105th & Broadway
Sky blue, interspersed with clouds
goading easterly, coastal wind.
Birds: a pair, fly and swoop; pigeons pecking, scattering.
Buildings weathered but not beaten,
red bricked ominous amongst the throng, high-rise, windows
gaping shadows loom down from existing sun.
Gum polluted pavements. Broadway.
Flip flops, trainers, sandals walk. Cracks, uneven
painted faces, parloured nails: block-to-block.
People jostle, laughter, anger.
Coffee drinking on the go.
Subway, opened mouthed and waiting,
Trains rumble down below.
Dogs on leashes bark in greeting
some take stock against a tree.
Branches sway in rhythmic pattern,
drilling drowns tranquillity.
Yellow taxis. Beep! Impatient! A familiar cry.
Heavy-laden trucks on tarmac, potholed
bumpy, slow to ride.
Noise! Commotion! Never ceasing.
Moving landscape. Ever changing.
Urban. Concrete. Always busy.
Sprawling island. Gotham City.
From My Window
Shrouded by shadowed branches,
he sleeps under a sunny sky
a loner and his brown paper bag
oblivious to passers by.
He stirs and turns in slumber,
his mattress trodden land;
furrowed, pecked and gathered
his lover held close in his hand.
18 Rue Caffarelli
I woke early to the bass notes of men outside my window; a constant chatter that only Parisians would understand. My windows are closed and I long to open them, it looks sunny outside; the difference a day makes. I can hear the men walk along the scaffolding, disturbing shadows form against my off white curtains. The 10% discount doesn’t cover the annoyance of not being able to open the windows.
I want to embrace the day so I slowly arise from my bed and pad into the next room an amalgamation of lounge, kitchen and diner: a true Parisian experience. I really want a cup of tea but it takes an age to boil the kettle so I’ll wait for my café crème.
After a plentiful dinner the night before I can’t believe I’m hungry but I am. I look in the cupboard and find some bread. It still looks fresh. I tackle the sticky tape, they are never easy and grab the knife in the block beside the sink to stab open the wrapping. The bread smells good as it heats in the toaster. Coffee is drifting from the apartment next to mine, a stones throw. I can’t get the machine to work – some new fangled Nespresso gadget and can’t be bothered with the percolator either. Many years ago I would’ve knocked on the door and asked for a cup but my eager days have disappeared. I’m much more reserved or so I’m told.
The toast pops up and I butter it thickly in homage to the cow that produced such a treat and then smother it with strawberry jam. It tastes good – I can feel the butter drip down my chin, I let it plonk onto my pyjama top; it feels good to let myself go. I feel sloth like this morning. Too much vin rouge the night before, easy to do in Paris. Twenty minutes later I’m ready to face the day.
Keys in hand I unlock the door with ease and try to wrestle the key as I lock it, it’s so springy for some reason, the key on more than one occasion has jumped out of the keyhole making me curse in French. Already I’m at one with this city.
It’s easy walking down the wooden staircase, a spiral of six floors. It’s a different matter when heading back up them especially with a heavy suitcase. The owner failed to mention lack of lift. After all these years of travelling across the Atlantic, I still haven’t learnt the art of packing lightly.
At the bottom of the darkened lobby I hear the dulcet tones of Parisian women chattering, almost in song. They make me want to sing! An older lady accompanied by her shopping cart holds the door open for me, her fingers heavily decked with coloured stones: red, turquoise and I think I may have seen yellow. Her blue chemise transcends up to her eyes, they laugh at me and I can’t help but smile at her. I want to hug her; she’s like my mum.
Parisian air! It smells fresh and bubbly, the aroma of the boulangerie at the bottom of my street goads my taste buds; I’m going to have to succumb to a pain au chocolate at some point. I see the homeless man on the corner with his dog, always doffing his hat ‘Bonjour Madame’ he says. Even the homeless look chic.
The air is filled with the promise of summer as I walk along rue Perrée, the familiar buzz of mopeds remind me to look before I cross. It’s quieter around here than what I’m used to. A girl on the back is wearing a helmet, dressed for the office: sophistication on a bike. It must be some sort of magic gene. French people are born sophisticated.
As I turn up rue Dupetit-Thouars it’s quiet. The street is barely a bustle, a few people sit outside, waited on tables: espresso, café crème is the drink of choice. The man’s voice a baritone against the waitress’s guttural response; the r’s roll off her tongue. I wish I could sound like that instead of something I want to cough up.
I recognise a waiter from yesterday. Tall, quite dark with black lunettes on his aquiline face. He seems of Arabic descent. We make eye contact, each of us acknowledging that we’ve met before. I can tell from his look that he’s trying to remember.
I arrive at the café with a minute to spare. It’s early for patrons; chairs are still piled up on tables. As I walk through I can hear animated voices and realise to climb the wooden stairs. I appear to a very jolly man clearing tablecloths, place settings and glasses. He’s humming a tune: Singing in the Rain, not something I would expect from a French man. I like it. He’s comedic. His face, heavy set with thick black glasses framing his eyes cornered with laughter lines. I want to call them that anyway. It seems apt.
A Thing of Beauty
More than anything else it was the light drizzle of rain that woke Rose out of her reverie. She was laying on the grass, oblivious to the cocker spaniel sniffing its way up her leg, its owner yanking the leash in fear of what it might do next. She was oblivious to the squealing children on wooden bicycles, racing each other along the sandy path, scuffing the fronts of their school shoes in the process. Oblivious to the man who had been watching her from a park bench.
She sat up and crossed her legs, already lightly tanned from spending time outdoors and rustled in her rucksack for an umbrella. A triumph! Her raincoat was in use, a substitute for a blanket, so she untied her hoodie that was around her waist and put it on. Pondering for a moment about what to do she decided to stay put and opened the umbrella, precarious against a sharp gust of wind.
The weather couldn’t make up its mind about what it was doing for no sooner had the umbrella gone up, a huge ray of sun beamed out from behind an ominous cloud making the leaves of trees dance shadowy footsteps along the promenade of the park.
Rose pulled her umbrella down, leant back on her elbows and enjoyed the warm breeze blowing through her hair leaving kisses on her porcelain skin. The air smelt of earth and grass; Rose could almost taste it. She’d forgotten to bring her sun cream and knew that very soon she’d be left looking like a beetroot if she didn’t move into the shade.
The park itself, once home to pushers and addicts, was now nestled in a gentrified square surrounded by trees and exotic plants with a pond thrown in for good measure. It provided frazzled parents a reprieve from their unruly offspring, joggers a track to honed bodies, a tryst for illicit lovers.
The man on the bench watched Rose cross the park. He’d enjoyed watching her on the grass, had been slightly aroused. He placed his hands on either side of him, the chipped green paint on the park bench flaked onto his fingers but he didn’t seem to notice. He didn’t notice the French bulldog relieving itself against the dustbin adjacent to the bench. Oblivious to the little girl crying in front of him, a grazed knee made better with the promise of chocolate ice cream.
Rose sauntered towards the park gates. Her rucksack was on one shoulder, her sandals she carried in her hand. Her feet were bare, the sensations of dewy grass between her toes felt invigorating.
The man on the park bench got up and followed.
They never found her sandals.