Paris – About Love
The spotlight is on a city. A man in a thick wool coat sits and lights his third cigarette, sipping his coffee. The camera slowly pans out and you see that he is sitting in a crowded outdoor patio. Everyone is holding a cigarette. The camera pans out some more and you realize that they are all facing in one direction. Out. I sit at a corner table alongside them. Today, I am a part of this audience. The spotlight is on the city, and Paris is the most anticipated show.
Paris is picturesque. Famous for their cafes and out-facing chairs and small tables. The old, young, and in-between sit shoulder-to-shoulder. More than a few are happy to sit alone to enjoy the activities on the street – the loading and unloading of buses, the flocks of birds sweeping across the rooftops, and the passing pedestrians with their shopping bags. The transitioning shadows are the only indicators of time. No one seems to look at their watches. We arrive on a weekday afternoon. Still, the residents of Paris take their time of leisure very seriously.
Unlike the people of London, (where you can read about here), the people here saunter, or meander through the sidewalks, often with a loved one linked in their arms. Their time is valued differently in that they seem to enjoy the passing of time and their walk is not to reach a destination but for the purpose of walking. I may sound overly romantic or idealistic, and to some, what I say may not be true. But from the moment I step off the train, this is just the way I felt.
My husband and I check in with our friendly Air B&B host and head over to the Eiffel tower through the quaint narrow streets much of Europe is known for. The Eiffel Tower soon peaks over the buildings and grows as we near. When we get there I am surprised at how the massive tower feels so unobtrusive in its quiet surrounding area. How surreal it is to pass under its skirt to look up the steel beams, and the people, like tiny ants, disappearing up into the sky. We decide to skip the adventure up, for the line is as long as the tower is tall. The shorter option was to take the stairs, but who in their right mind would do that on their vacation.
Our other visit is to the famous Cemetiere due Pere Lachaise. I recently discovered that I wasn’t the only one fascinated with graveyards, as our friends were thrilled to hear that we have visited this place. This condensed cemetery seems to naturally mimic its outer cocoon city. In particular, its beautiful tombs are as decorative and elaborate as the architecture of Paris. The tombs are lined up together, one beside the other just like the apartment buildings. The grave site paths and walkways remind me of the city’s many one-lane streets. The more tombs they wedge in this plot of land, the narrower and more snake-like the paths become.
Most of the tombs have been looted. The glasses on the doors left shattered to pieces on the ground. All the padlocks damaged. The only things I see left behind are dying flowers and weathered photos in soiled frames.
“How strange for people to leave gifts for the dead.” Iker would say, as we tread quietly in between the graves. I think to myself, how flowers will always wither, and only valuables taken. Just as our own spirit will leave our bodies to return to the one who gave it. For we are not our own.
As we left the cemetery, we were silent. Perhaps he too were pondering about our existence. The finite and the mystery of it all.
Later the next day in Spain, my father-in-law shows me Iker’s baby photo album. With his limited English, he will tell me, “He is your life” as he points to Iker.
“Si, mi vida.” I respond.
My life is not my own. It is a gift. A gift for me, to Iker, as he is a gift for me.
Paris, just when I have begun to fall in love with you, I must leave for another. Like a brief sweet romance you will linger in my heart forever.