Farewell to Paris.

In the train window, the rolling hills and valleys of the countryside were briefly illuminated in the colors of the season, or the arable land lined with coniferous forest, before the landscape blurred away too quickly for it to be fully taken in. There was only a feeling of moving away from the former and forward, towards a vague future with expectations.

Sometimes the train would pause at a small station, and the dormant mind would be stirred into curiousness about the people coming and going from the train. It was almost as if a single glimpse of the scene outside was enough to give an insight into the life of these small towns. As soon as the train would start moving again and the city disappeared from sight, it would already be forgotten as if it never existed in the first place.

The big cities on the tracksides are different, In a way that cannot be forgotten. On the edges of the endlessly long, ugly railway yards, the windows of the slowing train glimpse the dirty emigrant suburbs of the outskirts of the city. They have their own mixed culture, the concern for poverty and the language of petrified human expressions. There is no predictable continuum of silent events on which to build a safe life, but everything must be fought tooth and nail in the unsettled jumble of mutually disturbing events.

The train slowed down as it approached Paris, with the rails screeching it varied tracks as it headed to its standard platform in a dusty glass canopy supported by bronze columns. The most impatient passengers reached for their belongings from the shelves while the train was still moving violently to find the platform reserved for it. They balanced alternately, cursing, alternately regretting with their bags in the cramped corridor, pushing each other.

 Haste rubbed the rest of the dreams out of my eyes and ignited the tingling unease of the one who arrived in the big city. Terminal. All I had to do was collect my belongings, and push the station hall to find a way out into the street from its colorful jumble.

The Copenhagen night train was badly overdue, and the sun had already risen to its legal height.  The light filtering through the grey-colored ceiling and gable windows dispersed in a faint manner on the shiny stone floor, casting blurred shadows behind the walkers.

I was just walking distance to a small hotel and the attic room I booked there. I had lived in the same barren room a long time ago, and I wanted to experience the same feelings as when I walked a long time ago, as a penniless young man at the mercy of a world indifferent to your difficulties. I guess I want to relive with every cell and all my soul that strong sense of life experienced in the past. A sweetly painful youth with more answers than questions.

The arrival hall of the shabby hotel on the lower level of the stairwell with its service hatches was unchanged. Madame, who had gained even more weight, was rampant with her fat spread on a thin-legged chair, the durability of which could be doubted. The woman showed no signs of familiarity, after all, it had been years since the last visit. The service was similarly businesslike and concise, without any extra cordiality, and only a hundred francs a night had changed to twenty-five euros and the whole week had to be paid in advance. For that money, I got a small key with an exceedingly large piece of wood connected to it by a ring. There was no elevator, only steep crabs echoing audibly at every step. Four floors and from the last platform still narrow creaking plank stairs to a dusty attic with only one door. The door to my room.

The room was a small dim space filled with ancient furnishings, and exactly as I remembered.  It was gloomy in color and sensually barren in detail like an old painting blackened by smoke. If you were looking for everyday nostalgia and the past century, then here it was for all the money. The dust particles dancing in the light stripe spreading from the window of the dim room, were like the hovering spiritual relic of a hungry bohemian of the previous century. On top of the creaking floor planks was still the same worn-out oriental rug, next to the wall a intricate-headed brass bed filled with pillows with a tightly woven Moroccan donkey warp.  In front of the window there is a small table and chair, on the ceiling a lamp hanging from the wire without a shade. In the corner of the room there is a low cabinet and on top of it an antique porcelain washcloth and on a plate a soap that smells like lavender. On the wall, towels hang on wooden pegs, and it is not difficult to guess the porcelain pot inside the cabinet for other needs. On its side is a picture of a blue horse hanging on two legs, which, despite its blue color, does not resemble Chinese porcelain art.

Each object had apparently been brought in to make up for a real need one at a time, not today and not yesterday, but over the decades, each inhabitant according to his or her means. For little money, items acquired at flea markets by maids, hunger artists and nude models. Many tonsils and brittle. On the side wall there is a faded painting of a lying woman with a divan without a signature, perhaps the artist has paid his rent on his painting. Beneath the painting is an armchair that has been piled up many times, bursting at the seams, and a leg lamp that has lost its shade next to it, bowing over a book.

