I remember well the final time I saw Proust. Our eyes locked amid the smoke of a cafe in Montmarts, flakes of crueller framing those lips of his like angels dancing around the sun. I got up to greet him, then remembered, NO! He detested affection. Sneering, I threw my coffee at him and sat down.
“Well, Marcel,” I murmured, arching one eyebrow to complete the effect of lighting my cigarette and apathy at once, “What have you done lately?”
“This,” he shrugged, pushing a ream of typescript at me, no fewer than 31cm thick. “It is called, if man can name art and so chain it down to this earth, ‘la recherche du temps perdu,'” his voice dropped to indicate the reverence due to such an artifact.
“Ho ho,” I chortled, and tugged at my waxed mustache before it resumed its inward curl. “Marcel, you fool! How long you have labored on this–this–popcockery?”
“Yes,” he sighed even as he smiled, “Sixteen years of my life, gone. Il ne fait pas de difference…maintenant, c’est fini. That is all one may ask of art.
“Sixteen years,” he no longer seemed to see me. “…and no one will bother to read such a stone.”
I left him there, as he had left me on the shoals of Morocco, a lobster clamped firmly to my nose, those many years ago. I loved him too much to do otherwise.