May 18, 2016
“If I lived in Paris, I’d come here everyday,” said the girl sitting beside me in the reading room at Shakespeare and Company. That may be true, though I’ve come to find that when you live in a city, you don’t do nearly as many things as someone who is only visiting. I think it’s because you think you have forever — and that’s dangerous because nobody has forever. You don’t have forever in the world, and you certainly don’t have forever in Paris. It’s a shame, but it’s the truth. The other thing I noticed is that people don’t seem to appreciate the beauty of their cities as much as visitors. They don’t get excited about the Eiffel Tower, or the Colosseum, or quiet streets full of charm because they’re “used to it.” I wonder if that’s what eventually happens in some marriages, but I hope it isn’t. I hope my husband never stops being beautiful to me, just as I hope Paris will never stop being beautiful to me.
Today I met up with girl from Sydney, Australia named Beanie. Technically, her name is Patricia but everybody calls her Beanie — she even has a bean necklace from Tiffany’s, so you know her name is most definitely Beanie. We met up by the eternal flame at the Arc de Triomphe and walked down to Shakespeare and Company – past a guy shamelessly taking selfies first with his hat on and then without – because she wanted to buy some books. She asked me for some suggestions and all of a sudden I became very self-conscious about my reading preferences. I kept thinking, ‘what if she doesn’t like the books I suggest?’ It’s hard to suggest books to people you don’t really know — when you don’t know their interests or what they’re into! I ended up suggesting Alexandre Dumas (because he’s french and his books are exciting), Fitzgerald and Hemingway (because I love them and because they lived in Paris for a bit). She eventually bought The Great Gatsby and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. I hope she likes them!
After the books were bought, we went to the cafe next door. She ordered a peppermint tea and I ordered a coffee — I thought the waiter was from North America but she said he was Irish. If you listened carefully, I guess you could hear an Irish accent but it was very faint. We sat by the window — her with her peppermint tea and me with my coffee — and outside, people walked past with umbrellas. I don’t even remember everything that we talked about, but time passed pleasantly and very soon it was time to say goodbye. Beanie has been hesitant to leave the house on her own because she thinks everyone is out to get her — which I completely understand. But I still think you have to take advantage of living in Paris while you can. Like I said, nobody has forever in Paris and even if you do, it’s not really forever, is it?
Anyway, she went back to the metro and I went back to Shakespeare and Company to read. The cramped little bookstore seemed even more crowded because everyone was huddled in there hiding from the rain. I found my book right where I had left it and snuggled into the comfy armchair which was thankfully unoccupied. Outside I could hear the bells of Notre Dame ringing, the calming sound of rain drops, and here and there, a snippet of conversation from below would float through the open window. It felt very much like Paris to me and I was a little sad when I finished the book and it was time to go home. The book really was wonderful though and I think I’ll go back and reread it. It feels like one of those books that you read over and over again, and the more times you read it, the more you understand it, and the more you understand it, the more you love it.
It stopped raining when I left the bookstore. I knew it would stop raining around that time — I just knew it. Now I’m not saying that I know Paris well enough to be able to predict her weather, but I think I’m starting to. I hope I never know her completely, 100 perfect, in-and-out though — I’d always want Paris to be a little bit of a mystery to me. Anyway, it didn’t just stop raining but the sun actually came out and everything about Paris seemed to glow. There was a freshness about the city and about the water floating in the Seine. Paris was fresh and aglow and I found myself hoping that people could be like cities and glow after a fall of rain too.
As I walked all the way back to the bus stop, I was thinking about A Moveable Feast and how Hemingway documented his time in Paris with such detailed descriptions of people, and places, and street names. I would like to remember the streets I wandered and the places I went to too, but I never seem to know a city in terms of how it appears on a map. I’ve never had a knack for street names or directions and I memorize a city as “just past the Louvre” or “right after the pretty bridge” which I do happen to know the name of, in this case. It’s called the Pont Alexandre III bridge and in my opinion, it’s the most beautiful place to watch the sun set in Paris. My point is that I think I need to start paying more attention to street names from now on.