The photograph shows us against a backdrop of casinos and Belle Epoque hotels. The green of my summer dress against the yellow of your shirt, Tordo’s famous bright blue chairs. It almost plays, I almost hear the song that was in our heads back then, my hand in yours as we talked and kissed our way along that promenade.
Je te donnerai
Tous les bateaux,
Tous les oiseaux, tous les soleils
Michel Polnareff singing to a little girl, of seagulls and a seaside town. With his words painting roses, the ocean, the colours of dawn.You humming along, half the lyrics improvised, promising boats, birds, and suns to me. Along that beautiful azure strip of coast, on a Promenade des Anglais, where reality is not dreary, and the sky is bright blue, not grey.
156. Why is the sky blue? -A fair enough question, and one I have learned the answer to several times. Yet every time I try to explain it to someone or remember it to myself, it eludes me. Now I like to remember the question alone, as it reminds me that my mind is essentially a sieve, that I am mortal.
I remember taking that photograph, I remember this place. I remember the children making sand castles, the couples making plans. The magazine readers and crossword puzzle doers, the skateboarders, the families. The businessmen's morning espressos, their afternoon flutes of champagne. The models' mimosas, the gamblers' gin and tonics, the wooden stands selling lemonade. The ice cream cone we devoured in the market of the city's vieille ville, the smell of the socca we chased for hours and then forgot to eat.
That moment, looking out of the Bay of Angels, quand l'océan n'est pas encore un paysage.
That line, just beyond our reach, where its blue met that of the sky.
'The unexamined life is not worth living.' One of the last things Socrates said. Well, no matter how long and hard examined, this one makes no sense. Cycles of eating, sleeping, procreating, not knowing, not caring what for. Meanwhile there are eighty-four more angels in that bay, and the sand castles have been destroyed.
Looking back, the photograph, the memory are tainted blue. Blue like the tiles we cry on, doubled over, at night on the bathroom floor. Why is the sky blue? I cannot remember. Right now, it is too dark to think.
157. The part I do remember: that the blue of the sky depends on the darkness of empty space behind it. As one optics journal puts it, "The color of any planetary atmosphere viewed against the black of space and illuminated by a sunlike star will also be blue." In which case blue is something of an ecstatic accident produced by void and fire.
― Maggie Nelson, Bluets
Life, unexamined, is just existence. A weekday routine played on loop. No pain or colour, a starless sky. A numb, pointless accident. But if we are accidents, we are ecstatic ones, like stars born of fusing atoms of gas. 'That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it. To have seen such beautiful things.'
To have walked along that promenade, looked out at that bay, seen those fireworks summers ago on a weekend in Nice. We may never have the answer, we may never understand, but I refuse not to ask. To have lost something in this fire, this blue is proof that I lived.
Les océans, les goélands
Et les fruits d'or.
L'île au trésor,
Et les grands bals sur les étoiles
There are not many places left where such a blue may exist. Mon chéri, you promised me boats, birds, and suns. Let us go back to Nice.