Paris (or at least the parts of her I can see) is the girl who looks good in everything. Today her elegant boulevards are swathed in silvery mist, her trees muted, her stones softened by the twilight that lasts all day.
I secretly like her best this way. She is gentler and quieter out of the sun, less moody than on rainy days. But I’d never presume to tell a girl how to dress, to subject her to my taste.
Besides, I love her in anything. We are in our honeymoon phase, Paris and I. It takes a lot to dent my admiration.
On Sunday my kindly Airbnb hostess pats my shoulder goodbye and I haul my suitcases across the Seine to a new apartment. The flat is a dream: tiny but equipped, light-filled, secure. Intensely expensive. Mine, at least for now.
I have, by accident, ended up in an intimidatingly posh neighbourhood. I know this for three reasons. The buildings are paler, here, the stone either lighter or cleaner. Gentrification appears to be literal whitewashing. There are entire shopfronts devoted to brands I have seen advertised in Vogue. And there don’t seem to be any supermarkets. The upper classes must have access to shampoo sources as yet unknown to me.
My dirty hair and I take a walk through the half-light. My lack of groceries is a neat excuse to order an omelette and a dry white and to sit in the shadow of Saint-Sulpice, shamelessly eavesdropping on the conversations around me. My need to reignite my French has turned me into a spy.
There are so many things I need to tell you, so many notes scrawled on the margins of notebooks or tapped hurriedly into my phone. The crumpled bike, the man with the speech on the metro, the manif. Lyon, Ieper. The shapes of cobblestones.
But then the weather changes and I tell you about that instead. You can take the girl out of the country…