The décor, piled up at random, is magnificent rustic. Hardly even the best interior architect could do the same, no matter how much he tried. On the slanted ceiling there is a tiny window that opens with a creak. Under it is an eaves where a variegated dove peeks in.

The world of smells on the attic floor is old wood, leather, and the moldy stench of old clothes. The dust particles dancing in the dim spotlight of the morning sun shining from the sunroof, which has been dirty for years on the platform, instinctively make you hold your breath.

I emptied my bag into a large closet by the door, and then threw myself on the creaking antique iron bed, sinking through a sea of pillows onto a rock-hard straw mattress. A bad night’s sleep on the train now required compensation, and I fell asleep right away. On the way to the hotel I had bought a crispy-crusted baguette, camembert cheese, air-dried ham and half a bottle of Beaujolais Villages. It had been an everyday meal decades ago and it was good enough now. Then it was winter and I had used the eaves under the window at night as a cool food container. The memories came back alive and familiar flavors flooded my mouth before I had even bitten my baguette. I spent my first day in an armchair with a blanket over my knees and read the book I had with me and wrote a few lines in the laptop diary file I started on the train. Even then, I had intended to write a diary in the wax-covered notebook I had reserved for it, but I had not written a single line, because I had forgotten to get a pen, and as the enthusiasm faded, the intention was forgotten, and no longer returned on a journey filled with worries. I regretted my inertia later because I would have liked to remember my feelings as I experienced them in the pathos of youth. Now it’s late, even though the rugged attic room has almost everything with smells and belongings the same on the tale. It was like a museum, and the room hadn’t been rented for years and the hotel’s renovations had left it the same. The hotelier had wondered when I ordered the room that someone specifically wanted to stay there. However, the woman had vacuumed, dusted and removed cobwebs from the ceiling boundary, after I had promised to pay for the cleaning separately. For me, the room was like a photograph from which one could view detail by detail the moment it captured. I chuckled at the silly thought and wrote it down because nothing else came to my mind and closed the laptop.

As the evening blackened into the night, I stood with the lights off, looking out the open window at the yellow-colored moon towering over the round chimneys of the rooftops of Paris, and drinking wine from the mouth of the bottle, drunk on the mind-numbing flashbacks that fit perfectly into this same room right now, as if everything continues seamlessly from the moments lived long ago, and the past decades had disappeared somewhere.

In the morning, as I emptied my porcelain pottery of a ferocious horse into the upstairs chain, audibly rattling and rustling in the toilet, I complained of the cold to the madam who appeared on the scene, and she promised to deliver the heat blower for a different fee.

I knew that electricity is expensive, but the minimum requirement for my age is not to have to freeze at night. With the fan-increased bid price, I would have been able to rent a suite in a three-star hotel. I got angry, threatened all sorts of things without considering my words, and to my surprise, I was able to bargain the raise first by half and then by a quarter. After a lot of haggling, I noticed a little respect in the hotel hostess’s wicked expression.

I lied to the curious, narrow-toothed woman guarding the door with hawk’s eyes that I was a writer, to give a plausible explanation for my quirks. Now she smiled delightfully as I passed her with a camera bag on my shoulder for every morning’s city tour.

Everyone has a place suitable for their lifestyle where they can only be themselves in peace. For me, it doesn’t have to be specifically anywhere, and it can be a park bench, a street café, or any other place where associations are allowed to undisturbed to weave the content and meanings I see. Aimless, detached thoughts that live only that moment and then are forgotten.

The morning lingered in the fog, I walked along the Boulevard de la Madeleine in the direction of the old Opera and went to the same café as the previous morning. I ordered an English breakfast at café-americano, which was basically a double espresso, a fried egg with toast and a spout of hard butter. The cocky waiter does not give a smile, although I am sure she will remember me. I had been generous with tips, sat at the same table for several days and always ordered the same.  The choice of table was influenced by the view of the busy street.

Next to the café on the sidewalk there was a discount hall-style sales counter where you can get cheap home necessities for every need. Towels, bags of all sizes, toys, electrical supplies, socks, underwear or even an old-fashioned table clock. It was like a little flea market.

The woman wears a lace-trimmed jacket, a black brimstone hat, a large red leather bag, patterned shoes, a scarf pleated on the hand with long rainbow-colored fringes, and a ruffle on the collar – the overall shade is dark. I have never seen an elderly person so dignifiedly beautiful. The claims are from the fifties, perhaps even before that, made and individual. Probably the top designer’s creation of the time from the best materials that still keep their patterns.

An elderly person has, as it were, stopped time at some moment and lives only on it, not caring about the changes in the world. The outfit is like a mourning outfit, to which, over time, colored streaks of life have returned without losing the memory they sanctified. The woman’s body language is not submissive, but dignifiedly aristocratic and self-consciously intellectual. The one she has allowed for her dress, she has already allowed for her memories, the large gold earrings tell it to everyone.

I forgot about the breakfast and egg brought by the waiter while observing the woman, the delicious loose tummy has cooled to a sticky lump, and the cold coffee tastes bad. The waiter watches from her seat at the door, staring at my forgotten breakfast, realizing the reason, and when I notice, comes to me and says in a low voice,

– She comes every weekday and buys something small – we call her Émilie. She always wears that same ancient outfit with lots of black and a brim hat.

I answer,

– I think she has lost her fortune and her husband a long time ago, and all she has left is a large apartment and a small pension, the children who know where. Maybe she’s also had a spectacular career in fashion or the arts, but maybe just as a seamstress. First, invitation-filled pre-World War II social life, then occupation and shortages.

The waiter enthusiastically joins my imaginative play,

– The item Emilie buys is the cheapest rubbish, which in the sales boxes is intended for Algerians living at the top of the street and black people from the colonies.  She is a woman for whom one could imagine a wide range of life and historical environmental realities. Probably her true story overcomes them all.

The waiter smiles with a melancholy glimmer in her expression as if she were in love with her own thoughts.  She fixes off breakfast at the same time and says she’ll bring a new portion if I promise to eat it right away. Our kindred souls, who are poetic with associations, have met.

I still wonder that everyday life is not as romantic as fantasies, wars are cruel and big cities are relentless. I’m sure if I went next to ”Emilie”, I would feel the smell of urine wafting from the pumped underpants in my nose.

Then, in a state of mind contemplating my view, I randomly turned around on street corners. I sniffed the stench of cheese shops, the smell of perfumes from passing women, and the smell of yellowed paper from the book boxes next to the Seine. Two student women played the cello in the Jewish Quarter in bright light. They had dragged their heavy instruments from place to place, looking for a suitable audience for Dvorak’s cello concerto.

One of the women was beautiful, like the Madonna-like saint in the altar paintings, with hazy eyes looking down. In my imagination, she makes love with her eyes closed with Dvorak’s cello concert in her skull, reaching for musical patterns to find the language she understood for her sexual ecstasy. I, too, always make love with closed eyes, to feel the echo of the purposes of the seductions in my cells. An orgasm with a taste of hormone-rushing metal with the bluish color of mercury.  

The woman playing glances anxiously in my direction as if hearing my thoughts, the bow presses harder on the strings, and the cello responds, deepening her voice. I am still in the blurring boundary state of reality that began in the morning, from which you can only get out by walking yourself to the point of exhaustion. As I walked away, the woman’s narrow fingers climbed up and down the neck of the instrument, stopped to stretch the note, the vibrato corrugating the air like gravity in space.  

I decide to continue my journey to the Musée d’Orsay on the other bank of the Seine, as it is far enough away for walking therapy needs. Besides, there I can fill my thoughts with something outside, where it is accepted to sink into the depths of one’s imagination. I pass by Notre-Dame, and on the edge of the Latin Quarter I choose to walk along the boring outer sidewalk of the river mouth, and by the time I arrive at the museum, I have managed to get into a thoughtless state of exhaustion.

First, however, I need a place to rest for a while before touring the museum. The crabs between its floors have stone benches heated on the landings and I desperately needed a place where I could doze off for a while. A strangely peaceful place amidst all the buzz. Near me is a girl leaning on a wide marble railing who is reading a book, on the end wall of the museum there is a hugely sized richly decorated gilded station clock. It has stopped after the last train has gone and there is no rush.

