When in Paris,

sacre-cour

Going upstairs to Sacré-Cœur, I see a man selling bracelets and keychains. I look at him, he looks at me, he is already holding my arm.

What…is happening?

I am clueless but fortunately, S knows better, she shouts and pulls my hand away. I can still feel his grip on my wrists. ‘That was close,’ she says. ‘Yeah, what was that?’ I ask. ‘They will tie the bracelet to your wrist and ask you to pay for it,’ she replies and continues, ‘Absurd amounts – 10, 20 Euros. And they just won’t let you go.’

Isn’t that a form of attempted robbery? 

I am reminded of the time I was in London. A middle aged man approached me, smiled and gave me a rose, ‘This is for you, pretty lady.’ I took the rose, blood pumping to my cheeks.Wow, London is nice. Meanwhile, the man asked my friend to pay for it. Okay, maybe not. I tried returning the rose to the man. ‘No, just give me 10 pounds!’ He demanded. ‘No,’ we said. Ultimately, the man had to take the rose back. My friend is from Delhi after all. 

Enjoying the view from Sacré-Cœur, S and I are talking about things. We always do, it can range anything from woman centric porn to democracy. Most of the times, our discussion don’t have any conclusions. I think the answer to most abstract questions is the same – Moderation. 

Picture of Sacre Coeur

Sun is shining and Paris has treated us well, mostly. We have enjoyed eating macaroons, and also talking to the guy who sold those macaroons, had the best cheese sandwich, worst Beef Bourguignon , enjoyed the theatrics of crème brûlée, fell in love with soufflé, saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night, witnessed a boy proposing to his girlfriend at the Montparnasse Tower and experienced jealousy like never before and photobombed a random family at Notre Dame – S pretended she didn’t know me while I continued making faces. People actually laughed it off. Later, S took to photography and I took to modelling. Paris had inspired me to dress well and put on a face. 

‘You look nice with makeup. You should do it more often,’S told me.

Thanks but no thanks. I want people to be used to my ugliness so that whenever I look nice, they will appreciate it more.

We need to leave now. We are searching for the nearest metro station. Google maps is fucking with us. According to it, we are already AT the station. Station for wizards, google? There’s a young man sitting at the stairs smoking a cigarette. S says, ‘Go, ask him.’

Neurons in my head are running with their arms in the air, screaming, ‘WE NEED TO SPEAK FRENCH! WE WILL HAVE TO SPEAK FRENCH! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! M’AIDEZ!’

I try to calm myself, ‘This is our moment to shine.’ All those hours I had spent practicing (which aren’t many), it’s time they are used, it’s time I carpediem the fuck out of this.

Tentatively, I approach him. ‘Excusez moi!’ I say, incredibly conscious of my accent.

He looks at me, it seems that he understood and is willing to listen to me further.

In my head, I am forming sentences, ‘Ou est..Tu connais?…’

And then it strikes me. I knew what to say. 

S is standing a bit far away. I return to her smiling, ‘So we need to go straight and then turn left.’

‘Nice! What did you say?’ she asks me. 

‘Oh well, you know, stuff in French.’

‘Yeah, what stuff? I want to learn too!’

I smile, look around thinking of a way to change the topic but I know she will bring it back.

‘Okay…you really want to know?’

‘Yes, tell me!’

‘Parlez vous l’anglais?’

‘And what does that mean?’ she asks. 

‘You speak English?’

 

*

Things that I don’t understand – III

  1. Fluid mechanics. Office politics. And heart
  2. Black holes. Black-heads. What existed before big bang. And heart.
  3. X-men movie timeline, Donnie Darko and why I suck at receiving compliments.

