Chronology is useful and simple to follow like a bullet list, but Paris is about stories and light, and bullets too. Over the next few posts I won’t maintain order, but instead try my best to recall some of Joyce and my stories. Here’s the first.
Paris Part 1
No human relationships are perfect. On this (yesterday’s) Mother’s Day, mothers and daughters or sons are living strained relationships, even though those are the ones considered unconditional. Blood-free relationships are not necessarily absolute, so navigating and respecting each other’s conditions and limitations is a key to maintaining them. Oh, and love. Everybody needs love.
I’ve wanted to take this trip to Paris for such a long time to see if it was truly the “most romantic city in the world,” or just another city.
The loud, deep, echoing clang of the bells of Saint Sulpice woke us from their home Sunday morning. The second largest church in Paris has been waking the neighbors since 1732 and was mere feet from our hotel window. At some point while maneuvering around the typically small European boutique hotel room, a word took a wicked bad hop and I retreated to spend the day in a walled city of my own making to pout and mentally review my list of relationship grievances. Of course my brooding was silent, only broken by simple, declarative responses to questions posed over the wall.
Art is, or was, high on my list for the trip, but the French museum schedule maker decided long ago that all Paris museums shall be closed on May 1, so I was already feeling some pressure that we wouldn’t see much of them. Given our schedule to hit the French countryside Tuesday through Thursday and a Saturday departure, my little walled city now had windows of opportunity quickly closing on setting foot in the Louvre.
“We could be over there,” I suggested to the ringing and the singing, now wafting out of the thick, Saint Sulpice walls. We spent the minimum on clothing preparation and walked over. The church is massive, and as I sat in the rear-center, the open expanse in front of me provided ample room to think. Suddenly, the giant organ filled the vastness and my mind went dark again. As she walked the old cathedral, Joyce was moved by its beauty, the soaring music, but mostly by the power of human faith she shares with millions of others. Outside she asked what I thought. “They put on a good show,” was my unfeeling response. Jerk. Not a great example of navigating and respecting…
“Me, oiu,” the flea market. I’ll admit, I was up for it. It sounded fun and had great reviews on tripadvisor.com and elsewhere, and seemed cooler than the usual fare, but that was before the bad hop and me turning into a trou du cul. I fought it, and was less so at points during the day, like when I coaxed Joyce into a pic with a Steve McQueen mannequin, but my negative thinking just took me down a dark, spiraling funnel, and reduced me to kneading negative one liners in my head like, “I didn’t see the Louvre, but I did go to a flea market.” As we walked under miles of architectural beauty and over diamond shaped cobblestones (they’re square, but look like diamonds from a certain perspective) through the streets of Paris, it seemed there were flower shops on every corner. Part of me wanted to dash in and make it all better with a bouquet, but my dark side had cornered the market on indifference. Jerk.
By the time we made it to dinner our one word responses had been reduced by one. We sat in an unremarkable café for a “quiet” dinner. My brooding was peaking. My “edge,” as Joyce describes it, was glistening sharp. What transpired from there, over roasted chicken, Quiche Lorraine, et les vins, blancs et rouges, is best described as a Seinfeldian “airing of grievances,” mostly de moi. We spent about an hour navigating and respecting each other’s conditions and limitations. We didn’t solve the world’s problems or our own, but we moved closer to them and to each other. Hand in hand, like they do in Paris, we walked slowly down a dimly lit rue de Guynemer along the Jardins de Luxemborg, finally reaching Place Saint Sulpice. This picture only begins to capture the warmth of the place at that moment.
That was our worst day in Paris. The other six lacked even a hint of its negativity. Still, aside from the walls and grievances, Sunday in Paris was full of awe, discovery and the cocque madam. As for the whole “most romantic city” thing? Well, that’s wherever I am with her.