The harmonizing atmosphere of colors is like one of the paintings in the museum. The girl’s reddish hair, curled into spirals, flows to the waist, the black hem of the jacket, which almost reaches the floor, is raised, revealing a leg resting on its toes with a thick-soled shoe. The still life is like a thought forgotten by the environment. Daylight filtered into obscurity by the smoked glass wall at the end of the museum and adds dimensions to the enchanting atmosphere.

I am now fully awake and feverishly checking the settings of the camera I am carrying, and I kneel as discreetly as possible on a stone bench as if I were praying that the woman would not move. Everything has to be recorded exactly as I see it now. I frame the subject to match my image, making the camera as immobile as possible, and hopefully pressing the shutter button. It is a magical blink of an eye that is not accompanied by the slightest doubt. The girl does not notice my presence and I leave the scene like a thief.

Calming down, I pass through the halls from room to room and stop in front of Gustave Courbet, ”The Origin of the World”. It is a very realistically painted lying nude woman. Almost every visitor, having noticed it, quickly turns his head elsewhere and continues further, as if it were just an empty frame. However, I am sure that they will not see anything else in their minds for a long time.

Thoughts are flowing again at an accelerating pace. Sexuality is a heavy burden for all living beings, which can only be got rid of by lobotomy or old age. There is no such thing as sexual freedom, nor is there any sin associated with it. It is not psychological, but biology. The lustful seduction that exhorts and demands, it is both happiness, and madness, love and hate, a law of nature containing desire and denial, falsehood, and the deepest truths.

An American middle-aged woman is right next to me and with her lukewarm blue gaze evaluates me like a sexual object. At least he is not afraid. A woman is probably at an age where she wants to constantly and every real or imagined rejection undermines her self-esteem. Life is insatiable asking the truth in its surroundings, like a morning mirror that relentlessly shows the signs of each aging. I feel condolences for his aging hell, on the other hand, the endless vanity of people escaped from realities is sickening. I would like everyone to look first at the space of billions of stars and then around them. Then reflect on the magnitude of their problems and settle for their part. Happiness is just that.

On the fifth floor, in hall 31 there is a statue of Edgar Degas Petite danseuse de quatorze ans. It has a mixture of its ignorant time with innocent young beauty and the syphilis of the sinful life of artists. I don’t understand why I think that way. I can’t get enough of looking at the sensuality of the work, as if it had a profound narrative that I’m forced to look for.

Next, I’ll stop at Van Gogh’s Millet imitation of the laid-back rest of grain harvesters. It always makes you feel good, because when I look at it, I remember a special moment in my life in an original way. I lie in the sun on the grass-covered side of my childhood home’s cellar, my mind melted into the sun, and I see cells swimming behind closed lids in a sea of tears reddened by blood vessels.

There is no event associated with the recollection, but still it is important for some reason. There are only a few revelation-like moments like that throughout life. Moments that may be remembered at the time of death as answers to what has been important in life. Such detail-precise recollections, such as a glimpse, must have been etched in the mind as signs of some significant life change or inner growth, as if permanently tattooed on the soul. Art really bites into thoughts at times.

I go to the café, but there is no free table, and I settle for taking a few photos through a large dial made into a window, where the pointers show 9:21. From between the number frame you can see the distant Sacre Care church on its hill. In the café, the backlight makes the seating black silhouettes, and the heads bent over each other discuss the impressionists’ influence on modern art or their own concerns. Hell how to starve.

I go out into the open air and take a taxi to Gare du Nord station and hunger makes decisions for me. When I stop to look at the menu in front of the Brasserie Teminus Nord restaurant, the waiter who was fishing for customers on the street half-heartedly pushed inside. I was unable to repel the attack, as if the refusal was a personal insult to the waiter. My own will is always in such situations like an uncharacteristic fog that I can’t get a grip on.

The restaurant’s white tablecloths are covered with tables and flashy light add to the irritation. A lonely woman sits right by the window and watches for the entrance. He is colorless and gray throughout. Glancing nervously from one direction to the other like a wary sparrow. Lukewarm stray eyes change shades as light hits them from different directions. They are like a kaleidoscope embedded in the gaze, where changing facial expressions form more and more new patterns.

The waiter points to the table next to it, even though there is room elsewhere in the half-empty restaurant. The arrangement decorates the hall to make it more attractive to hungry passers-by, as the empty hall makes one doubt the quality of the restaurant’s food. I’m not complaining, the busy street visible from the window makes you feel more comfortable where it’s good to stare at while waiting for food. I order the special of the day, which includes a small bottle of wine, coffee and a slice of cheesecake as an accompaniment. I very much hope that the main course does not include frog legs or snails.

The dish brought to me is a tender meat stew in a thick red wine sauce with fiery chili and garlic, garnished with a basket of chopped baguettes, a cheesecake made with a recipe from San Sebastian as a dessert, and a fortified coffee that fits in a dollhouse coffee cup. The waiter enlightens the cheesecake to be a specialty of the place, since the owner is a Basque. I did not enter into a conversation, but asked for a bill.

Fortunately, it’s not far from the restaurant to my hotel. A room in the attic is like a magical nest to brood over one’s thoughts. Its essential feature is a profound sense of loneliness, which it protects as part of like a uterus.  It is a good feeling of silence, with only a heartbeat and the smell of old wood.

Nice to remember, an old woman in a brimstone hat, a girl playing the cello, a woman reading a book in a museum. I write the recollections on a laptop, because in peaceful borderlands of the mind like this one, there is no anxiety, but a strange archetypal universal happiness. The blowing heater smells of burnt dust, and just in case, I turn it off. I settle for a layer of felt and fall asleep in an armchair, waking up in the morning trembling with a cold.

A new day and everything outside is wet, all night the rain has washed the streets of Paris, wiping away stinking urine marks, dog shit and rotting food scraps, watered with mouse-eared greenish park trees and easter lilies proudly pushed out of the soil. Paris is in bloom in the spring, like a teenage girl. Restlessness can be seen everywhere and there are seductive pressures in people that make life upset again, the light brighter and the shadows deeper. Early in the morning, hammer blows and stone drills can be heard from all directions, and in front of the houses swarms paint-smashed workmen with their equipment. It is spring.

I walk towards the Halls, Rue Saint-Denis is already snorting whores in the mornings in the doorways of shabby hotels, some old and adorable, the youngest invariably coming from Africa or Asia. What everyone has in common is a vulgar revealing dress and an over-the-top naughty make-up. Undisguised sexuality vibrates to call like molecules of street asphalt in the heat.

At the lower end of the street, as I pass by, I turn my attention to a beautifully aged French woman with gentle eyes and a small dog under her arm. I guess I could find the contrasts and depths of my sexuality in her touch. I’m sure she has a lot of regular clients, all in love for the same reason. I’m slowing down at the point, if only I dared. She smiles with her eyes as if reading my thoughts and whispers a hundred euros in a voice hoarse with a cigarette. The illusion evaporates, love is not a commodity, and the hole in the teeth broken by someone’s angry fist is not sexy. She understands my mind movement, sighs and strokes my hand lightly, then turns away. Tomorrow I would take a different route.

I pass the recent dose of everyday realism inside me on the edge of Shakespeare and company’s Latin quarter on a blurred afternoon that I’ve always wanted to visit, but there’s too many people there and I don’t bother to go inside just to feed a life-stained wannabe writer in my soul.

Twilight stormed the alleys of the Latinos and neon tubes of many colors began to glow with their temptations to the street-filled mass of people. The oldest Jazz Club in Europe was of interest. The place was a dirty-smoked basement vault tightly packed with populations huddled together. The saxophone roped and rumbled thickly, the drums banged some strange rhythmic improvisation, the double bass banged his own, and the bulky colored one imitated the spit in the throat of the ornament Louis Armstrong. I like about jazz, but there was thick smoke floating in the room, with marijuana gnawing and little air to breathe. I climbed back into the street.

