I found the marche! It was Marche Monge. I had confabulated several markets and lost my way. Here were the familiar stalls: the excellent cheese monger, the flower seller, the cous cous stand (not great as I remembered) and the Italian stall. I had plans for most of the day, so I bought a slice of vegetable lasagna for dinner in my room and two bunches of tiny daffodils.
I gave myself an hour to get to Gare de L’Est where I was meeting Christiane. We were to visit Cimetière de Montmartre in search of a de Jorna grave. Usually, I walk around Place Tour Saint Jacques. But today, walking through a park on an overcast day appealed to me. These small green oases in Paris restore. As I was exiting on to Blvd. de Sebastopol, I felt myself falling and could see there was no escape. Flat on my face, bruising my left eye while hitting my right side.
First, had I ripped my jeans? No. Second was there a pharmacist close by, open on a Sunday? I was in luck. French pharmacists are excellent sources of advice, almost like going to Emergency Care. He gave me a cold pack, medication to help oxygen move to the bruise, and a salve. He told me that every day someone comes in with the same condition as if the street had caused the injuries. That soothed me somewhat, but this wasn’t the first time I had literally fallen on my face in France. Last time, I lost four front teeth.
I returned to Place Tour Saint Jacques, found a bench, applied the cold pack, and cancelled my plans. No one looked at me except by accident and, then, the onlooker’s eyes widened in shock. I took a selfie and understood their surprise. I had a real shimmer.
I spent the rest of the day in my room: reading, resting, applying cold packs.
Monday February 24
When I woke up, felt the bruises on my face, and got a look at my black eye, I wanted to go home. Like a child who needs it’s mother, the comfort and familiarity after being hurt, I wanted my house with it’s beautiful light, my cat who loves me, sort of, my garden, my, my. But this desire to bolt isn’t unique. The last two times I stayed in Paris, I left early, just a few days, but why?
What am I looking for? I always thought I should have stayed in Paris when I was 21 and not come home to do the expected, that is, get a degree. I felt free, accepted, in control, unburdened. Well, I can’t get that back. And what burdens am I looking to unload? A state of mind unencumbered by expectations, by obligations? Yet, when I want to leap across the Atlantic, the ties to loved ones, to landscape pull at me. Aren’t they encumbrances of a sort? Whether writing or traveling, essentially the same question rears it’s unwanted head. What the hell am I doing? Part of the process of making a life, of trying to create something?
After spending part of the day writing, I decided to hide myself in the movies. Armed with sunglasses, I walked to Reflet Médicis to see Visconti’s White Nights. I passed the Champo: a line extended along Rue des Écoles, people of all ages waiting to buy tickets to Fellini’s La Notti de Cabiria, Nights of Cabiria. The scene heartened me: you’ve got to applaud the French love of cinema.
At the ticket booth, I had to remove my sunglasses and felt the need to explain my appearance: Je suis tombe dans la rue ( I fell in the street). Immediately the clerk asked if I was all right. Did it hurt? Scratch the surface and the French can be tres gentils.
I came to see Visconti’s 1957 adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story “White Nights” (La notti bianche): the cinematography seemed strangely real and unreal. The black and white photography reminded me of his La Terra Tréma. Whereas that film was shot on location in Sicily, this film takes place on a set, a carefully reconstructed section of Livorna. Disconcerting. Like the characters, I was thrown off guard.
”It must look as if it is false but when you start to think it’s fake, it must look as if it were real.”
On my way home, adorned with sunglasses, I decided on a pastis at Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie. Again, I felt compelled to explain my shiner to the barman. Again concern.