converted to aerobics or married media moguls.rnI tried to argue with them, stay civilized, but it was difficultrnto persuade a convinced fellow traveler. A communist? Impossible.rnOnly once did I get in a real rage. That was Christmas,rn1957:1 was invited to celebrate the day with a leftist butrnotherwise quite nice couple. The young wife was an American,rnraised in Ecuador in a diplomatic family; her husband, Tala, arnpainter, was also a refugee, from Franco’s Spain. He had a goodrnreputation in artistic circles and was a fanatic communist.rnThis became obvious when the Hungarian Revolution arose inrnconversation and I found myself defending Cardinal JozsefrnMindszenty against Tala’s accusation that this head of thernHungarian Catholic Church, jailed by the communists and liberatedrnduring the Revolution, was a fascist counterrevolutionaryrnwho had worked for the reestablishment of feudal estatesrnand sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest after thernSoviet invasion of Hungary. For several reasons Mindszentyrnwasn’t an especial hero of mine, but I felt it wasn’t fair to malignrnsomebody who was persecuted after the Nazi occupationrnof Hungary for trying to save Jewish lives and who, against therncommunists, courageously resisted as long as he could. Talarnsarcastically inquired, “How many acres from collective farmsrnhas your cardinal promised you?” The situation became ludicrous.rnChristmas or not, I’d been drinking, and I got mad,rnyelled “]’en ai assez,” took my coat, and left without sayingrngoodbye.rnPeter wasn’t interested in Vanessa. But he saw that I liked thernAmerican girl. Before letting me lose my temper the way I hadrnat Tala’s, he whispered to me in Hungarian: “What is your priority?rnYou want to discuss politics or you want to . . . ?” Peterrnwas right. I quickly came up with a joke about the differencernbetween a Stalinist and a Trotskyite. We then took a long walk,rnate a cheap couscous dinner at Rue St-Gregoire de Tours,rndrank some Algerian wine, and spent a beautiful night together.rnInterestingly, most of the women who became close to mernin the coming years belonged politically to my enemy’s camp.rnI later settled in the States, and, in New York, dated Sharon forrnalmost two years. Once she took me home for Thanksgivingrndinner and presented me thus to her parents: “This is myrnsweet little fascist.” All four of us smiled idiotically. Her father,rna New York lawyer who, in his youth, fought in Spain as a memberrnof the Lincoln Battalion, mentioned that he had met severalrnHungarian volunteers during that civil war and droppedrnthe name of Erno Gero, one of the most hated Hungarian Partyrnleaders of ’56. It was well known that Gero, at party command,rnstudied Catalan in Moscow, traveled to Spain by ordersrnfrom Stalin, and tortured and murdered Trotskyite and anarchistrnactivists in Barcelona basements. But I kept my mouthrnshut. I was so fond of Sharon that I was prepared to accept everyrninsult, every humiliation, just to hold her and love her.rnI wondered if it was really Vanessa’s, or Sharon’s, fault thatrnshe was fed drawing-room communism along with her mother’srnmilk? That since childhood she was brainwashed at home?rnThat her indoctrination began each morning at the breakfastrntable? Later, even my wife, not a product of an even slightlyrnpink environment, asked me unexpectedly: “Something I stillrncan’t understand is why almost 100 percent of your sufferingrnEast Europeans always vote for the Communist Party? If theyrnreally don’t like the regime, as you seem sure, they just don’trnhave to vote. It’s impossible to punish or exterminate a wholernnation because it refuses to vote. I’m not talking about malcontentrnindividuals, I mean nations, and if whole peoples stillrngo vote, then they have only themselves to blame.” Anotherrntime she noted that “it is impossible to have an intimate dinnerrnwith you. Around the table, next to us, there always sit therncommunist regimes.” Our eventual divorce had nothing to dornwith politics. Although far apart, we telephoned each otherrnwhen the Berlin Wall collapsed, and we both cried from happiness.rnThere was another telling episode in my relations withrnVanessa, not in France, but in the States, where I first wentrnas a tourist in the summer of 1959. Vanessa had returned severalrnmonths earlier to continue her studies at Barnard. At myrnarrival, she was vague, finally confessing that she had a kind ofrnsteady boyfriend—Rufus!—but everything got back into thernold groove the moment we got horizontal. She showed mernNew York from Central Park to Greenwich Village. When wernarrived at the Museum of Modern Art, even my poor Englishrnallowed me to understand her saying to the lady cashier:rn”Please give me a ticket, and a children’s ticket for my cousin,”rnpointing at me. The cashier looked at me, perplexed becausernnot only was I older than Vanessa but I looked older as well.rnVanessa explained, “My cousin comes from Europe and appearsrnolder because he suffered a lot during the Hungarian counterrevolution.”rnWhat she said seemed so absurd and surprisingrnthat the confused cashier immediately let me go in on a child’srnticket. I couldn’t complain; she saved me money. The fast onernthat she had pulled cheered up both of us, and she could risernto the occasion and tease me politically again.rnAfter the MOMA visit, we walked to the East Side and tookrna bus to the Ukrainian section of the Lower East Side where,rnaccording to Vanessa, there was a restaurant with the best Romanianrnpastrami sandwich in the world. Vanessa figured Irnshould have one because she knew that you can’t find pastramirnin Europe, especially not in Romania. Vanessa came fromrnan Irish Catholic family, with an uncle who had been a missionaryrnto China and a cousin who worked as a Maryknoll sisterrnin Bolivia. She explained that here, in the world’s greatestrncity, everybody is a little bit Jewish, even Italians, Irish, and Anglos,rnat least in diet. At the same time, many Jewish kids havernChristmas trees, and on St. Patrick’s Day, Jews join HarlemrnBaptists to help the Irish celebrate along Fifth Avenue. “Personally,rnI like the fact that we celebrate so many different holidays,”rnVanessa remarked, “because I’m an atheist and atheistsrnhave no red-letter days.”rnI began to feel the jet lag as we walked from the bus stationrnto the restaurant. Vanessa, still full of energy, quickened herrnsteps, putting a distance between us. She prankishly challengedrnme to “Look! I walk like a black girl. Dad always saysrnI walk like a Negro.” I had no idea how black women walkedrnor that such generalizations can be justified; however, I obedientlyrnlooked and admired because I loved her legs and behind.rnBack in Paris I had often dropped back so she could walkrna bit ahead of me just so I could enjoy watching her shapelyrnlong legs and her magnificent derriere, which was outlined byrnthe seams of her panties. I confessed to her once that, while Irncouldn’t stand her political views, every time I glanced at herrnmy breathing stopped.rnAs I wished we were back home, we entered the nearly emptyrnrestaurant. A waiter of Methuselah’s vintage brought usrnthree-story-high hot pastrami on pumpernickel with Polishrnpickles and Dijon mustard, nicely cut in two and held togeth-rn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn