I get that a lot. Do they have a decent house wine here?"

"It's drinkable."

The waiter brought a carafe of white wine and two glasses. I filled our glasses and took a sip of mine, nodding my approval.

"I like the mural on the outside of the building."

"Please don't say it looks picturesque. I might throw up."

I laughed. "Well, I wouldn't want you to lose your breakfast, but it certainly stands out."

"Where are you staying?"

"The Glenmore Hotel."

"You must be loaded."

"It's not that fancy."

"I suppose your wife is at the Glenmore thinking you've gone shopping or something."

"I told you I'm divorced."

"All married men say they're divorced."

"But I am divorced. Really."

"I suppose anything is possible. So you're a fiction writer, huh?"

"Two novels and a short story collection published in the past five years."

"Hmm. That's very impressive."

"Not as much as you might think. My last book didn't sell worth a damn."

"What have you been doing in Belgium?"

I grinned at her. "Did you actually read any of my emails?"

"Of course, but I forget things easily. You'll have to be patient with me."

"I visited the Ardennes."

"Where's that?"

"In southern Belgium. How long have you lived in this country?"

"Five years, but I don't get around much. What's in the Ardennes?"

"You didn't read my emails."

"Don't get angry. Pretend we never corresponded."

"I went to Bastogne."

"Can't say I've ever heard of the place."

"It's the scene of a pivotal engagement in the Battle of the Bulge."

A blank stare from Delphine.

"You know, World War II when Nazi Germany tried to conquer England?"

"I wasn't born yet."

"Nevertheless, it still happened. You can take my word for it."

"Now I remember. You told me your father was in the Army."

"He was one of the soldiers called the battling bastards of Bastogne."

"Your father was a bastard?"

"Not literally, it was just a nickname. Never mind."

"Were you in the Army?"

"In Vietnam."

"You were wounded in battle, I suppose."

"No, but I didn't return with all my f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s intact."

She made a harump sound. "You didn't have to spell out the word."

"It's a line from my favorite short story about war. Salinger wrote it."

"I assume he's an American author."

"You've never read J. D. Salinger?"

"I'm not terribly fond of American writers."

"When I get home, I'll email you an address where you can read some of his writing online."

"Meanwhile, I'll talk about myself if you don't mind."

"I want to know everything about you."

"I'm an orphan. My mother may be alive somewhere, probably out of her head on crack and being fucked up the arse by some dodgy Romanian porn director somewhere. My father is very much dead, bless the incestuous swine. But I do miss him sometimes."

"You like to shock people, don't you?"

Delphine smiled coyly. "Are you shocked by the way I talk?"

"No, I just wonder why you feel it's necessary."

She kept smiling. "Did I tell you I returned to hooking a month ago? My clients are okay, they're into pretty straight stuff and they're loaded. I just hate it when they talk too much."

"You quit your milk bottle job?"

"It didn't pay enough money to keep a dog alive. I don't mean to brag, but I'm quite amazing in sex. I give ferocious blowjobs and I come very easily. When I fuck, I go on for at least four hours. I love it up the arse, I like it with girls, I like it tied and

gagged and spanked. There's no one in my life that I haven't had sex with. The only ones I don't like are Flemish fishmongers who pay for it."

"What happened to your boyfriend?"

"Christopher is a rentboy now. He doesn't like the hooking since he has to fuck really repulsive middle-aged clerics."

"That's some life you describe."

"You mean not respectable. Haven't you learned yet there's no such thing as a respectable life? There's just life."

"I guess I missed that lesson."

"You're making fun of me, but I know what I'm doing. Everyone wants to fuck me. It's not that I'm the most beautiful girl in the world, not even the most beautiful girl in this wretched coastal town -- just the randiest and wildest, the one who looks underage and helpless. Men love underage minge."

"How old are you? Tell me the truth."

"Twenty-three, as I said."

"And your real name is Delphine?"

She rolled her eyes. "Of course not. Practically all the people I know use aliases."

"Are you running from the law?"

"Not yet."

"I still don't think it sounds like much of a life."

"Let me tell you what I did a few weekends ago. My neighbor is this smug old fart who's always bragging about his colonial past in the Congo, but he's like the Flemish Hugh Hefner and he held this big party at his house with tons of bourbon and cocaine. He invited every vixen he knew and I was one of them."

I interrupted her by chuckling.

"What's so funny?"

"The word vixen always makes me laugh for some reason. It refers to --"

"I know it means a female fox. I'm not stupid, you know."

