Fare Thee Well: Once Upon a Time I Was Olive J. Keith

The corner of Main and Gay Street is part of my everyday commute to work. Through my windshield, the end-of-day sun transforms the BB&T building into a spectacular crystal palace. I bet the movers and shakers in that magical tower smell of crisp suits, long-standing marriages, and memberships to the right clubs. Do the beautiful and powerful of BB&T castle spill dragon's blood on their Brooks Brothers shirts? And does such work bring a happiness denied to the rest of us mortals?

What would it be like to wear those Brooks Brothers shirts instead of pajamas? I wonder what songs little ones chirp from the back of the family Volvo on the way to church? Does the bar in Club LeConte feel warmer when you are seated as part of a power couple? How does Mother's Day brunch at Cherokee Country Club feel when you are the mother and not just the daughter? I'd hoped to know these things during my twenties and thirties. There's a cruelty in the late-day BB&T sunlight: It shows the crow's feet of my 40s, and the painful truth that I will never be part of Wonderville's mommies who lunch.

It was here at the corner, hopeless and bereft, that a fairy tale of my own showed up unexpectedly. He was tall, French, and a photographer. His photos graced Rolling Stone, and there was the apartment in Avignon. Why yes, he was single. Would I meet him for dinner at Le Parigo? I would upon my return from New York.

We e-mailed every day for three weeks. What? We both love to cook? Why yes I do enjoy Django jazz. Travel is my favorite hobby. Of course I love Paris.

And Venice?

Well, I didn't think of Venice much because I have never been. I couldn't stand the idea of waking up in a palazzo alone. My parents called Venice their favorite city. For my 8th birthday, Daddy gave me toy gondola. He said, "Venice is a magical city built on water. There are no cars: Venetians take little boats to work just like this one. Someday, you and your husband will ride in one of these. There is a place under the Rialto Bridge where if you share a kiss, your love will last forever." In 2011 the gondola went to the back of my sock drawer. I put it there on my 40th birthday because it burned acidic holes in my unmarried and unmaternal soul.

I texted from LaGuardia the day of our La Parigo dinner:

"What if we don't have anything to say when we are finally sitting face to face at dinner? What if all the e-mails and texts are just a mirage?"

My iPhone popped back: "My dear, we are just approaching the table…"

We had lots to talk about at dinner. The way his hand felt in mine when we walked down Gay street after dinner was lovely. He stopped under a tree in front of O.P. Jenkins and said, "Do you know what this is?"


"It's a kissing spot."


Gentle and most revered reader, I write this last column for the Metro Pulse while sitting at the table I have deemed as my new, favorite kissing spot. It sits on the balcony of our little pensione over the water. I am now a citizen of a new city that is not Wonderville. And my hand looks like someone else's with that gold band on it. The palaces here don't glitter like the BB&T, but then I never could call those marbled floors home.

How do I get to work these days? I take the traghetto. No, that's not the latest car from the Chattanooga plant. It's a kind of little boat that putters down our Venetian waterways. You get in, pay one euro, and remain standing until your stop. When you go under the Rialto Bridge, hold on to your prince when he kisses you. Because the view across the ocean to Wonderville is filled with reflections from the BB&T, martini-soaked kissing spots, and a toy gondola liberated from its sock-drawer prison.