Instead, I went to the cozy-looking café on the street corner to refresh my mood. I asked for coffee and cognac, letting a nice waiter choose a brand, When the bill came, I found out what four cents the most expensive XO cognac in Paris costs. Fack you, I think and put five cents on the counter as a tip. The waiter does not mind and laughs with his whole face. I have been duped.

I soothe my rage by examining the boxes of ancient magazines scented on the old paper next to the Seine, I take a deep breath in the past century, I guess they fooled the countrymen even then. Why aren’t there any trams here, I’d drive around and reel the pile open.  The buses don’t have the same atmosphere, but I guess they can reach the corners of the old opera.

In front of the opera, lying on a dirty quilt, a gypsy woman is facing a starving baby, the other coming in her bulging stomach. She begs with her hands in prayer with the clichéd image of Saint Mary next to her. On a nearby bench, a husband with a killer dog between his legs watches so that the woman does not hide the alms she has received secretly in her rags. I don’t know if I would give the coin or not. I decide to give, otherwise I would have just thought about my hard-hearted sluggishness for the rest of the day. The distress is genuine.

Then I enter the large hall of the old opera house to see the stunningly magnificent Chagall ceiling painting illuminated by chandeliers. When staring at it, one always gets a good mood, which endures all the reminiscences without losing its cheerful colors. After that, I return with a smile on my face back to the Latin quarter.

As I returned, twilight stormed the alleys of the Latinos and neon tubes of many colors began to glow with their temptations to the street-filled mass of people. The oldest Jazz Club in Europe was a dirty smoked basement vault filled with tightly packed human flesh at free, intimately touching each other. The saxophone roped and churned thickly, the drums banged some strange rhythmic improvisation, the double bass banged his own, and the big-bodied man imitated the embellishment Louis Armstrong with saliva in his throat. I dig the jazz, but less of the thick smoke floating in the space, with the sweet scent of marijuana. I was running low on breathing air and I climbed the crabs back into the street.

In the Latin Quarter of Paris, everything is the same as the day before and at all times. It’s like one of the many protected trademarks in the city, with its pickpockets, scammers, and loudly arguing throw-ins of Greek restaurants. Here you will find all the ingredients needed for a traveler’s adventure, which will create a colorful narrative to take home.

I ended the day wandering through the narrow streets and bought a bottle of red wine, baguette, cheese from the food kiosk and sat down on the pedestal of a nearby statue to watch the area go by on my own head-inside terms. The day had cooled down to a chilly night and I was freezing, eating nothing but cheese, sipping wine, warming my body from the inside, and chopping the rest of the baguette for the pigeons. Then I walked down the long promenade, avoiding drunkards, on the way to the hotel to gather my strength. I also toured the sinful quarters at the top of the street from afar, knowing that they are more dangerous for a lonely drunken man than war.

The next chilly morning, I climb up the steep crabs of Sacre Coure and head to the café on the edge of the Place du Tertre, which has comfortable chairs on the side of the podium behind small tables and a heating device shimmering above my head. I order a mini-pizza, of which there is only one sort and a small bottle of red wine.

In front of me in the square, an old gray-bearded old man paints a painting with thick oil paints with his hand trembling, modeled on a photograph attached to the holder of the rack. The painting in the pipeline doesn’t exactly resemble the person in the photo, but I think the hubby is pretty good. Despite the fact that there are no interested spectators swarming around, like kitsch painters filling the square.

The old man hardly cares what others are doing, and I guess he sits down for fun in his retirement. The old man has noticed my observation and guesses my thoughts. It hurts a little on both sides.

After eating a pizza, I thread myself between the easels in a jumble of thick-painted paintings of Paris attractions, which are like a deliberate misunderstanding of art. The most authentic kitsch in the world, advertised by one artist in a good mood when I ask for the price. Montmartre’s collective banality is cynically focused on some romantic image created by an old American film. Tourists get a clichéd picture of Sacre-Coure or Eifelltorn as if they were stamping their passports to prove they were in Paris.

