The hill on which the hotel stood was like an island, except instead of the sea it was surrounded by tarmac. There was the little tarmac of the motorways and the big tarmac of the runways of the Charles de Gaulle Airport, and like the sea there was hissing and roaring, audible from this distance, among the hotels on the hill. If he shut the window he couldn’t hear the hissing and roaring because the windows were treble-paned, probably for just this purpose, he reasoned. The small hotel room felt entirely self-contained, like a pressurized cabin. But the thought of a pressurized cabin caused him to experience anxiety, so he opened the window again and let in the sound of the tarmac-surf. Or rather, the thought had caused him to experience a spike in the anxiety that was already there, he revised. There was nothing to do now but relax for the next twenty-four hours but still he felt anxious, even restless. He was tired and characteristically he napped in the late afternoons, and his wife had discreetly left him alone in the hotel room for just this purpose, he reasoned. In part so that he could nap but also because there was rumored to be free wireless the next hotel over, he revised. From the window he watched his wife cross the looping driveway that looped in front of their hotel, the second of three hotels facing the loop, carrying the satchel that held her laptop. There was another hotel further up the hill and another hotel back down the hill, five hill-hotels in all by his count, connected by a system of looping and sloping driveways along which shuttle buses appeared regularly to travel, many shuttle-buses and no automobiles. There were parking spaces available in lots behind the five hotels on the hill but he had seen almost no automobiles in the spaces, he recalled. A constituent of the hissing and roaring traffic-surf was from automobiles on the roadways, to his mind a distinct constituent, and yet only shuttle-buses washed ashore here, as the waves of the jets broke overhead. Thus there was something peculiar about this complex of hill hotels, this insular complex figuratively speaking, something to be gotten to the bottom of, the bottom of the peculiar thing not the bottom of the hill, making a total of two figurative expressions. With or without the window open the pressurized cabin-like quality of the small hotel room was having a dehydrating effect on his sinuses. He watched as his wife waited at the far curb of the grassy meridian in the middle of the loop for a shuttle bus to pass, she had made it to the far curb of the meridian but not all the way across the loop before the bus had pulled out and now she had briefly to wait, her hand on the satchel that held her laptop, she held it against her canted hip even though the strap of the satchel was slung on her shoulder. Even from this distance he could see that she stood with her hip canted in that way she characteristically stood, a way that he liked, and the shadow of the hotel was at her feet on the trimmed lawn of the meridian, and the sun glinted off her sunglasses and gleamed on her bare shoulder next to the satchel-strap, waiting for the shuttle-bus to rumble by she looked more relaxed than he felt, even from this distance relaxed yet poised there at the edge of the central meridian with her open-toed shoes in the shadow of the hotel. Another shuttle-bus had already pulled into the loop but it was stopping in front of the first hotel, whereas his wife was heading for the third hotel. With her laptop satchel she went into the entrance of the third hotel as the people from the shuttle-bus began moving with their luggage to the entrance of the first hotel. The shuttle-buses brought a steady stream of passengers from the Charles de Gaulle airport who had been bumped from their flights, along with the smaller number of those who had volunteered to take other flights, he reasoned. After his wife had disappeared with her laptop-satchel into the third hotel he had retreated from the window to the hotel bed, from window to bed in this small hotel room the hardly Napoleonic retreat of a single step, where he reclined on the bedspread and continued to reason. He reclined with his left forearm over his eyes and over the bridge of his nose beneath which the dehydrated chambers of his sinuses made him think of the shell of a dead nautilus, and his heels dangled off the end of the mattress. Even though he was not especially tall he felt his heels dangling off the end of the small bed, and behind his left forearm and closed eyes and the chambers of his dead nautilus he continued to reason about the people decanted from the shuttle bus, as tired as he was he could not help continuing to reason, restlessly to reason. His reasoning was based on his own experience of having been bumped from his Air France flight that very morning. It was the first time he had ever been bumped from a flight but now he saw that it was a general practice, and that this island of hotels was specifically for the people who had been bumped, because many other people and not just he and his wife had been bumped. And were being bumped, and were to be bumped. He was part of a general condition of overbooking and bumping and thus should not take it personally, he reasoned. Various far-flung international destinations were waiting for all of these people being decanted from the shuttle-buses, and they would have to wait now a while longer, because they had all been bumped. People who had purchased tickets for their Air France flights to the United States and to other destinations had been overbooked and bumped, as had people who had purchased tickets and who expected to take their reserved seats on Aer Lingus flights and Air Comet flights, and Aeroflot and Aeromexico and Lufthansa flights, to say nothing of Blue 1 to Helsinki and Daallo Airlines to Djibouti and El Al to Tel Aviv and Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca, all of whose jets he had seen through the shuttle-bus window as it looped through the terminals of the Charles de Gaulle international airport, but chiefly the flights of Air France, which at the Charles de Gaulle international airport in Roissy-en-France, a mere ten kilometers from the capitol Paris, had necessarily