Partial Views: A Memoir in 365 Parts, 2. Thursdays in Geneva, Paul Brunschwig

(This is the second part of Partial Views: A Memoir in 265 Parts, 1. Thursdays in Geneva, Le Dorian)

When I was little, my nanny, Germaine Stölle, would take me for the whole day on Thursdays. It was my favorite day of the week.

My family lived in Geneva, and she would take me into Old Town with her two mean little dogs, Smoky and Belle. We’d have hot chocolate and croissants. Once we’d finished, Germaine would drop the dogs off at her apartment, and we would proceed to visit Paul Brunschwig at the Pharmacie Principale (I never thought of him without both names). At first, he was just a nice guy at the drug store. But he became so much more to me.

He was a pharmacist there. Maybe he even owned the place. But he was kind, dignified, and always took the time to speak to me. His voice didn’t change when he did so, which endeared him to me forever. I marveled at his generosity. No matter how many times we visited,I went away with a little something (a rubber duckie, a little keychain with an animal on it). I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet. I loved Paul Brunschwig.

On rare occasions, his wife would be there, or she and he would end up at a party that my family had given. I hated her. She was caustic and bitter, dyed her hair a weird blonde; and she was out in the sun so much her skin looked like burnt leather. Her voice, all cigarette smoke and bourbon, had an everready insult in its pocket, never showed it full on. I used to wish he could be free of her. We all did.

I was grown and married with children of my own when I learned of his death. He had swerved to avoid hitting a dog. That death said everything you need to know about Paul Brunschwig. And several decades after that, I learned that Paul and Germaine had been lovers. It made me both happy and sad for her. All those years I thought she had no one of her own. And all those years, she did.

Have no one, really, of her own.

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