It was a “someday’’ experience. “Someday I will go to Paris and it will be warm and sunny and it will be perfect.” And as I glided along the Seine, it was.
I smiled, not a young artificially enhanced smile, perfected with caps and chemical whiteners. My grin, weathered by too many sweets and the wrinkles that come from too much laughter, was that of an older woman. But the rapture I felt went beyond the cosmetic. It started in the center of my body and traveled up to my eyes where tears would have gushed forward if not for passing witnesses. I was a participant in a reality that all my life had only been a dream.
My clothes felt loose from daily sessions of urban hiking from my hotel near the Eiffel Tower. It was a good hair day. I felt chic in my L.L. Bean “guaranteed never to wrinkle” travel blazer and the French scarf that I had purchased from a street vendor for a euro and a half. I wrapped the black and white cloth around neck with avant garde carelessness and it advertised haute couture with tasteful starts and stops like a painting by Matisse.
Walking through a canyon of Monet color on an avenue of flower stands, I hear the French accordion music in my head as I suddenly became the star in a foreign movie. I strutted as my heels clicked on the concrete sidewalk. I was magically transformed into an accomplished actress playing the role of a lovely Parisian woman.
The script directed me to do the obvious, stop at an outdoor café for a cappuccino. I sat at the table, legs crossed and one of my arms draped over the back of the chair in expectation of the next camera shot.
I presented my deep smile as people passed, boldly looking into their faces. A group of Americans hurried by and stared. A man in the group turned and smiled. I returned the acknowledgment. Did he realize that I was a counterfeit? The director yelled, “Cut!” He reminded me that a Parisian woman would never return even a glance of reciprocity.
I got back into character and the scene resumed. Stage right a couple conversed; they repressed any temptation to touch as they traversed on their paired journey. She was a young pretty blonde with perfect wedged hair, a lovely red coat tailored like a dress, and black heels. Like a crow drawn to shiny objects, I coveted her handbag, deep purple leather with four acorn sized rhinestones at the closure. The essence of the purse skimmed the dirty water of gawdiness but the magical configuration of its elements pushed it toward good taste.
The man swaggered, playing a role much younger than his years. The movie’s makeup department had colored his grey hair black. Wardrobe had dressed him in a costume of wealth; polished shoes, a grey tweed sport coat enhanced by a crisp white shirt, tie, black trousers and a vest.
It was two o’clock and I as a watched the couple stop at the corner, I sensed that their midday lunch break had involved more than eating. They beheld each other with deep intensity that alternated with shy withdrawals and awkward propriety.
They finally parted, she proceeded to the north, he chose a perpendicular trek toward the subway. They pivoted several times, waving, smiling, peeking. Their paths drew an “L”! Love, lust? They thought that their lack of proximity would hide their passion but the theme of the play was apparent.
One last gesture and when the man was sure he was out of sight he scurried not down the hole of the subway but behind a nearby newsstand. He dug out his cellphone and made a call. My director loved the uncertainty of this scene. Was the man calling his secretary, his wife, or still high on adrenaline and Viagra, another lover? I pitied the girl with the purple purse, her someday experience now overcast.
Like an elevator walled with mirrors, lies go on and on until the image of the original truth disappears. Like the couple, I had devoured lies in the exhilaration of a Paris moment. It was wrong and sinful but so delicious.
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