An afternoon of ambling. Mixed and matched stones was the footpath I pottered on; Bon Iver sang to me as the Eiffel Tower, tall and respectable and proud stood up ahead; and the Seine on the right directed me down along its edge of wide pathways tunneling under bridges. And then suddenly there is a man, and he is on his knees, down on those stones of all different shapes and sizes, and something is in his hands. He rises and looks in to my eyes, “pour vous,” he says with intention, but the words are relaxed there, in the air that smells like fresh water and cigarettes and that bouquet of foreign place that only comes about when the wind moves.
I flit my wrist because there’s something strange about this. I don’t know this man. I walk on curious and flattered at the same time. And then turn around because I remember something my father told me before I moved to Paris. “All the time,” he said, and he said it like this, as if the only criteria for this sort of behaviour was to be Parisian, “people will pretend to pick up jewelry off the pavement and give it to you as a present. But don’t take it from them because they’ll make you pay for it afterwards.”
(a small present). She is on her knees in front of a group of tourists and has in her hands a twenty cent piece of treasure, which the tourists are thanking her for. I smile a little, wanting to warn them. If only they could hear the words of my father. I walk but then turn around again. The tourists have moved on but are looking down at what is in the small boy’s hands and the gypsy and her curled lips is coming back. One of the tourists reaches for her purse and takes out a few coins.
I face the river; a city filled with copious pockets of fools and then I realize something. I could have been one of them and in that moment, once again I knew, I was not out-of-the-ordinary.
In a city that doesn’t want to know your name; even amongst all the unwanted attention, the comments that may appear to be about you but are actually a message for every woman in the city telling them who to avoid; the lady down on the canal who wears sandals but holds high heals and if you look at her feet she will yell, “dégage!” and when you work in a job that never allows you to dine with the people you cook for, you can think you will fade away.
But then there is this reason for people living in and out of each other’s lives. Especially the living in. There is no way to fade when you come home to an apartment smelling of the lamb that roasts in New Zealand; another person who wants to dine with you; and this someone who understands that beetroot will always go well with French goats cheese.
And all I can think is that there is so much to introduce you to.