My waiter friend, Laurent, working at the Brasserie Champs du Mars near the Eiffel Tower, one night while serving me Une Grande Beer, explained his life.
“I work from ten to twelve hours, sometimes fourteen,” he says, “and then at midnight I go dancing, dancing, dancing until four or five in the morning and go to bed and sleep until ten and then up, up and to work by eleven and another ten or twelve or sometimes fifteen hours of work.”
“How can you do that?” I ask.
“Easily,” he says. “To be asleep is to be dead. It is like death. So we dance, we dance so as not to be dead. We do not want that.”
“How old are you?” I ask, at last.
“Twenty-three,” he says. “Ah,” I say and take his elbow gently.
“Ah. Twenty-three, is it?”
“Twenty-three,” he says, smiling. “And you?”
“Seventy-six,” I say. “And I do not want to be dead, either. But I am not twenty-three. How can I answer? What do I do?”
“Yes,” says Laurent, still smiling and innocent, “what do you do at three in the morning?”
“Write,” I say, at last.
“Write!” Laurent says, astonished. “Write?”
“So as not to be dead,” I say. “Like you.”
“Yes,” I say, smiling now, myself. “At three in the morning, I write, I write, I write!”
“You are very lucky,” says Laurent. “You are very young.”
“So far,” I say, and finish my beer and go up to my typewriter to finish a story.
- Introduction to The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury