Bienvenue à Paris

 

I.
So we were returning from the party. A farewell party before I departed to France for the next day. The lipstick remained in traces. Part of it on glasses. Partly on people’s cheeks after I had downed more than necessary. Mostly on the glass I would say. A girlfriend once told me that you should discreetly wipe the side of the glass so that your lipstick doesn’t transfer. That I found terribly undignified. Nowadays non transferable lipsticks are the answer. Revlon makes Colorstay. But I do wonder where it all then goes, the lipstick, if it leaves no stain. Just vanished?
 
I was worried if my thoughts could be heard by him. I searched for a suitable music station in car. Ah, jazz. I like jazz. He finds the music repetitive. But I like jazz.

See, this is what happens when I have too much drink. Sugar rush. My thoughts shift patterns like one of my playboy friend.
I heard his voice jarring. I wondered how I once found it suave and cultured. I am sucker for such things.

“You don’t laugh at my jokes these days..” his whining voice sounded like an instrument out of tune.

I burst in laugh. Then I waited for a moment to laugh -awkwardly.
Apparently, that wasn’t meant to be a joke.

 
Image

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II.

At the coffee machine.
Coins clanking when they touch another metal. Settling with the familiar, which we do not hear. But they exist am sure.
Bonjours and kisses in the air.
So I pick up my cup and stand by the window. The window is to be shared I see, when someone walks over. I move to give her some spaces.
We sip our coffees in silence after the smile of unfamiliarity and civility.

“Nice clothes..” she says. She addresses the abaaya I wear. I made it from red saree.

I smile and say thank you. Unfortunately I do not find anything to reciprocate.
I look at her colorful shoes a second longer than necessary. Red, blue, yellow and was that green?

She laughs. “That’s my daughter who wanted me to buy them. They go with none of my clothes, but well…”
I laugh too.

“How old is your daughter?”
“10 almost.”

I smile.
As I go back to my coffee and open window, she asks, “Do you have children?”
I tell her, “I’m not married.”

Once again I almost return to my book when her expecting eyes pull me back.
I see her question has not been answered.

“Oh. No. I do not have any children..”

Ah! The French!
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III.
 
 
Champs-Elysées is one of the prettiest walks ever. The French have no doubt, it is indeed the prettiest. I could not disagree. Fragrances of various shades and intensities waft around. Women and dogs of fashionable clothes totter around.

He maintains a pleasant flow of conversation. French history is better heard when from him. I am amazed when he dashes of dates and years associated with places. The non-believer in me wonders if all of it is correct. Nevertheless I would never knew whether or not he is lying. I shoo my own thoughts away. Both eyes on the road, one ear listening to him and the other listening to my unstoppable wandering thoughts.

We take the Parisian customary photo in front of the Arc d’Triomphe. I make a note to myself not to get a copy of it. What would my mother say if she happens to see it one day -a photo of me and this man?

Souvenirs never interest me. They are forgotten memories one insists on trying to remember. Blurs of smells, sights and sounds. I fool myself by forgetting. These days I forget even the forgotten.

He once visited Indonesia. I took him around Surabaya. He knew not a word of English and I knew few French words. Suffice to say it was a disaster. Most of the silence when we driving was dispelled by coughs, cleared throats and while in quiet places, by shuffled shoes. He gave me a French book on parting hoping I would learn. In the years that passed, he learnt English. People have been suffocatingly kind to me.

Shopkeepers who returned more change when I bought a bagel. And after painfully counting the coins and stretching back the rest, a conspiratorial wink and pressing my fingers back to enclose the cold circles.

I stopped cars and stood on gelid pavements while first determining the handwriting and then the address on the crumpled paper.

The day I left, the Chinese good luck doll that I got.
A French guy who gave a Chinese doll to an Arabian lady whom holds Indonesian passport.

Universe. Kindness. Or a bit of it all.

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