writing directly from my journal, photos taken by me
Cybelle was sleeping beside me, and at 8 am I woke her right up, needing to get out. We threw on sweaters over our pajamas and walked around the city as it was just yawning and stretching its legs.
We went to Lou Lou’s and were the first to grab a table. We cracked open our journals, got avocado toast and french fries to keep wine hangovers at bay. After an hour, Reni and Cami joined us and then Ciaffy. Cyb and i sat in that spot for a total of three hours, and watched the day get brighter and the tables fill up.
Jardin Du Luxembourg was the next destination, Cami led the way. A perfect pond in the middle with kids pushing toy sailboats out to the center— at the mercy of slight breezes. They would scamper over to their boat as it hit the rim, and then thrust it out again with a long stick. I watched them jump up and down with delight and thought of the simple pleasures of being little.
We sat on the curb, each of us scrawling away in our journals or tearing into a book. I could’ve sat there forever. We moved to different locations around the park and I spotted men smoking on benches amplified by light streaks coming through the tree branches.
The trees were just turning golden, but flowers were still in bloom. So much color and light painted across the park. We went to a nearby grocery store and picked up the usual spread for our picnic. By this time we had it down— you get the olives and artichokes, you get the hummus. You get the fruit. I’ll get the baguette.
We sat at a bench and flipped through some of Ciaffy’s vintage issues of Playboy. I held the mag out and spread the center fold and we admired girls in red patent leather as we passed a bottle of red wine around.
We walked back, Cami and I arm in arm, and broke away. We got lost among the streets of Paris. We stopped in front of Notre Dame to watch some break-dancing boys. Then I danced and twirled her around to some live music int he corner of the square. I want to say it was John Legend but I can’t be quite sure.
We got home right around the same time everyone else did and Cami said goodbye shortly after.
We were all so tired and unmotivated. I drew a bath and washed my hair. I ordered thai food and specified no egg, but it came anyway. We threw on our coats and gave the boxes of noodles to a woman sleeping on the street with her son in her lap— a refugee. I’m happy they got warm food that night.
Our mission was now the Eiffel Tower. We walked the entire way there and stopped to wave at boats carrying tourists down the Seine. The lights twinkled off the waves residual from police boats. It seemed like we were so far from the tower, then out of nowhere it sprung out in front of us, twinkling and winking and telling the tale of a thousand love stories all at once. It flaunted itself, centered square in the opening between the streets and seemed to know how beautiful it was.
Giddily— we sprinted down to it. I pictured a perfect night sitting on a blanket, dizzied by the height of the structure. We laid out a blanket, plopped down, and were asked by a peddler if we wanted any wine. “No thanks, we are good!” we said gesturing towards two bottles beside two chocolate bars. Another approached us a minute later. Then another and another. Our “no’s” got harsher and harsher. Until we were all screaming no at anyone carrying glowing trinkets within a 20 foot radius. After ten minutes, we decided we had enough. It was impossible to enjoy when someone was trying to get you to part with your euros every thirty seconds.
We walked back, taking gulps of wine in defeat. At some point we ended up at the Seine and Ciaffy flipped on her VHS. Drunk and wanting to be silly, we danced in the glowing shadow of the tower and dared each other to flash taxis zooming by. We to into a cab. Me, Ciaffy, and Cyb sat in the back and Reni in the front. We rolled down the windows and I hung my head out, lacing my fingers through the air. I looked across at Cyb doing the same thing, her long mermaid hair whipping in the breeze.
This is love.
This is youth.
We somehow made it back and changed into our “going out clothes”. Ciaffy donned a satin pink slip and a full fishnet suit under and Cyb put on a sheer dress with just underwear a la Kate Moss. I forget what I wore.
We went to two angels and were sat by another server. He didn’t take to our drunken antics in the same way Alex and Billie Jean did, but he brought us spritz. Ciaffy and Cyb vanished and Reni and I talked about loves, heartbreak, and if we will ever be able to fall out of love with someone.
Back home, Cyb and I came up with a plan— to go get croissants in the morning. We made a list on my phone of supplies we needed and set three alarms to make sure we got up. Ciaffy and Reni said as we went to bed, “guys! whoever wakes up first wakes the rest of us up!” “We promise!” Cyb and I replied winking at each other. I set our shoes and sweaters by the door for the morning.
This is how my brain works.
