Saint Denis

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It’s cold outside, the heat from yesterday already established as a fluke that will not occur for another ten days.  Until then, the blue skies will be obliterated with a typically Parisian dome of gray clouds and misty rain.  At night, that same sky will soak up light from below, absorbing the amber hues and turning the midnight sky an undulating mass of mauve and purple shadows.

I walk past department stores spilling out heat and perfumed air while people sit outside cafes wearing their winter coats, smoking cigarettes and talking with all their pauses and “uhhhs.” 

Tabac.

Tabac.

Tabac.

Red signs denote places selling prepaid phone cards and cigarettes that will end up being one of three-thousand butts nestled in the gutters along narrow sidewalks, next to trodden-on wads of gum and mountains of dog shit some Parisian was too chic to bother picking up. 

This whole place sounds like accelerating Vespas and honking cars, giggles in foreign languages.  Boys drink Jim Beam and Coke on green benches, beneath a city that seems lit up at night as though it were telling a ghost story, the edges of windowsills catching shadows and throwing them upwards.

Nighttime betrays the privacy of apartments and palaces.  Libraries and indoor plants, the underside of thick velvet curtains, massive hanging chandeliers and rococo molding, bedrooms and ballrooms.

I follow directions to the restaurant through the snaking cobblestone near Saint Denis – not the part with the PARIS SEXY sign and the sex-toy shops selling poppers and porn, their doorways covered with heavy plastic flaps like the entrance of a meat locker.  I am more north, away from the swathes of tourists and the overpriced food stands selling burnt crepes and long baguette sandwiches filled with sad-looking vegetables and gray meatballs. 

All of a sudden I realize that I will not be given this day again, how life and the living of it is so much of a willingness, a state of mind.  I am here, now.  Here and never here again, not in the same way.  And so I stare at every scratched surface of Paris, finding wheat-pasted acts of anarchy tucked between the joints of pretty walls, walking off the gains from too many hastily had coffees.

 

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