There was a camera crew filming and movie and it looked so very French, a young band tromping down the streets, red coat, guitar cases. They moved along the sidewalk to the cue of clacking cues and down the hills. I watched them go, acting out their ennui or were they the embodiment. Did they need to act? Did they need to pretend?
I found a small restaraunt in the market square with a secret garden in the back. Outside the artist painted scenes and hawked their wares, desperate, as all artist have always been desperate, to be seen, to be known to be discovered. Hopefully to be plucked out of obscurity and knowing that at best they may never see the fame their art could bring. But artist create for pennies or riches it matters not. Artists must create.
There was foie gras with gooseberries and wine and the warmth of an afternoon and I was flush in my discontent but also in the sense of being filled with more experience in a moment that I could fully understand. Something was happening here, but what I could not have told you at the time, only that I felt wild with discontent as I sat in that small garden alone, reading a book, eating fatty foods and enjoying it, at least the taste, it was something.
Here I am, I thought to myself, walking the streets of artist being both alive and melancholy. Aren't I just French as Fuck right now? That was how I felt then. It was something. It was being alive. Perhaps that is the only point, but at least then it was keeping me going. I bought a necklace. I bought a magnet. These are the things I buy when I travel. Small pieces of life that are easily transported.
Later, I went for dinner not knowing that it was the night of the Eurobowl. I ended up back on the hills of Montremarte, somehow, after running into a variety of revelers wondering the streets of France. Some of the fans were screaming up and down the streets in front of me waving a French flag and catcalling on the narrow streets as the cars passed by. They jostled each other and managed to get on either side of the street and hold their flag over passing cars, raising and lowering it as if they were somehow matadors in a bullfight, heady and overenthusiastic and full of their youth.
There was a wildness in them, in the streets, in the experience. I had two days in Paris, two days I did not really want, but two days that I used to the best of my ability.
Walking back to my hotel down random streets I walked past a restaurant and suddenly there was a woman running out the door, she was choking. Her friends kept beating on her back. I recognized her position and her posture and ran into the restaurant. I yelled for sparkling water and pointed at the woman, the waitress didn't argue but she didn't understand me, or the moment.
I brought the water out and put it to the lips of the woman as she struggled, tilting my head back, telling her to drink. She shook her head but I convinced her and she swallowed a mouthful, shuddered and looked at me with sparkling eyes. She couldn't speak to me in English to tell me what was happening, however the palpable relief that washed over her told me that the cure had worked and she wasn't choking anymore in the middle of her body. She explained to her friends, still coming down from the panic and they patted my back, shook my hand. I left them to attend to their friend who was calmer now still looking at me, as if I had discovered the cure to cancer somehow, this stranger who spoke no French but immediately knew her distress. She had a hero in that moment, I didn't know what to do with her gratitude.
More passing faces, random people, lives touched here and there, and I am woven into them as a small thread and I wonder what they must say of me if they ever say anything at all. What was I then? That day, was I a hero, or simply someone unafraid to ask.
Today I say I am bold or forward.
That day it was true.
It will be true again tomorrow.
The next morning I took the train from Paris back to London. I stayed alone in a place called the wall and felt more alone than I have ever been. After that I folded myself around a small dog that loved me and a lover who I had come to value more than myself. For a moment there was joy and I began to see some breaks in the darkness that was swallowing me.