I got called away from the Parisian wonderland by a message left at the hotel desk. My convalescing friend, having not received a picture postcard from me for some days had at first fretted, then grown irritated, and then concluded, rightly, that Robert D had interfered in his carefully laid plans, none of which had in fact gone entirely to plan, but well, he was still the Controller wasn't he? and so, now chose to do a little intervening of his own through the mouthpiece of the telephone and the hotel receptionist's unsmiling lips.
cupid-bow lips, fascinating as it was to see them on a man, mumbled
an apology which I had to lean in to catch, then conveyed in a more
audible authoritative tone: This isn't a holiday! Leave right away
and stick to my schedule! After which, the lips relaxed and grinned,
almost like a Cheshire cat in that it reached the eyes and two neat
rows of white teeth showed, though I think the grin was more from
embarrassment than laughing at one, that one, of course, being me: a
lone traveller whom had lately come out of the rigid closet, not as
gay, though what better place to do so than in Paris, but as someone
finally ready to embrace the world and expand the circle in which
they usually dwelt.
yes, I felt cheated from my own liberation, as well as justly
reprimanded like a puppy who chews the furniture when their owner's
out, for this wasn't my holiday, it had been his before misfortune
struck, and was still. I had agreed, unwillingly, to be his envoy,
but somewhere in Paris, as I hit my stride, I'd unthinkingly
misplaced his shadow, probably left it behind at a tourist spot or in
a metro station, so excited had I been that my confidence was
beginning to assert itself in foreign lands. And so, I was guilty as
quickly scribbled on the back of a postcard of the Notre Dame: Going
to Milan! with
my benefactor's address and asked the same receptionist as before to
post it off tout de suite. I scrambled up the stairs rather than wait
for the elevator, and once in my room hastily ransacked drawers until
everything was back, not as neatly packed, in my holdall, which owing
to my travels unattractively bulged. I'd given away my umbrella
earlier that day to a busking musician, who had no protection from
the rain and I had no change so it seemed like a fair transaction,
though I realised as I continued my promenade, that one, it was
foolish, and two, my subconscious had recreated a Robert D picture,
and proved, yet again, art lives on though the artist is gone, and
so, in turn, the artist lives on through his art.
fond of circles, those I draw around myself and those that are
evident in life situations. Anyway, the umbrella was gone, which left
my trusty walking aid as the only external baggage, and which when
used I held with a bird-like claw, not only to steady myself but also
to welt any would-be assailants. I had heard the probability of that
was high if I went to Barcelona, not that it featured on the
itinerary, yet naturally after learning that I'd attributed this
opportunist act to other European cities, albeit on a lesser scale.
Cities are judged like people: pockets of crime, where to avoid,
where to go, which was another fact I'd hadn't known before I was
made to step out of my comfort zone.
yes, I realise I've wandered farther from the point, the point of my
departure, which in reading this seems to have been onerously
delayed. Well, that's a lie - it wasn't, I did go, with less haste
than when I scrambled, which was rather untruthful of me as I
couldn't really scramble with a cane, up the stairs, though it is
true going down is worse on the knees. The elevator, just so you
know, was in use, stopping everywhere but the fourth floor, and so,
stairs it was, followed by shallow breathing having reached the lobby
and refusing help as if I were swatting flies, before issuing a final
and cheery bye-bye.
exited to unseasonable weather and made for the nearest metro
station. The 87 bus would have been more direct, but the metro,
though more inconvenient, seemed quicker, if I was to make the high
speed train departing from Paris-Gare de Lyon, Diderot, and the
architecture of this station, I'd been told, was sublime.
Unfortunately, my plans, once again, got scuppered as there was an
umbrella on track, which I hoped, in some bizarre way, wasn't mine.
Picture credit: Musician in the Rain, Robert Doisneau