Image: Robert Doisneau’s “Les Amoureux”
Text: Guillermo Martinez de Velasco
You know that moment right before you jump into a pool that you know is filled with cold water? That strange mixture of drive and fear that takes over as soon as you take that first step. On one side is the idea of you, in there, being youthful and wet-like. Of you in an Evian advert. On the other; there is the image of your toe, the big one, the one you dipped in the water earlier, the one that made you have second thoughts.
This is exactly how I felt when I met Morgane. Or rather, when she walked past me on the Pont Neuf (I know, right?). I was walking towards the Rive Droite. She was coming from it. Her curly hair got tangled in her scarf, in a good way, if this is possible. The bridge was a catwalk and at the other end stood a grid of cameras. To say she walked past me would be an exaggeration. She actually walked across me, across the bridge. Not a word, not even the slightest hint that she didn’t feel like there was no one else there.
But I was used to attractive Parisiennes acting like men are invisible, or Lepers, or invisible Lepers. So, In a completely unorthodox show of confidence, I looked at her (but not in the creepy sideways look kind of way). I made eye contact and made sure she was aware of it. My eyes followed hers until she let out a smirk. “Did you see that girl?” asked my friend Clément sarcastically. My breath was freezing in front of my face, “I made sure she saw me”.
A couple of Bateaux-Mouches later, my shoulder felt a tap. I was looking at the statue of Henry IV riding a horse and thinking about how one day I would maybe send my adopted son to the Lycée Henry IV (or maybe not, maybe he would grow up to be stuck-up and have wrinkles on his lips and smoke des clopes, instead of Golden Virgina, and go to Sciences Po and then become a member of the UMP). This image of little Davian Thunder Amani, sitting next to his classmates, looking at the Pantheon from the window next to him, was interrupted by the all too frequent “Do you have a cigarette?”
“Not again” I thought. But I turned around and saw her. “Oh, um, I, a cigarette?” My friend bumped into me ‘by accident’ and told me I had dropped my packet of cigarettes. “Oh right, that one. Thanks” I gave her one, she took out a lighter, looked at me, and said thank you. Her merci was pronounced in the same that parisians pronounce it when they are happy or feeling playful, the second syllable always more high pitched than the first. I asked her her name and where she was from. “Finland?” I asked. She raised an eyebrow. “No, France, I said France, I’m from Paris” replied Morgane.
We kept talking to the point where my friends stopped trying to interest themselves in the westernmost tip of the Ile de la Cité. They waved at me from a distance before heading to the Marais. We, on the other hand, walked towards the end of the bridge and sat on the steps, it was night time, and the cold kept getting colder. We talked about her school, my school, the 10ème, Chateau Rouge and camping in Upstate New York. She guessed I was not French because of my accent. I guessed she was Jewish because she had gone camping in upstate New York.
“Do you want a cigarette?” She asked me as if she had no recollection of anything prior to that moment. She proceeded to take out a packet from her purse “Thanks” I said. But really I was thinking “Wait, what? But didn’t I just…? Oh, wait. Oohh..” and “OK”. I told her I thought the Palais Royal was ugly, she told me she was tired of it. I suggested that maybe we should kiss because it was cold. For some reason, this made sense to her.
I’m not sure how to put this exactly. Who doesn’t love to avoid clichés? I know I work hard at it. As much as that, in itself, comes very close to the realm of the cliché. But I guess there is a reason why this word has it’s origins in the French language. There is no way to talk about matters pertaining to flirting, love, flings, etc… in this city, without them being clichéd. I mean, I kissed a stranger I met on the Pont Neuf. Were I attempting to be a bit more hip and less typical, this never would have happened. The first rule for finding love in Paris is to not only rid yourself of the fear of clichés but to enter and immerse yourself in them.
Secondly you have to be aware of the ubiquitous excuse of asking for a cigarette. If you don’t smoke then tough luck because a cigarette outside a bar is the best place to start talking. If ever you ask someone out on a date, remember to play it cool. Yeah you asked them out, but you would also fill your busy day with other things if need be. Always tell that person you’re interested in that you’ll meet them somewhere. You don’t want to be awkwardly trying to talk while in the metro. And don’t be scared of having a picnic at Buttes Chaumont or going for a walk on the quais. Seriously, just go for it. Take into account that beautiful Parisians come in large numbers so finding the right one is just a matter of time.
The picture I chose for this article is by Robert Doisneau. His most famous picture is that one where a couple is kissing; what looks like the Hôtel de Ville is behind them. Most people don’t know that this picture was staged. Yes, the couple were kissing. But not when Doisneau had his camera out. The photographer asked them to do it again so that he could shoot it. Love in Paris, like in this picture, is something that can come, go, be repeated, tried again, made to look good, etc. It’s loose. It’s not forever and it’s certainly not meant to last longer than it is enjoyable. I’m reluctant to call this city by one of it’s most obvious names but love is lived differently here than anywhere else I can think of.