to be the chief offender hereabouts in this business of overbooking and bumping, it was Air France they had paid for the privilege of being herded into cramped and it now turned out only provisionally reserved seats, seats every year getting smaller and smaller and crammed closer together inside the narrow metal tubes and there kenneled like dogs in the cramped hulls for hours, breathing recycled air full of virulent germs and waiting passively to plunge out of the sky after being forced to listen to the droll mandatory comedy routine of how to buckle and unbuckle the seatbelts and locate the emergency flotation devices. For this purpose and privilege he and his wife had long ago purchased their tickets and that very morning left their quaint hotel near the Gare de Lyon where the stairwell smelled of dog pee and the concierge had a large strawberry birthmark on her face and boarded the Roissy-bus to arrive at the Air France check-in counter in Terminal 2 E of the Charles de Gaulle airport in plenty of time to be greeted by the smiling Air France counter person who handed them boarding passes that said “Standby.” At the gate they had the pleasure of mingling with the dozen or so other passengers who had also received boarding passes that said “Standby” and who were occupying themselves in the meantime by displaying the gamut of human disgruntlement from stoicism to sulking to tantrum, in which he took his place somewhere in the middle. His wife however was wholly off of the scale, unaccountably delighted by the prospect of a twenty four-hour extension of their holiday, a free night in a hotel, meal vouchers, guaranteed seats on a flight the next day, and six hundred Euros apiece for their troubles. Instead of being herded into the large metal tube of the Air France jet they had been herded into the smaller metal tube of the Air France shuttle bus which shuttled them over a large number of looping roadways, unless it was a single roadway comprised of a large number of loops, going from one loop to another loop and from larger loops to smaller loops, and changing lanes within loops, until it had looped eventually up the side of a small hill crowned with five large hotels heralded by a large sign which he was able to read: Zone Hôtelière. In ascending order among the slopes and loops were the Novotel Roissy, the Suitehotel Roissy, the Chateau Roissy, the Kryiad Prestige Hotel Roissy-en-France, and the Millennium Hotel Roissy-Paris Charles de Gaulle, and although they all wore the appearance of generic airport hotels he thought, as he reasoned now in his room at the Chateau Roissy, that he had been able to distinguish in the subtle differences of name and situation and view and appointment among them the tokens of invidious distinction, such that where one was dumped for the night depended on whether one bore a coach class, a business class, or a first class ticket, with special accommodations perhaps additionally for the Club 2000 and the Frequence Plus Rouge passengers, and thus while he was pleased that their shuttle-bus had not delivered them to the Novotel Roissy he was galled that it had not delivered them to the Millennium Hotel Roissy-Paris Charles de Gaulle. But such was life. They had been herded into the crowded lobby of the Chateau Roissy and after finally securing their small room they had taken their meal vouchers to wait in the crowded lobby until they could be herded into the crowded restaurant, which turned out to be a buffet-style cafeteria where he had gorged himself on the food items, in part compulsively because buffet-style cafeterias always made him anxious and in part deliberately in the hope of finding himself stunned into a post-prandial coma back in their room. And in spite of the variety the food items had all tasted the same, as if behind the scenes in the kitchen these items had all been prepared out of a single mix, bags of mix were delivered each morning to the hotel out of which various shapes of foods were molded and dyed and sent out to the buffet-style cafeteria in the form of baguettes and mushroom and cheese omelets and melon wedges which as soon as one chewed and swallowed reverted heavily in one’s stomach back to the original mix, there to wait in its original indigestible sameness for a slow peristalsis to transmit its bulk through one’s intestinal loops to the hotel’s plumbing, and from thence to the Seine. The hotel’s so-called restaurant was really just a buffet-style cafeteria which did not appear set up even to handle regular paying customers but only bumped passengers with meal vouchers, which only went to prove definitively that this insular and generic Zone Hôtelière on the hill existed solely to service the overbooked and bumped, to process them in droves. Nobody, nobody would come to these hotels otherwise. Except for a stray motorist perhaps or someone on a layover nobody in their right minds would ever allow themselves to be brought to this island, save those who were bumped. It was cheaper to give everybody a hotel room and meal vouchers and transportation on the shuttles than to stop overbooking the flights, clearly. Or perhaps the overbooking and bumping was going on solely to service these hotels, to keep them fed with warm irate bodies, even though Air France had to pay for everything the airline existed solely now and at a massive financial loss to keep this mechanism on the hill functioning. Nobody ever said such things had to be rational, he reasoned. Or rather, lots of people said they had to be rational, and even demonstrated in the newspapers and magazines and on news shows that they were indeed rational, but these were the apologists of a larger insanity. The small hotel room was aggressively clean and orderly and functional, in its aggressively minimal way. Every hotel room was a simulacrum of a real room, but the rooms in these special hotels for the routinely overbooked and bumped were clearly the simulacra of hotel rooms, i.e. the simulacra of simulacra. Everything in the room was sheathed in shininess, he observed when he removed his arm and blinked open his eyes. Everything was sheathed in shininess as if laminated, as if on their departure all that need be done to clean the room and prepare it for the next guests would be to hose it down. Nobody who was not insane would ever stay in such a place unless it was by accident, he now understood, or unless they had been overbooked and bumped. Even as he shut his eyes and rested his left forearm over them again he had the feeling of lamination, which the sound of the tarmac-surf through the open window did nothing to dispel, the insides of his sinuses now felt thoroughly laminated, and if he continued to breathe the insides of his lungs would become laminated too, he would die unless he held his breath, in which case he would die too and be left with the lump of food-mix in his intestines to be hosed down the drain the next morning. Beneath the laminated carpet on the floor of each room was a drain.
