I know I read that book, “La Goutte d’Or,” by Tournier but I can barely remember the details.
I’ve walked up and down this city, across and around, sans giraffe (or was it a horse?) many times. In boots I’ve stomped my way from Alésia to Sacré Cœur, from Bastille to the Arc de Triomphe, from the Tour Eiffel to the park Buttes Chaumont.
I’ve fallen twice. Once next to Gare du Nord after I ate the most delicious dosa ever, and once down the metro steps at Censier-Daubenton after it rained. Those were not graceful moments. While I tried to stand up a chorus of “ça va?” rang around my head and I replied, “oui oui, ça va merci,” to find out the extent of my bruises later, in private (knees and ass. These are always the hardest hit).
I pay for a metro pass, and I’m a big fan of public transportation in Europe. But Paris always feels better on my soles, and injuring myself somehow feels even more appropriate. Twisting my ankle on the upturned cobblestones and sore pinky toes just add to the history and destruction that I am obsessed with. You can feel the past more when you’re hurt by it. Crashing onto the pavement and adding your blood to it’s indifference doesn’t really give me masochistic pleasure, but some kind of emotional catharsis.
I walk alone most of the time and I walk much too fast. This Saturday I took a walk from Saint-Michel to school, and then from school down Rue Mouffetard to Saint Germain, to Rue du Bac. Then I took the metro to Concorde. Then I walked to Saint Augustin, and back home again. I made a conscious effort to walk not-fast. To walk peacefully and leisurely. I can’t promise I was walking “slowly,” but I was walking in a relaxed way. I got to memorize the corners where I saw interesting shops, noting them so I could return. I got to admire the Christmas lights which Paris so expertly displays. And I had more time to look at the faces of the people I passed, and wonder where they were going, who they were on the phone with, and if they wondered the same thing about me. As if strangers could notice you wondering.
It felt good to pause. It felt good to take deliberate steps. Even though my brain continued to be in a hurry I controlled my body. Maybe not with the expertise of a Buddhist monk but at least enough remember that it was a camel that Idriss leads around Paris, to Montparnasse.