I blame Chloe. No don’t go imagining her as some beautiful young goatherd from Longus’s story of Daphnis and Chloe. It was an idyllic story of two young people discovering their love for each other. That tale should be banished from your mind. The Chloe I am going to tell you about is the utter antithesis her. I often think what a parallel there was in Marcel Pagnol’s story of Manon des Sources. Perhaps he stole Chloe from the ancient Latin tale and transplanted her into the story of an orphan’s survival in the wild country of the Aubagne in southern France. Who could forget the film version as Manon played by Emmanuelle Beart emerges from a mountain pool after a bathe all damp and beautiful to dance and frisk in the morning sunlight with her goats grazing peacefully around her. Meanwhile the hateful Ugolin is spying on her and determines that she should be his wife. I am digressing. I teach literature and I love to find the parallels in modern literature with that of long ago.
So my Chloe was a disappointment. I am still trying to work out which of ancient literature’s heroines or villainesses she should be. Perhaps you can help.
I was the designated driver that night. I drove; they drank, while I limited myself to soft drinks so I would drive some of the others home. This is an excellent arrangement when a party of friends go out for the evening. So it was that after a night out when everybody was enjoying themselves and getting more and more verbose I was joining in the conversation, smiling and chatting up the girls in the party and curiously quite happy and sober. I had to give a class next day and D.H. Lawrence was on the cards to titillate them and annoy me and I didn’t need a hangover for that.
Meanwhile Chloe was being loud and flirting with everyone including the barman and her conversation was based on her idea that if she repeated what anyone said somebody might think that she said it first. About midnight but it could have been later we rounded up the team for my car. Finally I got them all packed in and was slightly annoyed that Chloe had found the front seat for herself. She was in another world singing to herself some stupid ditty from an ancient Beatles song. Where on earth did she dig that up?
It was raining of course and there were five of us in the car. The rest of the party had either got taxis or risked driving themselves. John and Sandra were a couple and were first to be dropped off. “Thanks a lot Jim” they said. Then Chloe from the front seat says “Thanks a lot Jim” too. This was repeated when Sandy got out gave me peck on the cheek and said “You’re a great mate” and toddled off to her apartment. Chloe meanwhile was repeating over and over again “You’re a great mate, you’re a great mate” and then “Thanks a lot Jim” as well. I was a little incensed as you can imagine, but button lipped I drove on.
As ill luck would have it Tony was next. He was a fellow teacher and called out “See you tomorrow” as he staggered off home. That left me with Chloe who was repeating “See you tomorrow” endlessly.
I had a little way to go before I dropped her off and she started to get friendly in her inebriated state. She reached over to touch my neck calling out “Jim, Jim”. Meanwhile I tried to concentrate on the road. Because she wasn’t keeping her eyes on the road her stomach decided it wasn’t happy and without warning she retched and threw up all over the dashboard, turned to me in horror and then threw up on me as well. I skidded to a stop at the verge jumped out and ran round to open her door in the hope that any more she had to offer could be done outside the car. It was; on my shoes! She was crying by this time and I was trying to comfort her, and clean up both me and her.
“It is all right Chloe it will clean up” I said hopefully, knowing that the smell would linger despite the most stringent cleaning.
She on the other hand kept repeating a slightly different version.
“Chloe will clean up, Chloe will clean up”
Oh. Chloe I wish you would, I thought. Then it came to me she should have been called Echo!