Paris, jour cinq

Le 29 décembre

I think the neighbours are drug dealers. They never work, they are always up very late, they are home all day.

I am standing in front of that big, white wheel they’ve installed between the Jeu de Paume, where I am headed, and the Orangerie. It is a Ferris wheel and when I was here in April for the marathon, I took a spin on it, by myself, doesn’t that sound perfectly lonely? Well, perhaps, but think of it this way: imagine not going on it because one is alone, waiting until the sweet day when, romantically, one would ride it with that special someone. Those who wait shall weep! There is no wait, and I didn’t feel lonely, just alone. What is the difference? Sadness. Me, I have joy. And hope.

I am here because the day I rode la Roue de Paris, I also ate a fantastic square of pizza from a stand at the foot of the wheel and I want another. It contains two of the naughtiest foods still permissible on my eat list: bread and cheese. Yum. I savour the mushroom slice as I stand and write with the Sun patting my head like a good girl, a smart girl, a happy girl. I eat the whole thing, I am full and ready for some art at my favourite gallery.

The exposition is called “Soulèvements,” or Uprisings. I loved it. It began with the elements, the environment and followed through gestures then words, then conflicts, and finally desires, qualified as indestructible. What a beautiful thought. So many short films. I watched them all, and one twice. I didn’t buy the program and I regret that. I may go back.

I walked through the Jardin des Tuileries. I sipped a noisette at Le Carrousel sur la rue de Rivoli. I was so happy, then the sadness came again. What is going on with me!?

Christina, remember the chaos, the hundreds of students, the noise, the frustration, the million things a minute, Christina, remember the rage. Life goes in cycles. Your memory is short, remind yourself of what was and, now, softly, what is. Enjoy this nothingness, this quiet, this peace, these lovely, long days of mostly silence, of breathing, inhaling, exhaling, absorbing, writing (your neglected, beloved blog!), all under the pretty parasol of Paris, my dear. You don’t have to see a soul, you don’t have to do a thing. Christina, acknowledge the fleeting sadness, the uncertainty you feel being here, embrace it, learn from it and grow. Be patient. Keep writing. You don’t have to see anyone, you don’t have to do a thing.

I am back at “Au va et vient.” I really do like this place. I have the velouté champignons with a glass of Côtes de Provence. Now I have ordered a second entrée, les cubes de thon. And a second glass of wine. It is early, but I feel a natural close to the day. I go home. There is an old film on TV, “Le vieil homme et l’enfant,” 1967. It is wonderful. I love old films. I sleep right through the night.

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Paris, jour quatre

Le 28 décembre

A dispute in the night between the neighbours wakes me at 3:30am. Actually, it’s perfect, my normal rising time. But there is no need nor desire to rise this early here where the sun only rises at almost nine and I have no exercise clothes and the metro doesn’t open until half five. Finally there is a crash and I worry about the female neighbour. I open my door: “Tout va bien!?” She nods. “Je dors ici.” She is opening a different door down the hall. Another apartment? A separate room? “Moi, aussi, je veux dormir!” I say and close the door.

I go back to sleep, I wake again after ten. I eat the rest of my broccoli green vegetable soup concoction with emmenthal râpé. On my way out, I stop at the Monoprix for les petits mouchoirs. It is necessary. This cold is still here, it has weasled a free trip to Paris, it has, though it is finally on its way out, I think. I stop at Bar Croq Soleil and enjoy a noisette and the quiet of my little neighbourhood. This is the Paris that I love, the little cafés, the overheard conversations of locals, la vie normale. It has taken me three days to adjust to being here, to reconcile my presence here with my headspace of home and new truths. But alas, I feel joy, the joy that whispered to me at the airport when I arrived then got lost in the shuffle of realities. Oh, I could dance, I feel so happy. Negativity and unhappiness are so heavy, my goodness!

I take the metro to Châtelet. There are over 16 different exits here, none mentioning the Centre Pompidou where I am going to see the Magritte exhibit. I choose an exit randomly and surface to street level, finding myself standing in front of none other than the impressive front window of the Sarah Bernhardt. Ha. I assume the waiter from the other evening won’t be there since it is daytime. I go in, in need of wifi. He is there, immediately. Alas, he can interpret my presence here again however he wishes. Je m’en fous. Anyway, he is sweet and smiley and has given me five Cafés Richard Speculoos cookies. I dip them in my noisette, and my second noisette, as I write. He hands me a card as I am leaving, the business card for the Sarah Bernhardt. On the back, he has written: “J’aimerais bien vous revoir, G——.” Now it is certain, I won’t come back.

I timed it. I knew the line-up would take forever and a bit, I remember from last time. It was winter of 2012. I was here to see the Salvador Dalì exhibit. Knowing from that experience that the wait would be long, I stopped at Le Cirque and had a glass of wine and the vegetarian lasagna. Well fed and sufficiently calmed, I was ready for the lengthy queue. The sun shone brightly. I was quite warm until I wasn’t. It took an hour and twenty minutes to get into the Centre Pompidou.

Once inside, an announcement is made: There will be a ninety minute wait to see the Magritte exhibit. Yes, there is a second queue inside. Again, I knew this would be the case, I remember. I visit galleries three and four, then seat myself at the café and replenish my patience quota with a salmon and quinoa salad and a glass of red.

Today I received the most wonderful text from M—–, a simple one, a friendly and casual update, small talk, but that ended with “I miss you, C——–.” How happy these four words made me. How nice it is that he included my name. I am floating. I miss him, too, and missing him feels nice.

Suddenly I saw the line was much shorter than it had been. I capped the, miraculously, still half full single-serve bottle of wine, threw it in my knapsack, and dashed to join the queue. Only a half hour wait, sweet victory! Now here’s the thing. You wait eighty minutes in a line outside, you wait another thirty inside, plus the exhibits in between, after that you really want to maximize the visit, take your time. Nope. Just no. I wanted to get the hell out of there. I spent a slim hour.

But in said hour, I saw every painting. I learned how philosophical he was. I knew nothing about him before, just a few of his iconic paintings. I love how deep his messages are, I love the paintings’ cryptic and provocative names: The Empty Mask, The Art of Conversation, The Blank Signature, so many more. My goodness, in that fast hour I fell in love with this man and his work! So very much worth the waiting and waiting.

And when you are in love, your love is everywhere. One painting screamed of M—–, called “La Clef des Songes.” He is always telling me about his dreams, how dreams are so meaningful. I argued that some aren’t, that some are just a mishmash of leftover thoughts from the day’s events. He said maybe. The thing is that I listen to everything he says, I hear every word. Sometimes I say nothing, and worry that I bore him. But still I am interested, I am really paying attention to this man, and that is something. He is brilliant. I am a sponge.

And then I went to Bistrot du Coin where J—– works, is the manager, in the twelfth, not so far from my rented flat here. My friend, my prof. He scooped me up, lifted me off the ground, hugged me like home. This is how it should be between friends. Time has not stolen him from me, I am grateful. How nice it is to see him. I ate the caviar d’aubergines and had a healthy glass of the “wine of the moment.” Another great thing about J—– is he corrects me when I make a mistake, then I correct myself and thank him and we share genuine smiles and it always makes for a nice moment. I really appreciate it. And tonight he said something wonderful. I told him how I have rented my own apartment, only 13m2, that in the past I have always chosen to stay with friends or even rent a shared space so that I can speak as much French as possible. Now, I told him, I don’t care about the extra practice at the cost of sharing a home, I accept that I will always have imperfect French and I don’t care, it’s fine. He told me no, I am bilingual, that no matter what subject, politics, feelings, anything abstract or complicated, I can always find a way to express myself. He told me that my little mistakes are part of my charm. I laughed and told him I am counting on it.

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Paris, jour trois

Le 27 décembre

The fact of the matter is that it has become so familiar here it barely feels like I’ve gone anywhere. The fact of the matter is that even though it is much milder here, it is still winter, and I am a lover of the Sun, and I need to be somewhere hot right now. The fact of the matter is that I haven’t slept and this cold won’t go away and I’m getting cranky. The fact of the matter is that I booked this trip in September and am I even the same person I was then? The fact of the matter is that I am not willing to spend the money to pick up and go elsewhere. I worked too hard for too many days these past few months to reach financial goals I refuse to reverse. The fact of the matter is that my adversity to planning is a little bit biting me in the ass right now. I knew I wasn’t excited to come, I didn’t even bring running gear or swimwear. The fact of the matter is that what I really need right now is some Nature and not more city! Oh, I will stick it out, I will make it work, I will be fine, I will be more than fine, I will still enjoy myself, and it is likely I will even have some victorious tale to tell, some epiphany, some morale of the story to share. But that is the future and right now I need sleep, convalescence, and some depth to my days. Right now, I’m floundering, going crazy.  And the sun won’t rise until 8:43.