"Sorry. Please continue with your story."

"The party was great and I had sex with a gorgeous Flemish girl. She smelled really nice and she had small tits. I love girls, even though I love men more and I couldn't live without cock. But once in a while I have to fondle someone else's tits to feel good."

"I get it. You're bisexual."

"That's just a word. I'm a crazy lover."

"I stand corrected."

"I realize I'm quite skinny, but I have really nice tits and I've been in a few porn flicks. I guess I shouldn't be proud of that, but I am."

"I think you're a very pretty girl, Delphine."

She lowered her head and looked away. "I wish you hadn't said that."

"It's my honest opinion."

"I don't want to be pretty. It's what men say about a girl when they're not interested in fucking her. I want to be sexy."

"You are sexy."

"This is the first time in five years I haven't been aching to fuck."

"It's not a tragedy. You just need a rest."

She looked up at me with pleading eyes. "Take me to your hotel room."

"You don't really want to go there."

"Yes, I do."

"To see if I'm hiding a wife?"

"Are you?"

"No."

"Prove it to me."

"You should learn to trust people more."

"All right, I believe you. Don't you want to fuck me?"

"You're way too young for me. I'd feel like a dirty old man."

She looked confused."You knew how young I was before you came to Belgium."

"Yes, I did."

"You want me to believe you traveled all the way from Hawaii just to talk to me?"

"And to visit Bastogne. But your emails made me very curious about you."

"I don't understand."

"You're a very good writer. I was impressed by the short story you sent me."

Her eyes glistened with tears. She pushed my hand away when I reached out to touch her cheek.

"Don't."

"No need to cry about it."

"I'm not crying."

I filled up her glass with wine. "Drink. It'll make you feel better."

"I feel fine."

"You seemed like a fascinating girl and I wanted to meet you. What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing," she said, draining her glass.

"You want something to eat?"

"I don't eat lunch. I'm on a diet."

"Getting in shape for another porn flick?"

She glared at me with dagger eyes and poured herself more wine.

"Okay, bad joke. You want to go for a walk? You could show me the city."

"Oostend is a shithole and I'm no tour guide."

"I'd be willing to pay for your time."

"To talk?"

"Talk and spend the day together."

"I'm not that desperate for money."

"Why are you so angry with me?"

"I don't know."

"I thought we were friends."

She folded her arms. "Yeah, pen pals."

"Isn't that a kind of friendship?"

"Not in my experience."

I sighed. "I can see I've put you in a bad mood. Why don't we meet here again tomorrow afternoon at one and start from scratch? I promise I won't say anything to upset you."

She shook her head. "Are you for real?"

"As far as I know. Would you like to see my driver's license?"

She frowned. "Yes, I would."

I took the license out of my wallet and she examined it.

"You actually do live in Honolulu."

"You must have thought I lied to you."

"I don't know what I thought."

"Is it a date for tomorrow?"

She paused to make up her mind. "If you insist."

Four days in a row I went to the bistro at one in the afternoon and waited for a couple hours, but Delphine failed to show up. I was more disappointed than surprised. On my last day in Oostend I plugged my laptop into the hotel room terminal to check my email. There was no message from Delphine.

In fact, I never heard from Delphine again. After I returned to Hawaii, I sent a long message to her email address with the online address where she could read some of Salinger's work. It came back immediately with a notice that the recipient was no longer available at that email address. I would write her a snail mail letter, but she never gave me her street address and even if she had, I didn't know her real name and I imagined that she moved often without leaving a forwarding address.

Sometimes I think of Delphine and wonder what happened to her. Behind all her brash talk, she possessed a certain fragile quality of injured innocence that touched me. She was an English waif lost in a jaded underworld ruled by Flemish fishmongers and fake Hugh Hefners, drugs and gorgeous bisexual women, aching to fuck her way out of the nightmare in which she was sinking as if into quicksand.

_______________

William Starr Moake grew up in Michigan and worked as a journalist for several years in South Florida. After majoring in anthropology in college, he traveled extensively, freelancing as a travel writer/photographer. Moake is the author of three books of fiction, two novels and a short story collection all published since 1999. When he is not writing, Moake works as a freelance web designer and software programmer from his home in Hawaii, where he has lived since 1972. Website: http://www.stormpages.com/starrbooks.

email William Starr Moake

To Delphine, With Love and J. D. Salinger
© 2005 by William Starr Moake
All rights reserved.

 

 
     
     

 

 



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