31 May, 2011
...just, how it is.
I was standing on one of my favorite bridges last week, one that connects Ile St. Louis to the right bank, when an old woman passed by me. She was shuffling along slowly holding tight to a leash. The leash was connected to an ancient looking cat who was walking on the wall of the bridge. It was so bizarre. Right there in midst of the chaotic city a little old lady and a little old cat just having a walk. I couldn’t look away and followed behind them for a bit.
Then I carried about my ritual bridge time.
I have thought of the cat a few times while on that bridge and wondered what the story was of her thinning hair and slow walk in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Then yesterday I got my answer.
I was crossing that very bridge on my way back from a job interview (story to follow) when I stopped to let the wind cool me in the muggy humidity of late May. I was leaning on the bridge wall looking out at the sun dancing on the Seine when I looked to my right. There was the cat, laying just a few meters from where my arms rested. She was on her leash but this time a man was holding onto it. He was talking with a couple of American tourists in English. I listened.
The cat was 20 years old. They weren’t from Paris, just visiting. His accent was neither French nor American, German maybe. I watched as the American tourist pet the frail looking fur on the top of the little head. After they had said thank you and left I took my opportunity to tell the men she was with that she was beautiful. They then explained this was her first time in Paris…on her list so to speak. “Bucket list, yes” I replied. They smiled and nodded before walking away saying “…and now she can go.” So this was the last journey for a 20-year-old animal that got to live a dream that so many humans always hope to. I felt as lucky as this cat: both of us knowing what it really means to "live" life.
Today is cold coming off of an insanely humid day yesterday – Paris weather changes its mind from day to day, finicky, unpredictable. I stay in watching the passing of intermittent dark clouds wishing for the rain I know won’t come. It hasn’t rained in months, an oddity for Paris this time of year apparently. But I am a one-woman draught inducer. I love the rain so much that no matter where I go rain doesn’t. Still the day is beautiful.
The gray, wrinkled man staying across the street at the Hotel D’Olreans must think it chilly too because he has left his window closed today. He has been staying at the hotel for over a week now in a room one floor higher than my apartment is. I experience what my neighbors must, the most mundane daily movements of my life being exposed. He doesn’t look in my apartment much, thank goodness, instead looking down at the street or up to the sky. And I am thankful for that. Even so, I hope for his vacation to end soon!
Tomorrow I will be tutoring a French man. In my ongoing effort to find work I finally received one response to the ads I posted around Paris to tutor English. The job market is tough, especially when you don’t have papiers de travail (working papers). I will admit I could have used a few more months back in the states to save for this adventure.
I suppose I didn’t truly grasp how insanely expensive this city is, or rather chose to just dive in to my new life. But through this turn of events I now have a kinship with Hemingway, particularly during the time he wrote ‘A Movable Feast’. The city and I are in this together. I have become the cliché – the starving writer living in Paris for the sake of her art. I am not the first and won’t be the last. There is a sort of comfort in that.
While I wait for my first tutoring job, and to hear back from the internship I applied for, I spend my days continuing to work on the pages of my novel. All the while marking myself on my city and letting her lay her feet upon me now. I am at home having seen both the refinement and the despair she possesses: loving her contradictions.
Time marches on. I have dinner with my fabulous neighbors (the Mum and Dad of Chat). The long meal followed by a plate of cheese is every bit what I expect of the French: our conversation a mixture of both English and Francais. (I find I have trouble finding words in either language now.)
I attend a Toastmasters meeting, sit along the Seine and listen to random musicians, have a movie night with friends. I take pictures often and videos of the fascinating life I am in. I find private gardens and lay down to enjoy the sun and the smell of fresh roses. I stand on a bridge, close my eyes and feel Paris moving all around me.