There lives in my neighborhood a notoriously alluring woman who owns a tiny, moveable storefront antiques shop. I say moveable, because it has been moved several times in the years I've lived here. Suddenly it will be gone, and just as suddenly it will reappear a few blocks down. Someone will have laboriously painted an elaborate trump l'oiel red velvet drapery on the cement block column bordering the windows, and stuffed behind the glass one will see all manner of extravagant golden frippery, enormous candelabra, a mid-century modernist glass vase, opulent velvet cushions and frames studded with gems and filigree, all featuring self-consciously posed portraits of the woman, whose name I don't know but to whom I privately refer as "Mademoiselle Anne T. Quarian".
In the displayed photos and paintings, Mademoiselle Q. is invariably depicted wearing severe gowns and bejeweled cloches and such, staring with high-fashion hauteur at passersby, like someone enduring a thrilling nightlife in Weimar Berlin. Tucked among the baubles in the window will be an extra-tiny black and white ivory frame picturing a menacing and very pale gentleman in an S&M leather outfit and brandishing a whip.
All of this mad self-spectacularization inspires un sentiment romantique in M. Chariot; after all, it is no secret the French prefer la femme adulte et sophistiquée. But try as I may, surreptitiously peering through the front glass with my monocle, I have never spied her nor anyone else in the shop. I only suspect she is the owner because of the lavish self-promotions.
Mademoiselle Q. can be seen walking to and fro, and is immediately noticeable: her fashion is the antithesis of "street", appearing on the sidewalk like an expensive brooch glittering in a gutter. The coiffure is a spun platinum asymmetrical helmet, and she sports generous amounts of expertly applied maquillage on her wide face. Her torso is somewhat barrel-shaped, but clothed via the most impeccable cut and tailoring, tastefully finished with large, art-ish bracelets and rings.
Unfailingly, she appears to be on her way to a marvelous cocktail party, one where Noel Coward might be convinced to play a little something on the piano. Her expression is imperious, telegraphing absolutely no time for nonsense, but one can tell that she has a taste for it nonetheless. Although I am loath to eavesdrop, I have overheard her flirting with several shortish European gentlemen; she has a deep, German-accented voice, a brusque tone, and likes the in-joke.