Friday, September 3, 2010

And the WINNER is.....?

{C} A Wilde One – By T.L Tyson

Candles placed on various tombs and headstones light the cemetery and I sit on a grave next to the one I’ve been instructed to visit. I didn’t set up the flickering candles, someone else has been here before me, and I cautiously glance around, looking for a sign of life in the resting place of the dead. You may be wondering what took me from my humble cottage in British Columbia, Canada, to the Pere Lachaise in Paris, France, and if so, read on.

If you’ve never been to the Pere Lachaise you are missing out. Located off Boulevard de Ménilmontant, it is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris and said to be the most visited. Some of the most intricate headstones and tombs reside in this graveyard and an eerie calm passed through me when I walked through the gates. And here I am kneeling in the cemetary as the time nears midnight, and the wind ruffles the nearly bare trees overhead. I am situated beside a massive grave covered in multi-colored lip impressions from all the people who have kissed the tombstone. I run my hands over the name engraved and wonder, why here? Why next to this grave?

When I was first approached about this interview, the woman told me there would be three rules. One, the person I would be interviewing would arrive at midnight and stay for thirty minutes, and thirty minutes only. Two, it had to be in this cemetery-why she wouldn’t say. And three, I could only ask him ten questions. Uncertain of whom it was I would be interviewing, only knowing it would be a well known author, I scrawled out a couple of thoughts on plots and characters in a notebook and eagerly hopped a plane to France. You see, I’ve never been to France and if interviewing some weird author in the middle of cemetery bought me a free ticket overseas, then so be it.

I clench my notebook to my chest, check my watch, and see there is only a minute to go. The force of the wind increases, battering against me and I brush the strands of hair away from my face. High in a tree a crow caws, I look up to find a full moon appearing from behind thick clouds, and then I am not alone anymore.

He swoops into the graveyard, coat billowing out behind him and walking stick striking the stone path. At first, I’m uncertain of what I’m seeing. This tall man stalking towards me cannot be who I think he is, no matter if his long, dark hair and grey eyes are remarkably the same. A large, straight-back chair with a plush red cushion sits near the kiss-covered tomb and the man raps his walking stick on the ground, gives a dramatic flourish and then sits, staring at me intently.

“What is your name?” I ask.

He laughs. “Do you not know me? I find it amusing you would agree to meet someone you do not know in a cemetery to interview them, if you didn’t know who they were.”

“You look familiar.” I move closer, pulling up the other chair, and sit across from him. He watches me close, a sly smile playing upon the corners of his mouth. “But you simply cannot be who you resemble.”

“I resemble myself.” His reply is quick and dry. I raise my eyes to study his face once more and he says, “My name is Oscar Wilde.” His chin moves out in pride. “Birth, October 16, 1854. Death, November 30, 1900.”

“Today is October sixteenth,” I tell him.

“Of course, it is why we are here.”

It takes me a few moments to gather myself. I cannot believe Oscar Wilde is sitting in front of me. I’ve already wasted one of the ten questions I can ask on ‘what is your name?” and, not wanting to throw any more away, I mull over his life.

With an exasperated sigh, he asks, “Do you mind if I smoke? I understand smoking is taboo in today’s age, that a gentlemen must ask permission before lighting one. But I simply cannot sit here watching you think and do nothing.”

“Feel free.”

He produces one from the inside pocket of his long black coat fringed with fur, lights it and exhales a soft, white plume of smoke.

“Let’s assume you really are who you say you are—”

“Who else would I be?”

“Let’s assume you are, for the interview’s sake. With everything that happened in the past, your present, are you happy with what you are known for today?”

“What is it I am known for?” He waves his hand holding the cigarette around, a trail of smoke dancing from its tip. “Being an Irish writer, a prominent aesthete, one of the greatest playwrights of the Victorian Era, or a man cloaked in scandal?”

“Well…” I pause and then laugh, “All of those, actually, and more.”