To forestall a condition of complete lamination he decided to go for a walk. By the time he had crossed the grassy central meridian of the driveway loop in front of their hotel he could see his wife in the lobby of the next hotel along the loop, the Kryiad Prestige Hotel Roissy-en-France. Through the window of the lobby he could see her seated figure hunched over the computer on her lap, fingering the keyboard with one hand and sipping from a vending-machine cappuccino in the other. They had free wireless in the Kryiad Prestige Hotel Roissy-en-France but not in the Chateau Roissy, another proof of invidious distinction, as if one were needed, but at least they did not disturb his Chateau-Roissy wife in her use of the Kryiad Prestige Hotel Roissy-en-France free wireless. His wife had an open face and a large smile which were unmistakably American but which were so large and open that she generally got away with whatever she wanted to get away with, in the US and elsewhere, whereas he possessed a large nose and a somewhat swarthy complexion and a heavy five-o’clock shadow even minutes after he’d shaved such that he was universally regarded with suspicion, he suspected. Shuttle buses churned by in both directions as he hiked up the roadway past the invidiously appointed Millennium Hotel Roissy-Paris Charles de Gaulle and turned on a gravel path which took him up to the top of the hill. On top of the hill was a park with gravel paths and benches amid level and gently sloping lawns of evenly green grass and groups of trees whose names he did not know and bordered plots of flowers he could not name, geometrically laid-out in the style of French gardens and bathed in a laminated sunnyness of June from a sky streaked here and there with clouds of that type which appear in streaks, unless of course they were rather the relaxing contrails of crisscrossing jets. And from the top of the hill and spread out around it in the form of a vista or a panorama, such that in relation to it the spot where he stood became a prospect, the viewer necessary to establish such a relation (linguistic as much as geographical) of prospect-and-panorama could behold in swatches of green and gold receding to the smudge of the horizon the broad fertile plain of the Pays de France. This prospect held the prospect of being an even better prospect if the viewer were to stray off the gravel path for some meters through the grass in the direction of a precipice at the edge of the hilltop. From the better prospect of the precipice he strained to catch a glimpse of the banlieues in the distance, he wanted to see the banlieues and he had not seen them from the Roissy-bus on the way out of Paris to the Charles de Gaulle airport, the notorious banlieues which the French youth of North African and Middle Eastern descent had so recently set aflame, the banlieues were deliberately kept out of the way and cordoned off from places that international tourists and right-thinking Europeans were likely to travel, perhaps in the smudge of the horizon he would just be able to descry these notorious banlieues, the smudge itself a sign they still smoldered. But from this better prospect he could also better perceive how the big tarmac of the runways of the Charles de Gaulle airport and the little tarmac of the roadways made of this hill an island of sorts, cutting him off and in fact stranding him from the alluring expanse of the Pays de France. This Zone Hôtelière turned out to be just another cordoned-off island like the banlieues, albeit for a higher-paying brand of castaway. He became aware again of the condition of lamination, of the almost complete lamination of his sinuses and the incipient but advancing lamination of his gorge, his windpipe, and his lungs, which threatened to bring him into a harmony with the external lamination of the Zone Hôtelière that would necessarily entail his complete annihilation by the time it reached his brain. Out in the green and gold swatches of the Pays de France or back in Paris it might have been possible to escape this condition of lamination, but here on the island of hill-hotels it was inescapable, this condition of lamination in which the park was implicated as much as the invidious hotels. He turned to make his way from the prospect back to the gravel path in the hope of finding perhaps something to combat or at least counter this advancing condition of total annihilation, of annihilation by lamination, the village of Roissy was supposed to be on the other side of the hill and perhaps it would offer something to combat or at least counter this condition, either antidote or talisman. But as he turned he stumbled, and when he regained his balance he stumbled again, twisting first one ankle and then the other. It appeared there were holes in the grass of the lawn, there were burrows of some kind in the soil beneath the grass, and now as he staggered carefully back to the gravel path he saw so many of these holes that he wondered how he had escaped twisting his ankles in them on his way out to the prospect. The holes beneath the grass were clearly not for sport or a game such as golf, he could never tell whether golf was a sport or a game, nor were they drains such as those concealed beneath the laminated carpets of the small rooms back in the Chateau Roissy, they were evidently burrows of some kind, a theory which received immediate and even decisive confirmation by the emergence of a rabbit some meters ahead, the rabbit whisked away across