“I think I naively expected it to be like it was in the twenties.” I felt an urgent need to look around the room to see if anyone had heard those words. “It’s done its dash.” I didn’t expect to feel this way; my stomach didn’t drop, there was no flicker of anger, this was not a justified response.
Everyone remained in their chairs finishing off their tomato and parmesan risotto and crepes with raspberry syrup. No body even flinched. I wanted to run up to him waving my hands through the air to get rid of his statement and in a very definite way, mouth, “Stop, don’t say that. People can hear you.” But then there was this other part. And it hesitated. It would have turned me towards all those people occupying steal industrial dinning tables and light wooden chairs and it would have asked them, “Is it really that true? Do we all just know it now?”
Breath would have left my body and I would have felt lighter in this skin that clings to me. My legs would have stood, unmoved, with hands heavy at my sides and shoulders slumped towards my belly button. There would have been a shuffling of leg chairs on concrete floors. Then all those eyes would have eventually moved back to their temporary happiness of pistachio cake laden with butter.
I’m no down-player. It is 6 o’clock in the morning and my feet feel lonely on the chilled pavement, but I can smell yeast being worked into soft white dough and butter melting into flour as it rises crisp and creamy. And it’s seven in the late afternoon and baguettes with their ends nibbled off are held by hungry hands and are walked home through streets of thick grey concrete curbs and bumpy cobblestones by their admirers. It could be midday, and I wouldn’t be there, but there’s something known by those who own or rent apartments in this city; that the first arrondissement is filled with gypsies pushed up close to Americans as their arms hide under their shoulder sacks and their hands move professionally into heavy pockets. And if you stand on any of those thick curbs, at any time of the day and you look up, you will see seven stories of cream or grey concrete decorated with statues, and if you permit your eyes to venture further to those cobalt tin roofs, they will make way to billowing blue and white speckled skies. I won’t take that away form you.
But then you leave your bistro of white and red table clothes and matching weaved chairs, the one you sat down in to devour duck confit or eat through a classic caesar salad. And if you came here; if you flocked here to this city for the fulfillment of the above paragraph, you will be struck by the bona fide realization that those whom you want to talk with over the free baguette with every meal and laugh with in between casual sips of Côtes du Rhône, never actually imagined the city of lights like you did; in all it’s glory of the nineteen-twenties.
You can’t laugh here like you would have, all flouncy-like in your flappers, and charmingly allowed a flip of the wrist and a shake of your hair in that way that you just know women would have back then. And in that café when you go to write in the afternoon, there actually aren’t many joyful older men to tilt their homburgs down and up again as they smile and walk on by. Day after day, you can’t sit in Duex Magots and find that crowd of writers that once filled its chairs with thoughts-a-little-risky and questions requiring no answers. Simone de Beauvoir has already laughed as Joni Mitchell sung in her park in Paris, France. But Joni, how could you mock me like this?
Let us just become acquainted with the past of the nineteen-twenties. Because you will come to see soon, that those who would appreciate the free baguette with every meal with you, were not even a little bit part of the intended flock North. And the way you wanted to live and eat here, doesn’t in fact reside in this city after all.