Taking another puff of his cigarette, he says, “I am not the past or present, but I am the future. The past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. It is with the future that we have to deal. For the past is what man should not have been. The present is what man ought not to be. The future is what artists are.”

“Do you regret how things ended for you?”

“Regret?” he repeats, leaning forward, his eyes meeting mine. “To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”

“You certainly have a way with words.”

“Words are one of the only things I have a way with.” He crosses his legs, places his elbow on the arm of the chair and his head on his hand. And he waits for me to continue.

“You spent a fair amount of time imprisoned for ‘gross indecency’, what do you make of that now, after all these years?”

“The decent things are never worth doing and if one is going to be imprisoned is it not best to be sent away for doing an indecent thing, rather than a decent one? And now, after all these years, as you say, I would live my life exactly how I did.”

“And what do you have to say about the people who flock here to see and kiss your tomb?” I gesture to the lipstick covered grave. “To the ones who consider you a hero and martyr, the original rebel? The ones who say you were jailed for love?”

“Can you think of something better than love to be jailed for? To my adoring fans, I simply say, keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.”

“And to the ones who think you are a hack? The ones who hate you? And think you are nothing but a cynic and waste of time?”

“To them, I offer my forgiveness.” Once more he leans closer to me with a wry smirk and whispers, “The key is to always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them more.”

I laugh, watching him sit back and cross his legs. “You were quoted as saying, ‘Life is too important to be taken seriously.’ What does this mean to you?”

“What does it mean to you?” he shoots back. I didn’t know what to say, I fumble for words, but sit with mouth gaping until he says, “The world is a cruel place. It is full of war, fighting, anger, strife—everything which humans create. If we took everything seriously, life wouldn’t be worth living. But the ability to laugh, to look past the hurt, and yet still understand the mechanics of the world, is a quality few people have. Life is too short, too important to waste making plans and executing those plans. What happens if you die before those plans are executed?” I shrug. “Exactly, all that plan making is a waste. Live life, love life, and laugh at it, or else you’ll end up crying.”

“The wit and wry in your words often makes me laugh. At times, I think about what an advocate of individualism you were and wonder if you knew what an impact that would have on the world?”

“People were heading towards becoming individuals; I may have helped them along the way. Individualism isn’t only flamboyant clothing or decorating ones room with sunflowers, it is about so much more. It is about embracing life and living it as one sees fit.”

“What about the people afraid of being an individual? The ones afraid of making mistakes?”

“What is a mistake? Experience. Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.”

I pause, count out my questions and realize, sadly, I only have one left. And truly, there is only one thing I want to know—the one question which I have been longing to ask this whole time. He lights another cigarette, inhales deeply, pulling the smoke into his lungs and expelling in an oddly sensual way which makes me want to light one.

He smiles and says, “Go on, I only have a few minutes before I go back.”

“As a writer, I need to know. Why did you write? Why did you put pen to paper and create?”

Rather simply, he says, “To escape and to allow others the ability to escape through my words.”

His answer is oddly satisfying. I’m left with a goofy grin on my face. I cap my pen, close my notebook and sit back to watch Oscar finish his cigarette. Glancing at my watch, I see there is only a minute to go and I stand, offering him my hand.

“It’s been a pleasure,” I say. “You don’t know how memorable this has been. You truly are one of the most magnificent people ever to exist.”

Standing from the chair, towering over me, Oscar reaches out but his hand slips through my flesh. Instead he raps his walking stick on the ground three times, turn on his heels, and says, “Goodnight, fair maid. I do hope time will treat you well. And remember, live to write, don’t write to live. Things get complicated when you have to do things.”

My eyes follow him as he sweeps away, eventually fading into oblivion. And I sit back on the chair, positive I dreamed the whole encounter up. But there on the plush velvet cushion, left behind, is a coin pressed and dated 1854.


  1. Absolutely awesome writing. I'm both pleased for you and annoyed that I'm not as good as you.

    Seriously - brava brava brava.


  2. That was incredible to read. Simply brilliant. :)


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