Johnny Hallyday Says Hello
A notebook entry.
It was getting late, close to curfew, so I decided to take a taxi.
“It smells well in here,” I said in my bad French when I got in. Because it did smell nice. It smelled of oranges.
“It smells good,” the driver corrected me. “What do you smell?”
“Oranges,” I said.
“I just ate an orange!” he said. “But also I am wearing Dior.”
He wanted to tell me about an incredible thing that had just happened to him that day. To explain it, he had to begin the story a few years back, when Johnny Hallyday died.
Hallyday was a famous rock musician known as the French Elvis. There are pictures of him looking like James Dean with a young Catherine Deneuve. A few months after Hallyday’s death, this cab driver had picked up a fare going to a wealthy town outside Paris. Hallyday had once lived there, or grown up there, or something like that. Right at the moment when he crossed into this town, one of Hallyday’s songs started playing on the radio. He had never heard a Johnny Hallyday song on that station before, and he found this to be a remarkable coincidence.
Then today, while he was telling this same story to another passenger, it happened again. Another Johnny Hallyday song came on the radio just as he was telling his story about the other Johnny Hallyday song.
“I don’t even like Johnny Hallyday!” he said, laughing.
He was slowing down now, taking his eyes off the road in order to look back at me and explain the significance. He was sure that this station had never played any of Hallyday’s songs before. He had even taken the time to look at the station’s website afterwards, and scanned through their list of songs to confirm it. In the past several days, that exact moment when he had begun to tell his story was the only time when the song had played.
“It must mean something!” he told me several times.
I wasn’t sure that I understood it, or what it was supposed to mean. This series of events. That Johnny Hallyday was haunting him? That he was meant to listen to Johnny Hallyday?
The other cars honked as we weaved our way blindly up the boulevard de Magenta.
“It must mean something.”
He kept saying it, his eyes bright with the gift of curiosity and happenstance, like those lucky souls who have been touched by the divine.
This entry was adapted from a five things draft written in December 2020.
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