Glory be, the markets have arrived! I shower then stand and deliberate for a long time before setting out: to bring my big Canada Goose coat or not. I decide against. I will find and buy some warm shawl, I have a mission, some purpose. The first stall I pass sells…yes…cashmere shawls. Short mission, successful mission. There are three I love. I buy the blond sand brown one. Twenty-nine Euros. The markets are back every Tuesday and Friday. I will visit again.

I alight the metro at Bir-Hakeim. Sure enough, it’s there where I left it, la Tour Eiffel. I go to Firmine to visit C——— but he is not there yet. I ride by Vélibre along, just along, following my front wheel. I end up at the Jardin de Luxembourg. The Sun is shining like an angel. I park my bicycle and just face Her, I light up, too. I feel better, I feel good. I am okay with knowing that I am not having a totally terrific time. Paris has changed and so have I. I don’t want to pretend I am blissful when I am not. It is unhealthy to embrace (and certainly to chase) certain emotions and neglect, deny others. I won’t do it, I am incapable of doing that. All is not good and that is perfectly okay. Permit me, please, to experience and explore my transitional feelings as I continually grow and change as a person. I will not deny any part of me, of the natural intermittent cycle.

I visited A—— at Le Comptoir d’Issy.  I had two glasses of wine there. We got along like always, it was nice to see him.

I now find myself at “Au va et vient,” in my quartier, the twelfth. I think I have finally found my happy place.  Here they are genuine and smiley and conscientious of giving good service and reply to me in French, all the things lacking in the restaurants and cafés in the tourist areas. I will come back here. I order the bruschetta aux champignons and a glass of the red that the nice waiter recommends. And then another. I type on my laptop, the angst of the morning begins to lift as I realize I just need to avoid the busy, popular parts of Paris.

A gentleman arrives and sits across from me. He becomes engrossed in his book. I admire him. Another gentleman arrives, sits beside me, one seat over, and strikes up some small talk. It is fine, I am happy to speak French. I lie, I tell him I am a music teacher. I don’t know why I lied, I have never lied before. It was a bad choice of a lie as this led him into a mild soliloquy of his long desire to learn an instrument, how he contemplated the saxophone but that is, he sought the right word, too popular, and so he chose the clarinet. He was finished his meal and I was still attempting to finish mine. In peace, might I add. It is not wrong to be friendly and talk, I love it, but also there is body language and social cues. Alas, this is Paris, this is life. As a woman out on my own, it happens often, more so here than home. Even at Sarah Bernhardt, the waiter asked me out for a drink. I told him I would be back to the restaurant soon, knowing now I could never return or it would be read as a vote of interest. Now this man, too, who spoke on and on as I politely smiled and nodded and chewed, finally leaving, after having asked if I live in the neighbourhood, said that perhaps we will see each other again here. Yes, perhaps. But also, fuck off.

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Paris, jour deux

Le 26 décembre

I slept and I slept and I slept, not even curious to check the time, how decadent am I! I rise to smoky skies and a misty rain. The aluminum roofs cry sweetly like an old nickel. Oh, Paris, from my sixth floor window, I breathe in your slow temperance, your low hum. I drink a coffee that I prepared from a pot of boiling water, heated on one of the two burners that sit atop a tiny fridge. In North America, we would call this a « bar fridge. » Here in Paris, it is simply a fridge. I smoke a cigarette as I prepare my lunch of boiled broccoli with Knorr moulinée de légumes verts on the other burner, with the other pot. I have everything I need, I feel so light and happy.

I look down from my perfect, simple throne. Paris, how I admire your wide, wide streets allowing only a single lane for traffic each direction. Even these are near empty. It is almost noon but the city coos calm and chill. It is twelve degrees. Beside each lane there is a second lane reserved just for parking. These are full. People are sleeping or walking or riding a bicycle, they are doing anything but driving cars. I smile. I extol the Parisian city planners. Beside each lane of parking is an open space where two more lanes of traffic could be, would be, if this were North America, where today there is the chaos of Boxing Day, I laugh! This space if reserved for the markets, and I see that, while I slept, the awnings have been set up, I am excited.

