If you are a frequent reader of my posts, you will probably have noticed that I like to make up stories about people and things I don’t know anything about. The pleasure, for me as a blogger, is that I’m not bound in by only what I read or hear. The type of posts I choose to write free me of mere facts. I can invent an entire world.
True, many of my older blogs dealt with memories and dwelling in those memories. This post is something of both. I’ve tried to record, with a few meager photos and some scribbled notes, my thoughts and imaginings about watching the people on the streets of Paris, on a warm day in late May. This is a fraction of what I feel I could write about, but I’m a guy who needs limits.
We walk the streets. We sit in cafes and bistros and taverns. I sit and I think. I sit and imagine.
I watch the pretty young women riding bicycles, backs straight, skirts flowing and smiles on their faces. I wish they wore helmets. Some do, most don’t.
Along the narrow sidewalks, confident women with swishing skirts, breezy and full of thoughts of the future. Behind them, are dignified older women with chunky necklaces. Some walk with friends…some are alone. I always wonder about an elderly woman alone. Is it by choice? Is she missing someone…a female partner or older husband?
I always wonder about these things.
I look at the young brash men, full of exuberance, full of expectations of a life yet to be lived. They are defiant and gentle from one second to the next. I observe no macho strutting. I see confidence and disregard for a danger that may lurk around the corner as they speed off on their scooters.
Children ride scooters, girls with pink helmets, boys with blue. Always a parent to wait at the corner. Always a mother to hold a hand. Always a father to proudly guide his son to the next corner and to their life beyond.
There are old grizzled men who look like they are keeping a secret. Standing on the corner, they smoke and think and they stare in the middle distance. Are they trying to forget? Trying to remember?
Next to them are the handsome middle-age men, comfortable in their middle years. Did they just leave the apartment of their mistress? Did they just say good-bye to their mistress? Was this their first afternoon with their mistress?
Some of the teenage girls seem wary, unsure of how to present themselves. Others are older than their years and know exactly how they look to the others boys, or girls, on those narrow streets.
There are more women, beautiful and lithe as models, chatting on their cellphones.
In the cafes, handsome men, handsome as Yves Montand, sip a mid-day white wine. Nearby are the waiters, black jackets and white aprons that extend to their ankles. They are ever vigilant and attentive to their patrons in need of a second espresso. Elsewhere in the bar are lonely men and lonely women, reading and holding onto their glass of rose or beer.
I feel like I’ve watched a thousand lives pass in front of me. Behind each face they hold a history of their life, secretly in their minds until a foreigner like me intrudes into their memories, inventing lives for them they surely never imagined.
It’s getting close to dusk. I hear sirens, so many sirens that I think there’s been another terrorist attack. The sirens. Is Putin in town?
The buzzing roar of the scooters, some small and innocent like a Vespa and others large…willing and able to wear the Harley crest.
At our last restaurant, I snapped a photo of a woman fanning herself (it was humid). It was one of those flirtatious Carmen-style fans. She was totally absorbed in a conversation with her three friends and totally oblivious to the fact that an American, grey-haired and middle-aged (?) had stolen her privacy.
Some cultures believe that taking a photograph of someone, somehow robs them of their souls. Do I have her soul in my iPhone? In the cloud?
Yes, I do believe that I have stolen her soul. In years to come, I can scroll back and look at her. I possess her image. She and her friends will soon forget this evening. They will move into new lives and become different.
And when I remember that final evening in that Italian restaurant in Paris, all those people who stepped in front of my camera…I have their images frozen. And I can thaw them out anytime and play with new versions of a thousand life stories.
One or two of them may touch the truth.
[All photos are mine.]