Your apartment is small and expensive. The neighborhood is “fringe” just like the one you left years ago in New York where “fringe” no longer exists. It is part of what endears this place to you immediately even though hours after arrival you are doused with dirty water flying out a street-level window by an ancient apple-faced woman screaming in an exuberant rat-a-tat voice.
When you manage to erase the tiny bits of iron-based magnetic particles that make up the data of your bankcard, it is Saturday night and you have no cash and no way of getting any. The bartender places your tab in a red leather-bound book and hands you fifty euro, “To borrow,” he says.
“You’re loaning me fifty bucks?” You ask, aghast, amazed, drunk off cocktails and jet lag.
“You have no money, non?”
“Non, but you don’t even know me. I could be a grifter.”
He shrugs and sets the bill on top of the bar, then tells you about his gypsy mother who cooked spinach and brains for supper. You struggle to understand the correlation; either he thinks you said you were a gypsy or it is his way of empathizing, I, too, know what it is to be faced with difficult things.
At the corner cafe people know people and you know no one. You spend all day drinking tiny espressos and listening to the din of conversation swirling around you.
When you walk you get lost, your face tilted up so high for so long devouring the Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Rocco, Neo-Classical, Empire, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Modern, Post-Modern, and Contemporary architecture of the buildings, that when you finally stop and sit down there is a distinct pain at the base of your neck as you lower your head to read the indiscernible menu.
Boys from the south ride their mothers on the back of Vespas, showing off how, since leaving the nest, they have come to be on intimate terms with the mesmerizing ramble of one-way streets and honed their instinct for avoiding the onslaught of traffic through the narrow visage of Mad Max goggles.
Girls in short skirts carry baguettes, their doughy warmth surrounding them like the cloud of a promise. When they see a friend they stop and kiss them on the cheek. Twice; boys, girls, old ladies, cigarette-swathed men.
When the sun comes out he says, “The sun is out! Is not out every day in Paris so now we do not work!” You notice that in fact this is true, as you spend the day strolling by myriad darkened doors of the city’s boulangeries, fromageries, librairies and boutique de vin.
The barista in Batignolles hums non-ironically along to Kraftwerk’s endless refrain, wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn, wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn, wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn, exchange students snap their fingers at a poetry slam and wear all black, conjuring up the ghosts of every Beat poet who has ever hung his hat in these catacombs.
The bathroom is a hole in the ground.
The whiskey tastes like water.
At 6AM, you are led by hand across cobblestones to witness the Louve at dawn. You will never love the boy, but you will always love the City, an affair unlike any other in its bittersweet promise of reciprocity.