Last night there was a party next door, they woke me with their laughing and music and camaraderie. Not only did the noise and the waking not bother me, it made me smile. I was happy for their happiness. Merry Christmas. I can hear them perfectly, the walls are paper thin. They won’t hear a thing from me but my incessant nose-blowing. This cold is proving incredibly loyal!

Beside the wide open market spaces, there is finally the sidewalk, where I need to be soon. I have forgotten shampoo. I study the Monoprix from my window, is it open? If not, I have my toque. Oh, Paris, my darling, what will we get up today, hmm?

The Monoprix is open. I bought organic almond milk, organic soy milk, coffee, organic whole wheat pasta, organic vegetarian pasta sauce, organic whole grain biscuits and granola bars for my breakfasts. M—– should be happy to have such a good influence over me. I am. And a bottle of wine with a bicycle on it.

I am so happy that I have been remembering to “vouvoyer” everyone. I am seated at “L’imprévu” on Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle, quite beside my old stomping grounds, I know this area very well. I rode here on Vélibre after some souvenir shopping for my students near Place Vendome. I hope they will like and use these gifts. They are only expecting keychains, I am sure. But I got some of those, too.

I haven’t advertised on Facebook that I am here, in Paris. Normally I would, excited to share my joy with my friends and family at home, eager to be greeted by my friends here, to be invited out here, and there. I will, perhaps, eventually. Right now I am happy to wander alone. And to sleep in. And to simply do whatever, to do nothing much, walk around, ride around.

It is half five and the sun is setting quickly. The sky is grey but with a billowy blanket of purply-pink sky just above angular rooftops topped decoratively with thin, cylindrical tubes, pipes, the perfectly quashed upside down cigarettes of the gods. My stomach is as empty as the wine glass in front of me. Plus I promised the SDF I would return with some change. And I am cold. Time to go.

It is seven in the evening. I have just enjoyed la salade océane at Sarah Bernhardt, in the fourth. With a glass of Saint-Amour, and then another. This is what I love to do, meander around, following my feet, eating here, drinking there, wherever that may be, smiling at everyone, talking with strangers. Wherever I end up, I always stay much longer than everyone else.

J—– is asking where I am, am I here? I am here. We try to make a plan, perhaps to meet where C——— works. But not tonight. I think I’m drunk.

Every time I come home to my rented flat, and tonight makes only the fourth, it gets bigger and bigger. At first it felt so foreign, so small, now it feels as though it’s mine, and plenty big. And this is with her (the owner) not making effective use of the space. What I could do here! I could easily be happy in just this much space. In fact, I am envious. My apartment at home is thirty-nine meters squared. This place is thirteen meters squared. It has everything! At home, I have too much, way too much. While everyone else around me searches for more, bigger, better, I crave to shed, to have less, to be lighter. And though I have far been the oddball in this regard among my peers, M—– is so many steps ahead of me, though for him it is effortless, organic. I gain so much from everything he is. I wonder what I can offer of sustenance in return? Something, I pray. And since I don’t believe in praying, what I mean to say is I will just be myself and love him freely. There is nothing else one should do.

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Paris, I have come to say good-bye.

le 25 décembre

Me voici. A double espresso noisette to use the free wifi at MacDo in the airport, it’s the same routine every time. Let me count. This visit makes nine. I wasn’t excited. I thought, in fact, that I had become bored of this place, lazy for having gone and booked this two week stay, almost automatically. But after only minutes here, I remember how happy Paris makes me.

I’ve rented an apartment to myself for the first time. I am tired of staying with friends or renting shared accommodations so that I may speak more French. I am old, I want my space, I will always have imperfect French, I accept this. The flat is near Parc Bercy, my favourite park in Paris. I didn’t bring running gear. I brought my laptop and my ukulele. It is warm, ten degrees. I have a cold, the skies are overcast, it is four minutes before noon.