Of course, there are a few good artists among them, and I once bought a naïve work painted by a Czech philosopher for a nephew here as a wedding gift. We talked for a long time about his philosophy while we were doing business in painting. Later, I applied for confirmation of his doctorate, and it matched the photo of the man at the famous university. However, it did not fit on the wall of the young couple’s new home and they gave it to some charity fundraiser. They would probably be annoyed if they checked the current prices of the artist’s paintings, or perhaps were more pleased with their generosity.

I like the place and its chaos in the same way as reality TV filled with stupidity on purpose, and I couldn’t imagine a trip to Paris without Montmartre, even though the interesting art galleries and interesting art exhibitions are elsewhere. I wander around the square of my time showing off my exuberant fistful, and then go back to my recent comfortable place, where the waiter, with plenty of tips, had maintained a table reservation. I order a new half of red wine.

The old man I have just followed has, to my surprise, received a client, a woman who I guess is the woman in the photograph. An elderly person is just finishing his painting, which, even when ready, does justice to his model more with his style than with his similarity. It’s a picture of an elderly woman with a personality and I think it’s really good. The woman standing next to the artist has her back and I can’t compare her to a painting.

The old man says something, and the woman turns to look in my direction and I immediately recognize her as the model in the picture, just according to the painting and not the photo. The painting made by old man shows the woman’s entire personality with her postures and facial expressions.  The woman somehow feels familiar anyway. A woman looks at the fabric with her head tilted for a long time, and I am already afraid of the worst. I’m willing to buy the picture myself if it wasn’t good enough for a woman. However, she searches her handbag for a heap of dollars and pushes it, without counting, into the old man’s trembling, goal-smashed hand.

I am now sure that the woman is an American film star, whose name I cannot immediately grasp, although I have seen her in several films in the lead roles. Some others also recognize the woman and in an instant she is surrounded by a large group looking for a suitable angle for a selfie. Easier than autographs, I think. Behind the hustle and bustle, the old man packs a damp picture in a box so that it does not get smoldered.

A woman’s security man who has emerged from somewhere, carefully takes possession of the painting, and then rescues the woman’s admirers from the dangerous crowding into the restaurant, on the terrace of which I am sitting, she smiles at me as she passes by, what the old man must have said about me.  The doors of the restaurant are locked after the woman, and even the crowd of admirers immediately disintegrates after losing their target. The show is over.

The old man who painted the picture has hidden the dollars he has received in his bun and is looking in my direction with an unhappy look on his frowning face. I nod as if giving a thumbs up. The lucky artist has hidden the dollars he’s received in his bun and is looking in my direction with a derisive look on his wrinkled face. I nod, as if I’m showing my thumb. The man then gathers up his things and exits with his head held high, ignoring the enviously constricting colleagues. This will be talked about for a long time to come, and I am sure that the old man will not be seen again in this square.

My guess is that the whole thing was an invention of some public magazine or a reality TV implementation in which a well-known elderly artist is planted in a clichéd landscape to paint a film star from a photograph. Then, as if by chance, a film star appears on the scene like any other traveler and discovers that the old man’s painting is about him.  Elated by the surprise, he buys the painting, giving all his money involved. The ensuing buzz of a flock of admirers was perhaps also the staging.

I notice confirmation of the over-romantic script I’ve woven when I notice a film team behind a jungle of paintings collecting their stuff.

My bottle is empty and I’m fading too. I stand at the vantage point for a while, looking for a destination for the hike as if on a map. Paris has been built in all directions as far as the eye can see, and it is not easy to find more than a few recognizable objects. It doesn’t matter, as I already have a route in my head and the intention is to get a new one to replace the camera stolen yesterday in the queue at the Louvre. The loss didn’t bother me anymore. Shit camera and I buy a better one relying on travel insurance.

To receive travel insurance reimbursement, I needed a theft certificate from the local police. I met a couple of Finnish girls in the waiting room. They said they had been robbed in the morning near the halls. The knife had been pressed to the other girl’s neck and the villains had emptied both of their backpacks of all valuables. Demanded the bags of money hanging around the necks of both. All cash, cell phones, watches, jewelry and credit cards were taken away just like that.

