A weight on my chest in certain neighborhoods

So much of what happens is this: 

Please, please hang that dishtowel out your window for the rest of my life. 


The lycée I teach in was started by Napoleon. Napoleon! I think of my father the youth minister at junior high camp, in charge of the projector showing Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, his chief responsibility to shield us from the string of profanity in the scene where Napoleon is bowling, cutting the sound at the last minute rather than covering the subtitles, so that we could not hear how they said it in French, but we knew that whatever it was, it meant: shit! shit! shit! shit! shit! 

Le dimanche soir

On this particular Sunday evening, we were listening to the Dead Man soundtrack, maybe because the NY Times Magazine (online, faking like there was paper in my hands) was all about the American Western. Or maybe because earlier that week one of my students said I could not have been born in Texas because Texas was full of cowboys. Or because the night before the upstairs neighbor was watching The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (I'd know that Morricone anywhere). Or because he (J., not the upstairs neighbor) was obsessed with Neil Young. Or because we were both sort of wandering through strange woods in our heads, “periodically clashing with violent thugs and brigands,” listening to Nobody quote William Blake. 

(That open window behind me is the fridge. I do not tire of reaching into the moonlight for my orange juice. My fromage blanc. My moutarde, my rose petal confit, my tomme de chèvre.) 

The upstairs neighbor has geraniums. I know it because when it rains red petals fall onto my sills.

Je fait beacoup de bêtises, moi. I read an entire chapter of Colette thinking the word for shadow was the word for promise. It was quite a meditation on promises slipping past each other and whatnot, until I realized that the word for shadow is nothing at all like the word for promise, not even close. 

It is easier to understand this one: is that a comb, or is it sorrow she is running through her long, dark hair? 

La grève

The metro on strike, the city feels like a snow day with nothing white falling except for maybe laundry being separated (a few things come clean a little sooner than planned), and of course sugar cubes being dropped into coffee, ce café being lingered over, not gulped down. Our aim was to feel the sun on our faces for as long as it lasted. Our means were a table by the window and two small cups. There was that feeling that is both a big okay sadness and also a lightness, that feeling that suddenly surprises you (because of course you are distracted, making lists in your notebook of what you could do better) by calling itself happiness. And the waitress, always nearby, saying: merci, au revoir, merci. 

J’aime mon quartier

They're filming something at the end of my block. Cameras and booms and white screens and big trucks and all manner of artificial lights. If I were filming something right now, it would be this time in middle school that a boy in my class, upon being broken up with by his girlfriend, ran the bases in the field behind the school over and over, singing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” And then maybe someone else singing the same song but doing something else, somewhere entirely different from that small-town Pennsylvania corn-edged ball diamond. Like maybe a woman walking outside at night in Paris after doing a little shopping, carrying stationery and curry paste in her purse, but thinking of that boy running around and around, and sort of translating the Poison lyrics into French while she walks. You know, cowboy is cow-boy in French. They do that with the hyphen sometimes, like week-end. But the point is that cowboys are just cow-boys everywhere. Et chacun chante une chanson triste, triste. 

In order to appreciate the gardens you must sit quietly and see the invisible.

We're walking through Les Tuileries. The perfect lawns, the sculpted hedges, the statues, the ducks, the trees in their straight lines. “You've got your toughie face on again,” he says. “Why, why?” It's true, I can feel the tension in my forehead. Something's brooding, the problem of domestic partnership (a trap?) or the problem of this season's ubiquitous high boots (meaningless, meaningless), or I don't know. Give me a reason to worry! 

Or, if you're lucky like that, sit me down in a corner and turn on the Tour Eiffel . . . 


I have a certain fondness for laundromats that does not extend into a skill set. Basically, don't ever let me do your laundry. Unless your idea of la vie en rose includes a penchant for pink undershirts and towels, like I'm hoping J.'s does and he just hasn't told me yet. I really loved those tube socks, too. I count them, along with some expensive Italian underwear I don't even want to talk about, among the more poignant failures of this venture. 

What would the community think

On any given morning, or say afternoon, I will hear someone vomiting violently from across the courtyard. It concerns me. Someone, clearly, is sick. AIDS? Cancer? Pregnant? Someone else, or this same sick person, has a penchant for Whitney Houston, but I am not particularly worried on the front of other people's taste. As a teenager, did I not have the sheet music to “The Greatest Love of All”? Did I not dance in my bedroom when she sang Ooh she wanted to? Then there is la concierge, hosing down the concrete where everyone drops their cigarette butts. I understand her irritation. The other day I arranged a clothesline in my window and hung a hand-washed hooded jacket to dry. When I retrieved it, the fabric was streaked with ash, a little pile of ash intact in the hood, even. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the upstairs neighbor was seeking revenge for some noisy laughing or fighting or fucking sounds from my own open windows. He does not know the weight of his own footfalls, probably. We bear witness to each other and forget our own streaming audio. We greet each other demurely at the door. Bonjour, monsieur. Je vous en prie. We walk parallel lines toward trains, boarding different cars. 

Often I find myself pining for something I've already got.

J.'s building bookshelves for an artist whose studio happens to look across a courtyard at the 12-foot windows of the studio Delacroix used to paint in. I went with him Saturday afternoon to make salad and poke around the corners, suss out how the other half live. This is the part just after he (J., not the greatest French Romantic painter) dragged an armchair out on the terrace so I could sit while he worked. I can tell you these things: circular saw, church bells, seagulls. A woman reading the newspaper on another terrace drinks coffee, coughs loudly. In the window catty-corner to Delacroix's, a neighbor peeks through the shutters. Fingers first, then a face, then the shutters again, pulled tight. 


Not fading out, but sort of doing that. In between days, like the pretty boys sang when I was all of eighteen in flowered skirts on the back of C.'s motorcycle. This is the alley between the library and the street where I'll live just a little longer. There are more scooters than motorcycles here. We're packing, culling. I get reckless with scissors when it comes to T-shirts. You won't believe how little I plan to carry back with me, or maybe that's one thing you do know about me. If nothing else, that girl likes her collarbones unburdened. I broke mine when I was five, falling off my parents' bed, so maybe it's one of those lucky-to-be-here syndromes. My bones are pleased to meet you. They appreciate your hospitality and enjoyed dinner very much. Especially the foie gras. All of it, god, it was franchement much more than enough. 

Amy doesn’t live here anymore

On the last day in Paris we were having a coffee at the café du coin on our street, when Claude, who sells flowers next door, brought in a bouquet of hot pink roses and handed them to me. We don't even know him, but he was pleased with some Converse J. left on the curb for some lucky stranger, in this case, Claude, and wanted to say au revoir and bon voyage and sorry we weren't sticking around. If you were looking for proof that Paris is Paris, I lend you mine.

The whole annotated photoset is here.

Forevermore at http://eyeshot.net/icibelk.html


The Most Recent Eyeshot Activity

Walden Cribs
By Jimmy Chen (10/24/09)

All About Eyeshot

The Complete Eyeshot Archive
Precisely Dated Since July 3, 2001 Plus Nondated Stuff Since 1999

All About the Seminal Semi-Literary Online Site on the Internet Known as "Eyeshot"
We Are 7'5'', 297 lbs, Blushing, Swervy, Salivicious, Aquarian

The Eyeshot "Gold Star Reserve" Collection
Some of the Best of Ten Years of Eyeshot-Brand Poignancy

The Readerly Resonance Chamber
Brief Impressions of New and Old Books

The Eyeshot Literary Escort Service
Smart Boys and Girls for Hire

Memoirs of a 24-Year-Old by Christophe Richardson
Specially Selected for Resurrection

Holy Crow! Submissions are Fit & Working Again