the lawn but its ears and the white flash of its tail had been unmistakable, as had the overall hopping gait produced by the motions of its large haunches and feet. Nor was this an isolated incident, for now he saw himself surrounded by rabbits just as he knew himself to be surrounded by ankle-twisting burrows. In fact there were so many rabbits nibbling or whisking about in the range of his vision that as soon as he thought he had counted them all he saw a new rabbit and lost his count, unless it was a previous rabbit which had shifted to a new location as he had been counting a new rabbit in a different location, it was too hard to tell, he concluded that there was an uncountable number of rabbits, certainly more rabbits than people because except for him and the rabbits the park was completely empty, they were all back in their rooms nursing their ankle sprains with complimentary ice from the hotel ice machines. And meanwhile the rabbits were burrowing away, hollowing out the hill underneath the loops of the roadways with the loops of their rabbit warren, the loops of the rabbit warren under the loops of the roadway under the crisscross contrails of the Air France jets. The rabbits reproduced in a geometric progression, their population did not advance by addition but by explosion, a metastasizing of the rabbit-kind into a rabbit horde, wave upon wave of rabbits spilling out over the tarmac of the roadways and the Charles de Gaulle airport runways, and thence to the fertile farmlands of the Pays de France. His only hope of escaping the Zone Hôtelière island was by shuttle-bus, whereas the rabbit horde had simply to charge across the tarmac to make their escape, and even if they did not wish to make their escape in this manner they would be pushed to it by the exploding rabbit population behind them. There were seasons when the automobiles and the shuttle-buses on the roadways skidded and slid on the bodies of all the rabbits they ran over, so much rabbit blood on the tarmac that the automobiles and the shuttle-buses were in danger of hydroplaning, or in this case hemoplaning, multiple-car pile-ups were a real danger in the season of the rabbit horde, and worse was the appearance of the rabbits in droves on the runways of the Charles de Gaulle airport, at times an unbroken carpet of rabbits receding to the smudge of the horizon, like all of those birds surrounding the house in the final scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, except in this case rabbits. And even a far fewer number of rabbits could be a danger to the landing gear of the Air France flights such as the one he hoped to depart on tomorrow should he succeed in escaping the Zone Hôtelière, mowing down a few of these rabbits could completely gum up the works of an aircraft’s landing gear, so that even if it managed to make it off the runway of the Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France, it was still in grave danger of sliding off the short runways of Logan Airport and plunging into Boston Harbor, the aircraft would sink with everyone aboard trying to shriek their last words into their cell phones while clawing to be the first out of the emergency exits. Therefore it was necessary at regular intervals to exterminate the rabbits, to visit upon the rabbits a mass extermination of some kind, in which the environs of the Charles de Gaulle airport and especially the grounds of the Zone Hôtelière had to be put under a temporary quarantine and divided into quadrants so that the mass extermination could proceed in an orderly fashion, a phalanx of exterminators in Charles de Gaulle Airport vests with the distinctive Frutiger sans serif typeface on the badges had to line up at one end of the quadrant and plug explosives into the burrows to blow the rabbits up and release weasels into the burrows to hunt them down and pump poison gas from hoses to choke the remaining rabbits and water from still other hoses to drown them in their burrows, and those who were flushed out at the other end were met by guns and dogs, at the other end of the quadrant an orgy of gunfire and ravening fangs awaited all the terrified rabbits who had managed to survive the flames, the gas, the water, and the weasels. It was a dreadful prospect, and he wished he could side with the rabbits, in the ordinary course of things his sympathies were all with the rabbits, but his fear of flying or more precisely of crashing was so great that in this instance he had to side with the victors, against his own better nature he identified with the exterminators, in fact he even felt a little of the victor’s exultation at the extermination of the threat posed by the rabbit horde, which he knew and even exulted meant the extermination of the rabbits themselves, like blood in his mouth he could taste it, it even checked for a moment the feeling of the creeping lamination of his gorge brought on by the overall lamination of the Zone Hôtelière. He understood now why the French ate rabbit.
Nonetheless he felt an improvement in his condition as he crossed the park and headed downslope beneath the boughs of the trees whose names he did not know and past bordered plots of flowers he could not name in the direction of a village whose name he knew: Roissy. He knew the name of the village because he had seen it on the map in the guide book and again on a small brochure they had given his wife at the hotel along with their programmed room key-cards, the key-cards tucked into a slit or pocket in the brochure, but he also knew it because of a literary association, it occurred to him only at that moment as the lamination receded somewhat in his gorge that the name Roissy possessed a literary resonance, and that it was in fact the purported location of the notorious chateau in Pauline Réage’s notorious novel Histoire d’O, Pauline Réage aka Dominique Aury aka Anne Desclos the mousy bisexual Gallimard editor who wished desperately to secure the attentions of her wayward lover the Academie Francaise writer Jean Paulhan, a love-offering from a supplicant which managed to trump its object even as it secured his attention, with its international fame and impressive sales in the long run it trumped the reputation of Jean Paulhan, from the love-supplicant