As the great Dante wrote, “Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.” It appeared that my straightforward pathway had disappeared before my eyes. I was now lost. I was an invalid with no partner and no help and living in a country that has no care or respect for human life or human dignity—America, that is. What would I do?
Yes, I do have high qualifications that would allow me to live anywhere else I like. But, sadly, I had given up all my other citizenships and residence, because once I was a fanatic American patriot; in other words, I was an absolute idiot. There has always been one problem going back to where I belong and love, which is Paris: What would I do with my health situation, chemotherapy, and all the ailments? After researching medical insurances, I sadly discovered that all the medical-insurance companies in Europe are Americans. They function on the basis of bad faith and abuse. So what is the use? It is a sad and frustrating state of affair. Here, I have my insurance provided by the college where I was teaching; yeah, I pay $1,300 per month, but elsewhere in Europe
I courageously entered the next chapter of my life. I asked Dr. Nancy Godfrey to give me the chemotherapy in pill form, and I also requested a year’s supply of my regular medications so that I could go to Paris, France, my favorite place on the planet, and see if I could live there for good and leave this malevolent country called America.
I have never been happy in America. It is a country with no culture or morals, and I find its capitalistic system inhuman and disgraceful. Additionally, I have given America a lot in terms of hard work, but the rewards were insignificant to me. Furthermore, I do not believe that America is a democratic country; its electoral voting system is quite laughable. It is as though a few selected people freely decide who the president should be; that is not democracy. I have lived, studied, and worked in England, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Holland, and Austria, and I have never seen a government that is as useless and abusive to its citizens as the US government.
I would write a list of the medications the divine comedy of life requires me to take. Such a long list would certainly make the reader believe this story is fiction; however, it is not. Again, I shall leave it to you, my reader, to decide. Remember that I said there is a fine line between what is fiction and what is real. I sometimes do not know what is fiction and what is nonfiction. That is the main reason this book has been written as a work of fiction.
Is it fiction or nonfiction? How can my story be described? I, Alexandre Akpors, cannot tell. To me, it is my reality, though I know it sounds like fiction; that is the fine line I have been telling my readers about. Though I have neither stretched the fine line in any way nor crossed the line, I am in my reality. That is, my friends, the divine comedy about which we have to laugh out loud. We have to defy nature, looking at life in defiance and repeating, “I shall never be defeated.” And I tell you, my dear reader, I shall not be defeated, and I shall always sing, “I did it my way.”
The saga continued. As always, I went to doctors and hospitals for various ailments. I also frequented imaging centers for MRIs and CT scans. I think if I were to die now, St. Peter at the gate would be blinded by the radiation that my body emits from all the radiology tests I have been through—more than 185 in the last twenty years. Yes, you read this correctly, my dear reader—more than 185 radioactive tests! St. Peter, in whom I do not believe, since I am an atheist, would not know whether to send me to heaven or hell, as he would be blinded by the radioactive light around me; it would be brighter than that around Jesus’s head in The Last Supper. The great Dante would laugh his head off when St. Peter would scream, quoting the Divine Comedy, “And now, I pray you, tell me who you are: do not be harder than I’ve been with you that in the world your name may still endure.”
And I would be possessed by Dante’s soul and reply, “Through me, the way is to the suffering city; through me, the way is to eternal pain; through me, the way is among the people lost.” And St. Peter would be so confused that he might resign from his post.
Comedy, isn’t it? And divine in nature, isn’t it? And it is life as you and I know and experience it, isn’t it? And that, my dear reader, is divine comedy, which refuses to cease to exist.
I left for Paris about October 2011 with the intention of never returning to this wasteland. I had an old and good friend who was an Egyptian. Marlene spoke French fluently and had gotten married to a French barrister. However, things had not worked out, and they had filed for divorce. In France and England, getting a divorce requires a very long process. Perhaps that is the reason many people in Europe do not marry these days.
I had known Marlene from Egypt and had always admired her beauty, intelligence, and sensuality; however, she was more than thirty years younger than me, so the thought of coupling with her was quite obscene.
Before leaving for Paris, I had communicated with Marlene and informed her of my plans. She was pleased, excited, and welcoming, and most of all, she was very helpful. She had arranged for a beautiful fourteenth-floor rental apartment in a high-rise on the River Seine. When I arrived, I was stunned at the view and the beauty of the area. I was full of hopes and aspirations that Paris would once again become my home. It had been home even before I came to the United States.
Marlene and I had a couple of sexual encounters and rekindled what had been long past. It was merely lust and nothing more. Nature pulls us one way, and human nature pulls us in the opposite direction.
I lived in my apartment, and she lived in hers. We met regularly for lunches, dinners, and chats. The comedy of life followed me to Paris—divine comedy was everywhere and controlled everyone alive. Marlene confided in me that she had a lover and that it was a homosexual relationship. The normal thing one would do in a situation like this is panic; but I did not. As I usually do in times of turmoil, I smiled. I told Marlene, however, that we both had to get tested for HIV and any other STDs. We did, and we both tested negative.
I continued living in Paris. I was trying to find a way to reside there permanently and with benefits, and that was, as I had expected, impossible, but I was still trying. Marlene became somewhat distant and unwilling to assist in any way, but that did not trouble me at all. I used my time wisely and wrote the outline of my successful novel God on Trial. I immensely enjoyed that year in Paris and made many new friends in all walks of life. Paris has charm for writers. The city can bestow wings on one’s thoughts, so they can flutter and fly to create, conceive, and imagine without fear, trepidation, apprehension, or restraint—not even by life’s divine comedy.
One can never know what the future holds or what will happen next. I, Alexandre Akpors, feel a little muddled by Stephen Hawking’s idea about life possibilities. Hawking teaches us that all things are possible, and if we wondered about life as children, through the impossibilities, we can find answers to many puzzling questions. I wonder whether any event that seems to take place really does take place. If all things are possible, it is also possible that what we see as real is mere fiction. Hawkins argues, “The past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.”
Then divine comedy staged the most unusual, unexpected, and uncanny event for me. One morning in July 2012, I received an unexpected e-mail from Marisela, a former student with whom I had had a fling twenty-one years earlier, when she was only just over twenty years old. Though our fling was short, it was intense, at least on my part. I had loved her so much despite the difference in age, and she simply liked me as a person, a teacher, or, perhaps, a father figure—I shall never be sure until the last breath. Our fling ended by the end of that summer, after my return from a visit to Amsterdam. Marisela had disappeared with no explanation; she no longer wanted to have anything to do with me.
I was excited and thrilled to receive her message. I replied, explaining my position and asking about her status and how things were in her life. Evidently, life’s divine comedy had a plan for me that I had never envisioned. She was free and available. We began to communicate regularly. And then I decided to return to California and start an affair with my old companion (for lack of a better word) Marisela. I returned, and a new chapter began.