I am seated at the café called “Au Rendezvous des Artistes” in the ninth. It is half five. First I rode around on a Vélibre. I went to my old haunt, the alley of graffiti beside La Seine, near la gare d’Austerlitz. It’s depressing. It used to be completely vandalized with all kinds of authentic graffiti, groove, it smelled of urine and was inhabited by the homeless, there was even one glorious regarde le ciel. Now it reminds me of a contrived Kensington Market with walkways and people with cameras, safe, frequented, large commissioned murals dotted with makeshift bars and booths. I hate it.  Paris, I have come to say goodbye.

I dropped my bicycle in the fifth, they call it the Latin Quarter. B——- lives here, but he is in Portugal. My favourite bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, is closed. It’s Christmas. Merry Christmas. I try my luck reusing the metro ticket I used to get from the airport to Dugommier where my flat is. It worked. I tried it again to take the funiculaire up the 250 steps to Montmartre. It worked again. That is simply delicious, a free ride, two, though lazy.

I go to La Pétaudière. He is the first person I see when I walk in. “C——–!” I have a salad aux fruits de mer and a glass of red. He has a break. We go for a coffee. He asks about my vie amoureuse. I tell him I have a boyfriend, that we are close, that I am happy. He asks if he will see me again. I ask him if he wants to, he says it doesn’t bother him that I have a boyfriend. I give him a strange look. He laughs. He asks if it bothers me. I tell him we can be friends. He says: “amis proches.” No. How can I be friends at all with someone so lacking in depth, integrity, honesty? I shan’t. Paris, I have come to say goodbye.

When I first began coming here, to Paris, I wanted to meet everyone and go to all the parties. I did it. I prided myself on having a life here, my own circle of friends. I am so thankful for ageing and wisdom and clarity, even with its price tag of spotlight and late nights and beauty and some of the people. Many of the people. Thank goodness I learned about intermittency, the ebb and flow of life, of all relationships. Paris, I have come to say goodbye.

It is only six o’clock and already the sun has set. Yesterday was the winter solstice. Every minute counts. It is so wonderful and so strange to be here. It is home. Despite the cliché. I am loving the goodbye-ing and the newness, the pureness, that ensues. I forgot how happy Paris makes me. It had become so crowded, you see.

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Micro Non-fiction 03: My feet

A hard head? Please. It and its wild ideas would be nothing without my hard heel bone, my unfaltering phalanges, my mighty metatarsals, the miraculous mechanics of the cuboid, navicular and cuneiform, always working, never breaking, never tiring, strongly supporting me through fifty-two marathons. Pounding, pounding, pavement and hill, my calcaneus withstood it all. Even my talus, scraped along the cobblestone in front of the Jardin de Luxembourg in Paris as I was ejected off the back of a motorcycle. I hobbled, but I still went to work the next day. Feet, you have been my most reliable ally. Merci.

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Are you there, Blog? It’s me, the harlot.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid. So I was always the add-on, peripheral. I always missed the original forge. Alas. Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t. It is good to understand why things are the way they are, or why they might be the way they are. We never really know anything about anything.

And so I don’t get invited to all the things. I feel both left out and happy about this. The older I get, the happier I get about it. This ageing thing is pretty wonderful, quite a relief, the sweetest exhale, truth be told. I wouldn’t go back a single second.

I spent some time looking through past blog posts today. Now that I am taking a pause from my book project, but still itching to write, I may take up my earlier endeavour of rolling through the different lengths of writing as prescribed by Lee Masterson (http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/wordcount.html). In short, he says this:

Micro-Fiction 
up to 100 words

Flash Fiction
100 – 1,000 words

Short Story
1,000 – 7,500 words

Novellette
7,500 – 20,000 words

Novella
20,000 – 50,000 words

Novel
50,000 -110,000

Epics and Sequels
Over 110,000 words

© Copyright Lee Masterson. All Rights Reserved.

To date, I have written fourteen micro-fiction, two micro-non-fiction (a category I invented myself), and three flash-fiction pieces.

I don’t love writing fiction. I am not good at it. Chicken and egg syndrome, of course, perhaps, who knows? It’s why I should do it. Exercise the mental muscle. Then again, I hate the word « should. » Sigh. For now, I shall just write this post.

With regards to always being on the outside, well, I have this to say: My toque is not a helmet, my mitted hands can still be held, my coat is not an armour and unbuttons, should I find the way in.

It does look nice and warm in there.

 

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