this palpable literary master-stroke. This came to him right as he stopped to urinate behind one of the trees he could not name but which was in fact a poplar, poplars and plane trees are two of the types of trees named in the novel Histoire d’O, he urinated behind a poplar into a flowerbed containing asters, a flower also named in the novel, stripping off purple petals with the stream of his urine while turning his head almost 180 degrees in each direction, first almost 180 degrees in the left direction and then almost 180 degrees in the right direction, like an owl he turned his head almost all the way around on the lookout for the local gendarmerie, in spite of the creeping lamination he was still able to rotate his head like someone impersonating an owl, blinking his eyes on the lookout for those enforcers of creeping lamination the gendarmerie, perhaps because the idea of punishment was in his mind at that moment he remembered the novel Histoire d’O and its literary association with the village Roissy, and his penis tingled as he shook the last droplets off and secured it again in his trousers. Once his penis was secured and he was no longer in immediate danger from the local gendarmerie he was at liberty to speculate that he might be able to locate a house which had served as the prototype for the novel’s notorious chateau, because the French were not prudes like the Anglo-Saxons perhaps they had seen fit to dignify this prototype with a commemorative plaque in several languages, perhaps after all there would be a point of interest here, a point of interest to redeem his stay in the Zone Hôtelière which was laminated inside and out and threatened to laminate him inside and out so that instead of escaping on the shuttle-bus the next morning to his ostensibly reserved seat on an Air France jetliner to Logan Airport in Boston he would simply be hosed down the drain concealed under the laminated carpet of his small hotel room with the heavy bulk of the food-mix he had consumed the previous day still coiled in his intestinal loops, the bored harried Ukrainian housekeeper would roll back the laminated carpet to hose his thoroughly-laminated mass into the plumbing system, in the US the hotel housekeepers were all Latinas whereas in Western Europe they were all Russian or Ukrainian or Byelorussian, the second world was becoming the third world, although in the US and Western Europe alike the housekeepers were harried and bored, it was important to add that whatever their race or ethnicity or national origins the hotel housekeepers everywhere on the planet were harried and bored. He tried to remember the distinguishing features of the chateau in the novel so that he would be able to identify the prototype if he happened to see it, it had a library with French doors facing west and an antechamber tiled in black marble and a red wing whatever that was and a refectory and a vaulted dungeon and a porte-cochere outside on the grounds, which were described as having a lawn and a park with gravel paths like the path on which he walked, but that park could not be this park because the park described in the novel had been a private park whereas the park he was leaving by one of its gravel paths was a public park, albeit one curiously bereft of a public. And now as he entered the streets of Roissy he found them as curiously bereft of the public as the paths of the park. At first glance however the village looked like an old-fashioned French village with quaint houses close to the narrow cobbled lanes so that he half expected to turn the corner and find himself in an old-fashioned square with old men playing boules in the dirt under the plane trees or having retired from boules because the afternoon was warm to sit around a table at a sidewalk café drinking a robust local wine or Pernod or whatever the French equivalent was for Cinzano in Italy and retsina in Greece, but around the corner there was no old-fashioned square and no old men just some shops which were closed. There were no cars in the street, no moving cars and few parked cars, he saw almost no cars, and on closer inspection he could see that the village was not a real village, everything was new although it had been built to look old-fashioned and quaint, it was shiny and clean and laminated and new, from a distance and if you blurred your eyes it might appear for a moment like that village lane in Arles in that Van Gogh painting but only for a moment, he began to grow anxious and feel the lamination descending again from his already-laminated sinuses into his incipiently-laminated windpipe and gorge, and there was now in addition a feeling of lamination over his eyes, over the balls of his eyes a feeling as if strips of acetate had been placed over them, the eyes too needed to breathe in order to function just like the nose and the mouth and his eyes could not breathe, his eyes looked at the fake streets and the fake houses as if through a film of acetate. The so-called village of Roissy was of a piece with the rest of the Twilight Zone Hôtelière, it was all of a piece on both sides of the whole laminated hill-hotel complex, they were two sides of the same Zone Hôtelière coin, the only people who lived in this kitsch village of so-called Roissy were the employees of the Charles de Gaulle airport, he now understood, there were no cars because they took the shuttle-buses to work, that very morning they had loaded onto the shuttle-buses en masse to go to work at the Charles de Gaulle international airport, the employees of the airport and especially the employees of Air France busy at that moment at the ticketing counters overbooking and bumping passengers to feed them back into the Zone Hôtelière loop. The so-called Roissy village was a company town as they used to call them in the old days, it was all part of the same arterial system, he hadn’t realized until that moment that he had a horror of arterial systems and especially of the arterial system known as the company town. He began to look at the municipal signage to see if it used the same typeface that the Charles de Gaulle airport used for all of its signage, the distinctive sans serif typeface created by Adrian Frutiger and named for Adrian Frutiger, the