Monday, July 26, 2010

Lovely Layovers

Oscar Wilde, of women: “They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.”

What did it mean to symbolize love with a lock? Or to place the lock on a bridge? These were the questions I was mulling over, a week after my first stop on the Pont des Arts.

I had a notebook, an Orangina, and an hour, so I went back to my new favorite place, hoping to catch a couple actually placing a cadenas d’amour, or lovelock. I settle in, pen poised. To my left, a man photographs close-up shots of the locks, something I’d done days earlier. Maybe I’ll interview him, I think. Half a page into my notes, just when I’m beginning to feel like my favorite chapter book character, Harriet the Spy, a man comes up on my right.

Ça vous dérange si je me mets à côté de vous ?

Hmm. What does he want? A cigarette? My purse? My number? I wind my hand through the turquoise strap of my bag.

He is early for a rendez-vous at the Louvre, he says. He wants to know what I’m writing, peers playfully over my shoulder, mystified by my handwriting, noticing now that I am not from here, that this summer is a layover, between two lives. The first with a seatmate; the second, perhaps not.

I tell him I am in an Urban Anthropology class about Paris, that we’ve been asked to choose a place that interests us, and well . . . me voilà. I nod to the locks. He hops up, moves to the other side of me, where my purse is. I pull it closer. He jiggles one of the locks.

Where would you choose? He has lived in many places but most recently the 14th. Hmm… probably Parc Montsouris, he says, but it’s hard to make a place your own when so many people who don’t even live here are always in Paris. 2.2. million residents. 45 million tourists. Across from us sprawling and chatting, sits a group of twenty or so American high schoolers, claiming the space the way American adolescents do. He sits down cross-legged, face to face with me, tells me about his neighborhood. Now the photographer begins to take our picture, snaps several shots before he walks off. In his lens, there is a sudden us, smiling, laughing.

It is time for my new friend’s rendez-vous. He stands up, thanks me for sharing the space. He has not asked for a cigarette, taken my purse, shown any interest in contacting me again. He says, Des fois à Paris on croise une personne qu’on ne va peut-être jamais recroiser. Sometimes in Paris we cross paths with someone that we’ll never see again. He is headed off, and I am a little sorry to have been so guarded, sorry to have assumed that he wanted more than company.

Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said women ruined everything with their forever fantasies? Later, I’d have to scrounge up some lipstick and kiss Oscar’s tomb in Père LaChaise in acknowledgement of a truth told. And I’d have to come back another day for more investigative work.

1 comment:

  1. I like this story! such innocent and sympa encounters can be hard to come by, especially here...and kudos on the oscar wilde reference :)