In the time after Zelda had what was then called her first nervous breakdown and we happened to be in Paris at the same time, Scott asked me to have lunch with him at Michaud's restaurant on the corner of the rue Jacob and the rue des Saints-Pères. He said he had something very important to ask me that meant more than anything in the world to him and that I must answer absolutely truly.
I kept waiting for it to come, the thing that I had to tell the absolute truth about; but he would not bring it up until the end of the meal, as though we were having a business lunch.
Finally when we were eating the cherry tart and had a last carafe of wine he said, "You know I never slept with anyone except Zelda."
"No, I didn't."
"I thought I had told you."
"No. You told me a lot of things but not that."
"That is what I have to ask you about."
"Good. Go on."
"Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly."
"Come out to the office," I said.
"Where is the office?"
"Le water," I said.
We came back into the room and sat down at the table.
"You're perfectly fine," I said. "You are O.K. There's nothing wrong with you. You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile."
"Those statues may not be accurate."
"They are pretty good. Most people would settle for them."
"But why would she say it?"
"To put you out of business. That's the oldest way in the world of putting people out of business. Scott, you asked me to tell you the truth and I can tell you a lot more but this is the absolute truth and all you need. You could have gone to see a doctor."
"I didn't want to. I wanted you to tell me truly."
"Now do you believe me?"
"I don't know," he said.
"Come on over to the Louvre," I said. "It's just down the street and across the river."
We went over to the Louvre and he looked at the statues but still he was doubtful about himself.
"It is not basically a question of the size in repose," I said. "It is the size that it becomes. It is also a question of angle." I explained to him about using a pillow and a few other things that might be useful for him to know.
This context should be included in any English class literary canon that uncritically reveres these two men (although, in truth, it makes me kind of sad that Fitzgerald would fall for the misogynistic bluster of Hemingway's depressive mask). But I guess it's true what they say: the pen is mightier!
Image via Public Domain