Frutiger typeface that the Charles de Gaulle airport commissioned from Adrian Frutiger in 1968, when the students were tearing up the paving stones of the Paris boulevards to build barricades and tipping over cars and torching the tipped-over cars, and the fire from the torched cars lit up posters on the walls with the most utopian slogans imaginable telling us for instance that beneath the paving stones of the boulevards we might find the beach, and the workers wanted to go to the beach so they went on the hugest general strike in the history of France, the students occupied the universities and the workers all left for the beach and the fate of Europe hung in the balance as they might put it in a schoolbook or a documentary, in the midst of which President General Charles de Gaulle had a brainwave and commissioned Adrian Frutiger to create the distinctive Frutiger typeface for the signage of the airport that is named after the President General, a clean and modern sans serif typeface whose prominent ascenders and descenders and spacious apertures make it easy to read at all angles and sizes, a quintessentially modern typeface whose distinguishing qualities are cleanliness and proportionality and rationality, and all the workers and students started reading the signage with the new Frutiger typeface instead of the notoriously utopian slogans of the posters burning in the boulevards, they were captivated by the ultramodern Frutiger typeface whose sleek easy-to-read lines told them that the best way to the beach was to call off the strike and go back to work, right as the extermination squads in their Charles de Gaulle airport vests were lined up waiting for them at the end of the burrows with the guns and the dogs, they went back to work. He looked at the fake laminated paving-stones of the street and then up ahead for any possible signage with the distinctive Frutiger sans serif typeface, at which point the well-known literary mechanism of association made available to his conscious recollection the lettering style used on all the signage in that old Patrick MacGoohan TV series “The Prisoner,” the Village in that TV series reminded him of this ersatz village of Roissy, except that the former had more character and even a beach instead of being surrounded by tarmac but he wondered if perhaps the lettering was the same, if they had used the distinctive Fruitger typeface for the ubiquitous signage of the sinister ultra-conformist dystopian Village it would have made a nice joke, but he remembered that the typeface of the Village had not been so sleek and modern as the Frutiger sans serif typeface, there were still serifs in the older-style Albertus typeface of the Village, the Albertus typeface still had serifs very minimal serifs it is true but serifs nonetheless, the Frutiger typeface was sans serif whereas the Albertus typeface was avec serif. And probably even if he did manage to locate the house which had served as the prototype for the notorious chateau of Histoire d’O it would turn out to be some monstrosity that the French heritage industry had subcontracted to Disneyworld France and it was now The Story of O World, after paying for tickets you stood in a long queue to be herded onto miniature shuttle-buses which looped on tracks through a series of animatronic tableaux reenacting the travails of O, which if he remembered correctly had more to do with clothing and fabrics than sex, the novel was really just a high-end adult clothing catalog for haberdashers and outfit-fetishists, excruciatingly tiresome and moreover excruciatingly Catholic, O like a nun with her wrists chained to her collar at night to keep her in an attitude of prayer and the chateau run according to the most restrictive rules that even the men of the secret society had to obey, to his mind it didn’t sound like much fun for the men at all, so many rules and timetables like some sort of monastic order, it was a religious tract enjoining service and submission, sex the last refuge of the sacred in a secular age blah blah blah, the Catholic Church in France had given the Disney corporation its blessing and even sent out a priest to the Story of O World to bless it with holy water and censers of incense at the grand opening, with plenty of politicians from the conservative and Gaullist and so-called socialist parties and the National Front on hand to have their pictures taken and speak of the French tradition of art and commerce.
He was just about to quit and return to the hotel-zone when he saw a man ahead, from around the corner an actual person of the public walking in his direction on the same public sidewalk about thirty paces ahead, he was surprised to see an actual live person, there were so few other persons on the streets that this one had to be an official of the Charles de Gaulle airport or a representative of Air France out on official business, unless he was just another addled tourist who had been overbooked and bumped, although as the stranger approached he gave off distinctly the air of a French person, somehow it was clear right away that the stranger approaching him was French, perhaps because his attire looked stylish in that subdued way of the French who as a people love stylish vestments more than sex, including Italian shoes, to be a properly dressed French person requires Italian shoes, but more especially because of his prominent nose, a truly impressive Gallic honker worn no doubt in honor and emulation of the victorious commander of the Free French forces and later President of the Fourth or is it the Fifth French Republic the late General Charles de Gaulle. And he worried that he would be in trouble with this distinctly French person wearing Italian shoes and a nose in honor of Charles de Gaulle because his own appearance inspired suspicion and maybe he had strayed into some kind of forbidden zone, unwittingly he had strayed into a zone that was off limits at certain times of the day, or off limits at least to suspicious-looking characters such as he had always suspected himself to be. He and the approaching French stranger shared the trait of wearing large noses but the French stranger wore the large nose of a Gallic person and whereas he wore the large nose of a Semitic person, or so the mirrors had always communicated to him, mirrors and other reflective surfaces which he gazed into anxiously had communicated to him this idea that he wore a nose of the Semitic type, even the convexities of spoons and the surface of his watch in the right light could communicate to him this idea that he wore a Semitic-type nose, to say nothing of his wife’s sunglasses, he wore the nose of a Jew or an Arab in spite of the fact that to his knowledge he was neither Arab nor Jew, the old problem of appearance versus essence. To his mind neither Jews nor Arabs were especially popular in France right then but he thought that on the whole the Arabs were less popular than the Jews, which was unfortunate because he believed that on balance he looked more like an Arab than a Jew, in the context of his complexion and hair and five o’clock shadow and the je ne sais quoi of his overall demeanor his Semitic-type nose came off more like an Arab’s than a Jew’s, at least to people in the United States and Europe, in the United States and Europe everyone took him automatically for an Arab, in fact everyone everywhere took him for an Arab except for the Arabs who took him for a Jew. He did not wish to be classed as an Arab by this French person, possibly an official of some kind although in no uniform save that of the well-attired French person, in principle his sympathies were all with the Arabs but at that particular moment he did not wish to be classed among the Arabs or the rabbits or anything which the French people fear are going to overrun their tarmacs in hordes and thus need at regular intervals to be exterminated en masse, he and the French stranger were heading right towards each other but it would have looked even more suspicious for him as a suspicious possibly Arab-looking person to cross to the other side of the street even definitively suspicious an open and shut case of suspiciousness, he wished his wife were at his side she had blond hair and an open face, he needed to get the Frenchman’s mind off his appearance right away, now that they had drawn near to each other he would speak first in such a way as to demonstrate the harmlessness of his presence in the zone—Excusez-moi, monsieur, et bonjour, eh . . . je suis ein tourist, eh, er . . . un tourist Canadien, oui, et je suis tres interessant dans le literature, n’est-ce-pas? Et je . . . je . . . et, to, to look for, I’m looking for . . . um, parlez-vous anglais? As he spoke the French stranger lifted his nose, throughout this demonstration of his harmlessness the French stranger slowly but steadily lifted his nose, pausing only at the interrogative to roll its Gallic impressiveness from side to side like the dorsal fin of a sea mammal and expel from the opening beneath it a brief non. Oh, that’s alright, I mean, c’est ca, oui, mais . . . je, je voudrais aller a la musée, oui, je voudrais aller a la musée de la chateau de le roman Histoire d’O, oui,? Eh, eh, le roman de Pauline Reage, n’est-ce-pas? To make his meaning perfectly clear he supplemented his speech with gestures, indicating first himself, then making walking fingers in the air, then pointing to the nearest house, then making a waving motion as if to erase the house and bringing his hands together and apart as if opening a book, and finally lifting and lowering his fist in the air to suggest flogging. Yet the French person only continued to lift his great Gallic nose skyward by worrisome increments as if sampling the air in order to determine if there might be an Arab on the tarmac, or else he was farsighted and had to rear back his head in order to bring the importuning questioner’s nose into focus in order to determine if it was a nose belonging to an Arab. And so the questioner found himself steadily lowering his chin, dipping his chin downwards in increments in the hope of foreshortening his nose in the French person’s perspective, the French person lifted his nose while the questioner dipped his chin until at last it was difficult for him to question let alone breathe, with his chin tucked into his breastbone his last question came out in a wheeze while the French person’s nose had positively taken off and now soared like the Concorde over the Pays de France. At last in exasperation S’il vous plais, monsieur, le chateau! he cried, raising his chin again but making up for this insolence by cringing deeply and flailing his arms in several directions, Le chateau, s’il vous plais! Ou est le chateau, n’est ce pas, le chateau? Ou est le chateau? at which point the Concorde returned to earth and the light of a successful communication circuit came on in the French person’s control panel. Ah, le chateau! cried the French person. Oui, le chateau! the questioner cried. Suddenly they were friends. The French person turned and pointed. Le chateau est la! All the questioner had to do, it turned out, was to continue in the direction he had been traveling and he would without question find himself at the chateau. He and the French person parted in high spirits and each bore their noses buoyantly in opposite directions. Buoyantly he bore his after all perhaps not so Semitic-looking nose in the direction he had originally been traveling through the village of Roissy, for the moment no longer the “so-called” village, it might not be so bad a village as all that with such a literary point of interest as the prototype of the notorious chateau of Pauline Réage’s notorious novel Histoire d’O, a serious literary investigation into erotic clothing as the last refuge of the sacred in a secular age.
