Hopscotch in Paris
93 I lifted up my head, as trying to avoid being seen. I slowly slid gaze to the mouth of the bridge, Pont des Arts, in the rue de Seine with the bow facing Quai de Conti confluence angle, with the manifest intention to verify that they were not there. Neither Lucy nor Morelli.
115 It had been a temporary incident which had brought me to the same place without establishing any coincidence. They always will be there. He, wearing his Parisian autumn overcoat, holding some books in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. She walks with her slim silhouette a veces andando de un lado a otro, a veces detenida en el pretil de hierro, inclinada sobre el agua. (Sometimes walking from one side to another, sometimes detained in the iron railing, leaning over the water.) I didn’t cross the bridge so I turned around and retrace my steps in reverse to a beginning that was simultaneously the end.
116 Although now the bridge appears a hardware store, since it became fashionable among the lovers to lock a padlock through the bars of the railing. I fear the weight of so much love will soon sink its pillars.
1 The keys twisted in the lock. Philippe came laden with bags he left as he could in the kitchen. I helped him. He had brought Atlantic prawns, fines de claire oysters number 3 or 4 from Arcachon, mussels, I later discovered were the best I had ever tasted, a tourteau, bigorneaux and a couple of lobsters. Nobody had yet arrived. I looked out trough the window. It was a pure show his window at the thirteenth floor at boulevard National in La Garenne Colombes, in Paris outskirts. The Défense skyscrapers and the Montparnasse and Eiffel Towers and Notre-Dame, Grand Palais domes, and to the left, the Sacré-Cœur looking like a small white thing in the distance upon Montmartre hill. It was like a postcard that swayed in the colours of light throughout the day.
6 Linette and Neal came to help set up the table. They brought a couple of Alsatian white bottles. Oh yes, yes. I knew the winery; I visited it the year before in Riquewihr. Some Alsatian whites were delicious in its incipient aging. Philippe prepared the seafood and I start opening oysters. I come daily from the tube at the Grande Arche station to the flat. There was a neither short nor long ride from the CNIT esplanade, down the stairs of a large parking and taking the sidewalks following up to La Garenne. The block of apartments, nearly as incisive as a skyscraper, was well distinguished before arriving. Some time I mistook the train in Saint-Lazare, taking some direct, and stopping in Nanterre. Not to open oysters. Other times I had gone to La Villette by taxi to find, not Lucia or Babs, but Isabelle, I was late, I arrived later than Wonderland Alice rabbit, I saw her walking on the sidewalk in the way opposite mine, leaving the suitcases I descended to met her. I did and the trouble then was to recover again the luggage and the cab, or vice versa. Those were years of cheap lodgement in the Marais walking up daily the rue Vielle du Temple. Absolutely nice on rainy and orange light reflections on the wet cobblestone nights.
7 I have finished with the oysters. Three dozen. I laid all of them onto three oval trays, one for each dozen. Mussels were not yet ready, those extraordinary mussels. Hélène had already opened both gewürtz bottles and was already pouring it on the cups. Philippe had those kind of green base cups, round and short, that seem made on purpose for Alsatian wines. Now the sound was an old theme by Coleman Hawkins with Ben Webster, Salt and Pepper… brown bread and butter for oysters. Some years have gone by since we were going to dinner at boulevard Saint-Germain, where they used to take us for miserable customers and cornered in small tables that barely fit the service. I know that the tables are too small and they tend to exploit the spaces to almost impossible levels. We ordered a seafood tray too big to fit on the table. Ever for the waiter’s will. It were those same nights of jazz heard standing by the bar, live be bop, along with beer glasses running by pairs. Mornings walking by Mouffetard market to finish sitting on a Contrascarpe square table in front a glass of Leffe bier.
10 Ivette and Etienne got a never ending chat, about the menus at Strasbourg brewery, about a restaurant in Nanterre, Au Cochon, specialized in any cut and any piece of pork. Etienne, was huge even with his scarf around his neck and his glasses in hand, always glad with his booming voice exultant as big as himself. The oysters were cooling on crushed ice.
16 Visions of a big beef rib just entering in a restaurant near the Panthéon; more visions in Pigalle’s Madame Arthur. He or she was looking for bearded spectators; a kir royale in the small and charming place du Marché Sainte Catherine and heavy rain in Saint Paul; the winters ice rink in front of the City Hall; a garden in a Clamart castle and an old black dog lying by the fireplace. Oh, yes, yes, a wonderful shot of 10 years Ardbeg in the Whisky Life Paris while Breton musician’s bands parade in Champs Élysées in a sunny autumn morning.
18 Hawkings and Webster have given way to Charlie Parker’s Now’s the Time. Ivette took carefully an oyster between her thumb and index fingers and sprinkled with a lemon slice squeezed with her other hand. The gewürtz was great. The light faded behind the window overlooking the Défense. Within two years Philippe will marry Valerie in La Garenne city hall. Still don’t know. Neither that they will celebrate the event at a restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne. It will be a photo taken in a bar after the wedding along a fleeting snack next to a Ricard poster and a precise flash light in front a 20mm wide angle. Rice fell on their heads. Night Waltz.
La Maga crosses the Pont des Arts. ¿Qué venía yo a hacer al Pont des Arts? Me parece que ese jueves de diciembre tenía pensado cruzar a la orilla derecha y beber vino en el cafecito de la rue des Lombards donde madame Léonie me mira la palma de la mano y me anuncia viajes y sorpresas. (What I came to do the Pont des Arts? I think that December Thursday he planned to cross to the right bank and drinking wine in a bar in the rue des Lombards where Madame Léonie read the palm of my hand and announces travel and surprises). Between both shores some old memories fade and some new memories start. A text ends and another speech begins. La Seine est jolie, les filles sont belles et les Dieux sont ravis. Voilà l’été sang once the musicians Les Négresses Vertes.