One of the girls said: Both of their passports were fortunately stored in the room and the hotel was paid for in advance. They had also been allowed to call from the police station to Finland. Money would be received from home by express delivery to the bank. and luckily the travel insurance was in order, and we were still alive. After saying that, both girls burst into hysterical laughter.

As a meagre consolation, I told about the camera stolen in line at the Louvre and how, instead of an art museum, I was now here. Having received a certificate of theft with a stamp, and did not even inquire further, added a camera, price and date to the pre-stamped form, I wrote below and the case was closed. Next.

I then gave the girls a few tens of cash equivalents. They blocked, but agreed when I also told them how, on my first trip to Paris, I wrote home and asked for money to be sent so that hunger and cold would not take my sober body to the cemetery of a nearby church, where black ravens were strewn on the tombstones. They smiled.

The case of the girls was a much more serious matter, and a traumatic event would follow as a nightmare, perhaps, throughout life . Police officers took accurate badges, witness statements and showed pictures of the thugs. No hit, in the pictures all the villains were so similar looking. The girls just wanted to get away and try to forget about the whole mess.

Police said it was impossible to trace unless the robbers were caught at the scene or found right nearby. However, it may come up in other cases and be revealed if one of the stolen items is found in the possession. The police did not say that the case was too trivial and ordinary and the support would not continue. They regretted the wound to the hand, which fortunately was not serious, perhaps a mere nasty injury was speculated. Would be notified if something new emerges at a later date.

The doors opened and the queue at the counter grew with all the peoples of the world represented, varying flutters of smell and multilingual hustle and bustle. The complaints have their own angry international tone of voice, be it begging crying or swearing rage. The girls are pushing me towards the door, just go, we’ll be fine. They still had to wait for some papers to sign.

Blur again, and I’m going to test my new camera in the colorful neon lights of the sinful Pigalle. The place is the same, a tourist vices in its faux-whimsical way, with some kind of security guarantee from the authorities. Danger-filled sin lies elsewhere. A fat woman in the window of a bar beckons to walk in and shakes her large breasts like in a bad movie.

The performance does not convince you to step in and the street burlesque obscenity of the tourist trap only brings disgust to the surface. A few men have stopped to look at the strange agitated expression on their faces, the basic instincts carried by the living times from the beginning appear in them like fossils in the limestone layers. I take a photo of the Moulin Rouge, glowing red across the street, and the evening fun is allowed to stay here.

The rest of the week is spent wandering around the big city from one district to another. Everywhere masses of people are moving busy in some direction. For the aimless wanderer, every crossroads is like choosing a direction for his life in virtue and vice, amusement and benefit. All sorts of unexpected things happen all the time with the vagrant’s compass splitting anywhere. The north is the domestic direction.

The city is full of colors, flavors, smells and the squabbling content of events no matter where you go, in Paris different is commonplace. Its districts have their own profiles with suitable residents, apartments, shops, restaurants, and meeting places. One is famous for their church, another for their museums, some for their amusements or vices — often for all that. Everywhere there are post-games left by their history and places or buildings marked by events to remind of the past. Some neighborhoods have almost completely survived as they are for centuries, and only its inhabitants and those who walk the alleys have changed to others.

The photo model is commandeered into poses and I play the photographer secretly, snapping pictures as if it were part of a fashion magazine team. Theyn asked to fade a way, but I got to keep the photo I took. In front of the church, a long line of homeless rags is waiting for their soup ration. There is a noisy demonstration going on in the park with slogans. I don’t know how to prioritize things, Paris is for me an endless mix of colors and contrasts. The coarse-sand corridors of the parks rattle under your shoes and as the day shines spring, it’s nice to sit on a park bench and just watch.

In the sky, a squadron of aircraft rushes, thundering the colors of France with streaks of light behind them. Suddenly, as if frightened, the formation falls apart, as the planes roar wildly in their own direction, and the trailing piles of smoke of different colors mix together into a colorful cloud haze.

The burrowing soldier stands in an expressionless posture, guarding his president.

Then the journey is over. Last night in the attic, the nostalgia trip is over. Until next time, I told Madam as I left. We both knew we would never see each other again. As I walk towards the train station, the wheels of the bag bounce at the seams of the pavement like a time-cutting metronome.


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