He left the buildings of the village Roissy behind him as the road climbed and curved up the hill, there was a curving bank of trees of a type he could not name on the left side of the road and on his right he could see over the last houses of the village the green and gold swatches of the Pays de France receding to the smudge of the horizon, there were no other streets so he had to be going the right way to the chateau, of course the chateau itself had to be located at some small distance from the village, there had to be room for the grounds and the park and the porte cochere and you wouldn’t want the villagers to hear the screams so it had to be located at least some small distance out of town. And just as he was beginning to feel his breath, from the climb and perhaps a little from anticipation to feel his breath which was reviving from the condition of lamination he surmounted the crest of the hill and rounded the curve and saw before him the chateau to which the French person had directed him, obviously and clearly this was the very chateau the French person had meant, the Chateau-Roissy hotel on the driveway loop between the invidiously-appointed Suitehotel Roissy and the Kyriad Prestige Hotel Roissy-en-France, with the Novotel Roissy and the Millennium Hotel Roissy-Paris Charles de Gaulle on their respective sub-loops below and above them on the hillside. Shuttle-buses churned by along the tarmac loops in both directions as he tried to catch his breath, he had felt his breath not because of the climb or because of anticipation but because of the lamination, it had not been revivification but constriction, the whole time the lamination had been advancing, insidiously and inexorably the lamination had advanced. Everything on the hill-island worked in such a way that even if you walked in what you thought was a straight line you went in a circle and ended up back at your hotel in the Zone Hôtelière, or rather especially if you went in a straight line you ended up back in the Zone Hôtelière. The gravel paths of the park and the tarmac of the loops all led to the same place, subtly and deceptively they were laid out in the triskelion pattern which had been the symbol of the secret society in Pauline Réage’s notorious novel Histoire d’O, the triskelion pattern of three interlocking spirals on the secret-decoder rings which everyone in the society had to wear and by which they made themselves known to each other when not at the chateau, because everywhere you were really at the chateau, coming or going you were always returning to the chateau. He had won his talisman after all, not an antidote but the poison itself. There was a sort of fatalism to it, it was a Gallic fatalism. It was the degree-zero of traveling, it was the essence of modern travel, with a kind of continental fatalism the Grand Tour led only to this. The future of Europe was this shrinking compass, in which everything went in loops and came back, and so time must too, and he would always be returning to the chateau, in one way or another he would always be coming back, he would never get out. He might as well be living in the departure lounge of Terminal 1 in the Charles de Gaulle airport along with Mehran Karimi Nasseri, it would be better to live in the departure lounge of Terminal 1 alongside Mehran Karimi Nasseri than in the Zone Hôtelière, from 1988 on Mehran Karimi Nasseri had been sleeping on benches with his head on his suitcase in the departure lounge of Terminal 1, a degree-zero man sans-papiers living in an airport terminal even after they made a movie about him, a Middle Eastern man at the zero-degree. In the movie of course they had had to make him into a European, into a white European of some kind or else who would have gone to see it, in the movie a Slav of some kind and thus sufficiently exotic and foreign while still white and European and still Tom Hanks, above all still Tom Hanks, from a Middle Eastern prototype Tom Hanks with a Polish-sounding accent. If by chance he should escape the Zone Hôtelière tomorrow on one of the shuttle-buses and the plane didn’t crash on take-off because of the rabbit blood on the tarmac no doubt the in-flight movie would be The Terminal starring Tom Hanks as the displaced white European who wants nothing more than to live and breathe free in the United States of America, while Mehran Karimi Nasseri remains in the terminal, terminally in the terminal, in the In-Between, at the margin itself, in the center of Europe a margin. As he passed the Kyriad Prestige Hotel Roissy-en-France he saw his wife through the lobby window staring into her laptop with a look of ferocity, hunched and staring like a lion about to strike, she must be getting very good wireless reception, she must have had many vending-machine cappuccinos. She had willed and caffeinated herself into a crazed state of concentration in order to resist the condition of lamination, it took a leonine concentration which he did not possess. Some would survive and others would not. He returned to their room, passing the dour Ukrainian housekeeper on the way. He laid down on the small bed, put his left forearm over his eyes and listened to the sound of the tarmac-surf through the open treble-paned window. He felt the lamination in the chambers of his sinuses and in his gorge, his windpipe, and his lungs. He felt the food-mix he had consumed that morning still heavily coiled in his intestinal loops and thought of the quick dour look the Ukrainian housekeeper had pretended not to give him. His only hope was in the banlieues, among the young French persons who wore North African and Middle Eastern noses in the decaying council flats of the endless cités, he reasoned. They had made the banlieues burn last fall and they would make them burn again, they would finally burst out of their insular banlieue prisons, join forces with the rabbits and flood all the tarmacs, the rabbits by themselves were no match for the exterminators in their Charles de Gaulle airport vests and their extermination equipment including dogs and weasels but together with the youth of Algerian and Moroccan and Tunisian descent and suspicious appearance they could make a go of it, burning the banlieues and flooding the tarmacs. His only hope of escape from the creeping condition of lamination and loops was to ally himself with them, with the banlieue youth of suspicious appearance who had never been overbooked and bumped and washed ashore at the Zone Hôtelière because they could not afford the luxury of being overbooked and bumped, and the rabbits who wanted the tarmacs for themselves. His sympathies were all with the banlieue youth and the rabbits but he was torn, torn. His only hope of escape was to ally himself with the banlieue youth and the rabbits, but a final showdown would leave the tarmac flooded with blood and cause the Air France jetliner to hemoplane on take-off and kill him in a fiery crash.