Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Looking back --Paris Memoir

That day, when I called you from my business trip, you said in your half-wake voice that you dreamed that we are going to Paris together and you tried to catch a train to meet me in the airport. But you need to wait for a paycheck and you wre so anxious. And you woke up.

It was not about us, you said, it was a Panic dream.

It reminded me of the Paris that I visited alone last Nov, as if I needed to be reminded.

"The city I loved most in the whole world." So said Hemingway about Paris.

I remember the colors and liveliness of Jardin du luxembourg. I sent you a little note via blackberry, sitting in front of the statue of Baudelaire. We talked about the time difference. I was 6 hours ahead of you.

But I did not feel the impending storm coming toward you in your life.

The days I was in Paris, it was always grey and cloudy. I loved it. I think the building, bridges, banks of Seine and tree-lined boulevard looked the best in that wet and grey canvas. Cloudless blue sky would not have suited Paris or me in Paris.

"I wish I had died before I loved anybody but her." Hemingway thus said about his first wife when he fell for his soon-to-be second wife. I wish I had not met you before I met you.

I wish we would have gone to Paris together, as you have dreamed in your dream. Just a trip. Paris, or Spain, that is all I wanted for us, really.

After I came back from Amsterdam, I moved from my lovely hotel in the left bank bordering Quartier Latin, a block from Notre Dame, on the corner of St Germain, to the island in the middle of Seine. That was my last day in Paris. I was very close to the apartment where Rodin's lover lived out her insane life.

Before I head out that day, I was asking the concierge about the shopping centers in the area of the right Bank. I am hopeless that way. There were so many small shops on the island I lived in, yet I am asking for directions to go to a big mall.

A young and pale-faced guy walked in to the hotel lobby. He smiled at us, listened to our conversations, and checked out the prices list on the wall. Then he walked out.

I spent 5 more minutes with the concierge and headed out for my last day's adventure in Paris.

I walked with ease and relaxation and a little feeling of sentiments for the upcoming departure.

As I was checking out my map one last time, I almost walked into someone. When I looked up, I realized it was the man who was in the hotel lobby. He was wearing a scarf and he was smiling at me. His eyes and hair were both color of chestnut.

He asked: Where are you from?
"New York".
"I was in New York, too. I studied in the New School."

He studied Philosophy in New York and was currently living in London, doing research and writing his dissertation. He came to Paris to do more research. He would spend a week here. He offered lots of information during that first 2 minutes.

We smiled at each other and I was ready to move on. But we both hesitated for a second. Then he asked about my plan. I said I am going to Musee Rodin that afternoon. He said he need to go to a library to find some book.

"But, let me show you this great neighborhood, the Jewish quarter, not far from here".

We crossed the bridge to the right bank. We passed many little shops and visited an amazing little library. And finally we arrived in this beautiful square lined by buildings among which Victor Hugo used to live.

Sitting on a bench in the square garden, we did not talk much. I was thinking the Musee Picaso that I will not have time to see for this trip. I was thinking of you. I was thinking of New York. Yet for all the time, I was also thinking of Paris, of having to leave it soon, and this man I just met.

I need to leave to see Musee Rodin. I said I got to leave. He said:" I want to see you again. Maybe we can meet later today." He was quite pleasant and intellectual. I do not see the reason of saying no.

I didn't have a cell phone that works in Paris, he could not send e-mail that afternoon. We agreed to meet at 7 in the lobby of my hotel. Then we parted.

I got in a taxi and went straight to Musee Rodin. What I loved most of his work there was not the Thinker or the Balzac. It were those of lovers, with burning passions that put me in a mood of seeing you. I was missing the touching of your hands on my back and my throat.

I remember that by the time I walked out the compound of the museum, it began to drizzle. It was getting dark, lights were on. Paris was gray, wet but warm. I walked toward the Eiffel tower from Musee Rodin. I knew from the map it is not far. I walked with my pace, checking out little shops and cafes on the way. I felt a little lonely and missing you a little, but Paris was like the other true love, it alleviated my pain.

I walked along a narrow alley, wrapped my scarf around my head for the rain which was getting a little thick. I passed several cafes, with people sitting and talking. I was away from anyone I knew. I was alone in the whole continent, but I was not alone either. I was in the city that I dreamed so many times before and lived through the eyes and minds of Hemingway and Proust, through the pain of Jake and Brett.

This was something that I would have for myself. This was the moment and time in life that I shall save it and remember it when I am old.

I walked toward Eiffel tower and I finally was standing at this side of the great lawn and she was there, tall, golden and elegant, in the tender rain of the fall of Paris. I felt again intimate and warm. I felt my face was wet, from rain drops or it was just I was cring silently. I stood there for a long time.

Then I walked toward the Tower with the excitement I felt when we used to set a date to meet after work. My heart beated faster.

It was as if I know moments like these would be able to put something into my heart that was empty until I know you. And leaving you now makes me feel like death.

But hey, we would go to Paris together. At least let me have Paris to remember.

I walked toward it in the rain, getting closer to something that I love but do not really know yet.

The last batches of tourists were getting on the elevator to go to the top. I did not want to go up. I heard there are steps to be taken. I didn't want to do everything in Paris, alone. There are certain things I wanted to save for future, when the future might be different from now, even that future might not come.

When I roamed under the steel structure and took photos, a handsome student-like Indian guy walked up to me. He asked in good English: do you need a company? He was like those young Indian guys you see in the graduate schools here. He looked sincere and persistent.

I smiled and said no. I said do you wait here everyday to meet some single woman who seems that she might need a company? No, he said. I don't. I liked you when I saw you.

"No, I am leaving tonight. Actually, I am leaving now. But Thanks."

I got into Taxi and went back to my hotel on that little island in the middle of Seine.

The yound man was there right at 7 when I walked down my stairs.

"Where should we go for dinner?" I always let the man choose.

I always let you choose.

He said let's go to Restaurant Voltaire. It was near Pantheon and Hemingway used to live in that building. I thought of Jake in the Sun Also Rises. I thought of the symbolic sentences that filled that great book and our many "damned" good time together.

"It was a bit walk though, maybe 20 minutes".

"No, I don't mind walking."

Paris is the city for walking with someone. In each turn, it half-hide the secrets, stories and memories, named ones and nameless ones. You will miss it if you don't walk by it. Any they may remember you as you walk by it.

We crossed the bridge this time to the left bank. We walked uphill a bit. We crossed the happy crowd in the Greek Quarter. He gave me his arm to hold on to.

We talked about New York. His studies were on the contemporary Philosophers. We talked about deconstructionists. I threw out couple of names I know. Paris is the city for the intellectually rebellious and contending. Cafes are filled with friends who always are in heated debating of certain subjects. They will also have heated love making, I guess, but with debating as the foreplay. I would have liked that.

I project myself living in this city. I believe that you and I could be happy for sometime in Paris together. That would have been all we needed.

The restaurant was cozy and lovely. I looked into this man's face. He had a fine feature, which had not yet been damaged in any ways by the agony of love or struggle. I was not sure about mine.

He had beautiful hands and a piercing look, although it was not a poacher's look, yet. He had not yet played lots of games of love. Neither had I. He was a natural, maybe because he was still young.

After dinner, we walked back to the lovely pub at the corner of the island where I stayed. We continued to talk. I forgot what we talked there. But it was not about him or me.

When it was almost midnight, I had to leave. I had a plane to catch the next day. We walked on the quiet street that leading toward the island, heading to my hotel. We were passing little shops. Small European cars parked along the street.

He held my hands for a while, and suddenly, he turned around and kissed me. I must have felt liking it too. But that was not the kiss that will make my head swim. I knew I was being kissed. It was almost like it had to happen that night in Paris. Not like when you and I kissed, the first time on the corner of 32 and Madison, I did not know what hit me, but something did.

When we parted, an old couple walked past us and the old lady smiled at us and said something in French. He chuckled and told me" She said I knew they were good looking".

We continued to walk toward the side of the island, now walking down a slope of the river bank, toward the Seine. I remembered admiring Notre Dame in a different angel. It was quiet and beautiful around us. There was nobody on the bank. There maybe lovers in the shadow which I can not see.

It was a lovely night of fall in Paris. The air was mellow and cool. It leveled your head. It was the night of tender moments instead of burning passion.

I wished that you were there with me, standing there with me. We wouldn't hold hands. Since you were not a big hand-holder. But it was this very tender man who held me in his arms then. Was I trying to prove to myself that I could indeed be meeting someone that I might like, love and replace you with. It proved nothing.

I left the next day to New York. He stayed and will go to London and was thinking maybe spending the rest of the year in Israel or New York. I forgot him almost soon as I left Paris. I think of Paris often, but rarely him and that night.

I was travelling alone, but was also travelling with you.

I still wish that we will go to Paris together, someday, in dreams that may visit our innocent sleep one of the many nights to come.

And please catch your train this time before you wake up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:10 PM  
Blogger louisgonzo32392145 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:03 PM  
Blogger chris miller said...

Very dramatic -- very poignant -- I see the Hemingway and the Proust -- and if the word-picture blog is ever appreciated as an artform -- I think you will
be recognized as one of the early masters. And what an aesthete you are: to delay a date with a handsome, sweet young intellectual (whom you will never see again) -- so that you can visit the Rodin Museum ! (BTW -- I don't recognize that small marble -- and from the picture, and don't much like it. It looks she is held in his embrace -- but would like to be somewhere else)

9:12 AM  
Blogger New York Red said...

You are too kind. But I am glad you enjoyed it.

And in my first trip to Paris, Rodin is definitely more important than some handsome and sweet young intellectual.

I like that marble, it is not smooth and sweet but demonstrate the pain of love and passion.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Gawain said...

good story; and well told. no wonder its your favorite post. it's mine, too.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, I felt Rilke could also be at your side.

9:22 PM  
Blogger New York Red said...

Anonymous, you make me very happy with the comment. -Rilke, I would have been so overjoyed.

1:18 AM  
Blogger New York Red said...

A, why Rilke though? I do re-read my old posting and react to old comments.....besides that I love his poem....are there any other reasons? I am wishful thinking here as well....

1:54 AM  

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