He looked at me for a second or two. But I kid you not that time frame felt like an entire age! Of course, I couldn’t hold his gaze back. I always lost when asked to stare in that stupid game – Truth, dare & stare. Look at you, dear brain – how quickly you dug up a memory from a decade ago. And where are these excellent abilities of yours when I am searching for my keys? Anyway, I am on a date and not only have I received the whole middle school flashback during a supposedly romantic gaze, I have also noticed some minor cracks in the ceiling and patches of dampness on it sprinkled here and there. If you look at them carefully, you would realize that they look like skin disease. To be more precise, they look like Eczema. How do I know that? Because I had Eczema almost my entire childhood. Wow, I can see we are travelling back(er) in time. Are you sure it’s not even been a second? Look at the wall! It’s ruined too! Why don’t builders hire good plumbers? Wait, do good plumbers even exist? Why won’t you stop looking at me, you idiot? “Because he likes you, you idiot!”, someone in my brain replies. I quickly shrug off the thought fearing it might result in either of two completely opposite reactions, none of which are desirable right now – embarrassment or a shy blush. I glance through the limited book collection in the small book shelf nearby and quickly deduce that the owner obviously doesn’t read. Though the company of any of these books would have been better than the pair of eyes still fixated at me. Oh my god, how can time be this long? “You are not being a nice person”, some voice in my head feels entitled to express its opinion again. Well, that’s your problem brain, thought process is completely your department. Then my ears receive the stimulus of his voice. I see the girl, sitting behind him instead. In my defense, she is dressed pretty smartly and she is pretty pretty too. I know it’s rude not to listen to people when they are talking. So, I finally drag my attention, the incredibly heavy attention that weighs too much to even be touched at all, back to him. His words, I don’t remember. Random things, random people, a small poem he wrote, a girl he used to like, a place he once visited, things he read, things he did not read, movies he watched, people he loved, so many things he might have talked about but I don’t remember. It’s a shame I guess, all I do remember is his lips moving, mouthing some words which could have been in English or Croatian altogether. His upper lip half covered with the mustache and lower lips looked as if swollen from a recent kiss. “Or maybe an anticipation of a kiss?” Thanks for that input, brain. But this is a date, isn’t it? Inputs like this aren’t really that inappropriate. Date, yes. This reminds me that I need to buy some dates, it’s been ages since we have had them. How about we go to Dubai to buy some dates? Of course, it’s a good time to talk nonsense. Ah, no, the first cliched place we are going to visit is Paris. We are going to sit and stare at the Eiffel tower from dusk to dawn. We are going to buy that shirt that says – J’aime la Paris. We are going to eat Croissants and drink wine instead of water. Sorry to interrupt but there’s person in front of you who has probably asked you a question and I think you should reply. “What?” I manage to mutter with an apologetic smile. “I like you” he says. Croissants and wine. You forgot to include cheese. Cheese & chocolate croissants and wine, happy? And Eiffel tower and that museum Dan Brown wrote about. “Hey! Are you even here?”
No. I am in Paris. I am busy doing all those overrated things as a part of an automatic defense mechanism against your recent statement and expectations.
“Yes, here.”
“So, don’t you have anything to say?”
“Nothing yet.”
He gives an understanding nod. Aww…that’s sweet. And the moment I confess this, some other voice in my head taunts, “Why are you doing this to him! He is nice!” I know and with this storms in the guilt, as if waiting impatiently just outside the door the whole time. The Paris dream vanishes in the air. The damp patches in the wall turns invisible. This is my turn to look at him. He smiles and sips the coffee, which is savored by a few caffeine addicted strands of his mustache too. Probably you are going to write a poem on this later. On him? On my guilt? Or the mustache drenched in coffee? You know I won’t. There’s only one asshole I write poems about and in the end they don’t even turn out to be about him. “Not a good moment to be thinking of your ex, just saying,”someone retorts in my head again.
“Up for dessert?” I ask, trying to change the topic.
“No, I think you are already enough sweet to handle.”
What?
“Too cheesy?” He asks.
“Yes.”
Good, at least he knows. And did he just say no to desserts?
“I warned you I am cheesy.”
When? Maybe when you were in Paris munching on Croissants or Dubai buying dates.
“And I am not done yet…I have been meaning to tell you this all evening so I am just going to be done with it -You are really beautiful.” he says.
Right. He could have called me a rogue. He could have called me dumb and accused that I couldn’t even do arithematic. He could have told me how judgmental I am. He could have told me that I am disgusting especially when I make noise when I chew. He could have told me that my posture isn’t right. I tend to slouch and walk like Shaggy in Scooby Doo. He could have told me that I am malnourished and probably too tall! He could have told me all of these and I would have been offended, yes but I would have survived. But instead he says – You are really beautiful. And I am more offended than I can EVER be. This is what I don’t understand.

*