Paris \ ‘pa-rəs\ n 1: a sentimental yearning for a reality that isn’t genuine 2: an irrecoverable condition for fantasy that evokes nostalgia or day dreams.
Camille Pissarro, La Seine et le Louvre vus du Pont Neuf, 1902
I think I’ll go to Paris,
Take the RER from Charles de Gaulle. Change trains at Châtelet. Ligne 1 to La Défense. Four stops to the jardins des Tuileries. Across and a little further down the rue Rivoli, Café Angelina will surely be full. But it will be spring and oddly sunny anyway; I will not want to be indoors.
I think I’ll turn around and go into the gardens, hesitate between left and right: to the Louvre or the Orangerie? Twenty-seven years old – a fact - and none the wiser - a choice – I think I’ll turn right and walk down the promenade toward the Ferris wheel.
I think I’ll stop by Rodin’s bronze lovers kissing near the Place de la Concorde. Have coffee, or gelato, or both and then go see Monet’s Nymphéas. Then I’ll find a vacant green chair and watch the children float boats on the bassin, and just before the sun sets I’ll join the tourists in their queue for a ride on la Grande Roue.
I think I’ll lean against the window as the gilded cabin begins to move. We will lift up, up, slowly build momentum, stop in the clouds at the top. Then I’ll stand and turn around slowly, very slowly, and look at Paris and the sky.
It calls the heart, this music, to a place
more intimate than home,
Rachmaninoff is ‘not music to age by.’ Neither is this city. Reality is ugly, but Paris is not fact; it is sensation, feeling. Like poetry, like art, it is
song that means to be believed,
that quite believes itself, each rising wave
of passionate crescendo wild and brave.
A metaphor for a time and place where everything is fine. Where bread tastes good and bottled water is more expensive than wine. Perfume is infused with cigarette smoke. Lipstick is worn to be smudged.
The silly girl who lived inside my skin
Once loved this city.
its melodic din
was like the voice she dreamed in, sad, intense.
She didn't know a thing, she had no sense;
she scorned - and needed - calendar and clock,
the rules, the steps, the lines, Sebastian Bach;
I tried those, and the real world. Now I have had enough.
All the heart wants is to be called again.
Paris is a lie. A space of existence built on an illusion, but some of us need those.
So I think I’ll go to Paris,
because to go is to choose to find beauty where there is none. To create meaning because there is none. To be happy. Now.
One more loop on la Grande Roue, then I think I’ll come back down. Step onto the ground and walk across the Place de la Concorde. Dusk will be seeping in, the réverbères will be lighting up. Hittorf’s fine and intricate chandeliers that predate, will outlive me. I think I’ll walk South, then East along the Seine, to the Pont Alexandre III on my left. Cross it slowly, looking around, looking up, stop at the first brasserie on the other side.
It might be cool by then, but I think I’ll take a seat en terrasse anyway. I’ll order a glass of wine, rouge s’il vous plait, and open my dog-eared book. Camus will be waiting where I left him, in a café in a ‘Summer in Algiers.’ Together we will watch a girl dance,
[…] wearing a jasmine garland on her bright blue dress, wet with perspiration from the small of her back to her legs. She was laughing as she danced and throwing back her head. As she passed the tables, she left behind her a mingled scent of flowers and flesh.
— Albert Camus, Summer in Algiers
I think I’ll stop there and taste the wine, the moment, the words. If ‘the meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance,’
I think I’ll stay in Paris then.