Sitting across the table from you
In the balmy kind of light
That seems reserved only for ordinary Sundays.
The cafe’s chatter fell like warm rain
As our fingertips traced the woody menu
Hovered over the Strawberry Tartlet.
We exchanged dazzled smiles
Convinced that this is another sign
Of our intertwined destiny
Woven together over stories and coffee.
And just like that, we fell in love all over again.
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Of the many quotes inspired by Paris, this is the one I love most now. I was lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a youngish woman, and wherever I am now, and for the rest of my life, it stays with me. This is the version of the Paris I love, neither from the fleeting perspective of a tourist nor the instinctive recognition of a true Parisian. But a measured perspective of one who had enough time to explore and enjoy the ordinary beauty of this incredibly poetic city, but not so much time that the unevenly cobbled streets, that became treacherously slippery in winter and that made wearing heels an art, got taken for granted.
There’s something exciting, romantic, intense even about chance encounters that take place late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.
The darkness seems to cover every trite corner with possibility, to transform normally uninteresting characters, including ourselves, into shiny heroes and fairies.
An intimacy that may have taken months to unwrap often reveals itself in a few hours in conversations that probably wouldn’t have taken place in the constraints of day.
Every haphazard brushing up against another soul that happened late at night left a kind of imprint. This is the first of those encounters.
The country’s first 24-hour music festival in 1990,
a gathering of indie and rock bands, cool kids and artists, at the Garden
an arts space watched over by a sprawling Banyan tree
adorned with fairy lights in the middle of a large concrete compound
surrounded by short graffiti-covered walls.
My big sister (the cool kid) let me tag along that night,
a shy, skinny, long-haired, sheltered preadolescent
in jeans and a yellow cotton shirt.
Before he appeared, the night was all very loud music
boom-booming in my insides, even louder laughter, heat and smoke,
hot sweaty bodies pressed together in camaraderie.
At close to midnight, he arrived – someone’s younger brother.
There was a massive two-year gap between us, me a little girl
to his full-blown teenage worldliness. I was afraid
of his good looks and self-assurance, of my own scarcity.
The first thing he said to me was “Where did you get your bracelet?”
and before long we were chatting about favourite songs, school
and faraway countries we couldn’t event point out on a map.
He built a bridge with gentle gestures and silly jokes to reach me,
coaxed me out of my rabbit hole of insecurity
to stand bravely in the spotlight of his attention.
Time stopped, the music stopped, me being me stopped.
I remember details like smells, textures, sounds.
I remember him carrying me above the grown-up crowd so I could watch the band, covering my head with his large palms when it started to drizzle suddenly as it often does in the tropics. I remember exchanging bracelets, holding hands when we navigated through the crowd because
“I don’t want to lose you” he said.
I remember how he drew a rocket that carried his name
toward a cratered moon that carried mine
on the graffiti littered wall.
We parted ways when it got light.
For many months after that chance encounter,
I would go to the Garden often after class
to leave messages beside our rocket moon on the wall and
sit under that protective Banyan tree,
waiting for him to show up maybe, or myself.
I never saw him again but I remember him,
the first boy who made me feel lovely.