If I know I have to do something early I will wake up every 20 or 30 minutes in a panic that I overslept and missed it. So at 6 I had enough of my fitful sleeping and just lay awake. The first alarm for 7:50 startled me, and I tried to silence it before Ciaffy and Reni woke up. I saw Reni had heard, and confused she got up to check to see if it was hers. Shit, I hope she goes back to sleep. I saw her turn into the other room and back on the couch. I squeezed Cyb’s hand and her eyes fluttered open. I put a finger to my lips and typed out on my phone, explaining we should wait another fifteen minutes to make sure Reni falls back asleep. She nodded and cuddled up to me, her mascara stained her under eyes and her hair and the bed sheets smelled like Rosé residue.
After fifteen minutes, I gave Cybelle my jeans to wear, a sweater, and grabbed my bag and shoes I set near the door.
We made it out.
But not quite.
“Shit,” I said, “My phone.” I left it up in the room, so not only were we not going to be able to get directions, the alarm was also going to go off two more times and they were most definitely going to realize that we were gone. Cyb ran up and grabbed it. And now we were on our way.
We hit the cobblestone and Cyb turned to me, eyes sunken and said, “I’m going to vomit.” We stopped for a bottle of water and went in the direction we thought was right, except it wasn’t. I reached in my bag for my phone and realized it was gone. I left it at the fruit stand we just bought water at because I was probably still drunk.
We went back and got it, off to a rocky start. I tried to connect to wi-fi for directions but nothing was working. We scanned Saint Antoine for a cafe with wifi and spotted one. i ordered and espresso and the code for the wifi in the same sentence. “You will get it with the bill,” he said as he went around the bar to crank up the espresso machine. Perfect.
I tried to type the code into my phone and at 50% battery it decided to die. No, no, no! For a futile ten minutes I tried to turn my phone on again, whispering “you can do this.” It could’t.
I put a two euro coin on the table and left. We desperately asked every passerby where Gentle Gourmet was, no one understood, and not many people passed by. At 9 am on a weekend Paris is dead, and won’t wake up until at least noon. Besides us, the only people up were cafe owners and shopkeepers. We popped into a Fromagerie and both asked cacophonously where Gentle Gourmet was. The two workers looked to each other, and the girl took pity on us, grabbing her phone to enter the name into her maps. Just a right and then a left. Less than a kilometer away. But we had already wasted so much time, and if we were gone when they woke, it would ruin the entire plan.
We rented bikes from a rack in the middle of the square and had difficulty getting them out. When we finally did, the spokes were wonky, making a threatening “ca-kunk, ca-kunk” sound. We pulled over and Cyb pulled out her Portland skills, bending the fender back into place. Nothing was going our way but we kept in high spirits.
The bike ride was beautiful— streams of golden light ricocheting through alley ways and we crossed a bridge with sailboats docked along a strand below. We got a box of four plain and four pan chocolate, and ate one plain right away. It was well worth it. So flaky, buttery, and yes— VEGAN.
We biked by the Seine and wanted to pick up bath bombs and bubble bars too. We got on up on the sidewalk, the streets still wet with rain from the night before, and the bike slipped out from under Cyb, sending her and the box of croissants smack into the streets. With her cheek still pressed to the ground and bike trapping her, she screamed, “ARE THE CROISSANTS OKAY!?” They were.
She rubbed her bruises from her spill and gave a weary smile. We were pushing our luck with lush and decided to just head home. But of course, we got back, bought flowers and fruit from the stands adjacent to our place, and realized we had forgotten the code for the entry way. It was now 10:00 and we were really pushing our luck. I tried a combination of letters and numbers that sounded right to me, but the door kept shut. I remembered I wrote it down in my phone. I turned it on, then off, repeating and repeating until I caught a split second glimpse before the screen went black.
We went up and burst through the door. They asked “where did you go?” Ciaffy and Ren were both barely waking up. We rushed them out to grab coffee as we cleaned the entire apartment and prepared brunch. It came together, looking like a perfect Parisienne bed and breakfast tray.
We happily shared brunch, and they laughed at our story. The hangover started to hit, and Cyb and I got in bed and napped until 2 pm, when we went to go meet up with Naomie, a french woman who runs a vegan account on instagram, @parisbyvegan.
We met just down the street at the Scottish museum to see some feminist cartoon art centered around menstruation. Even though it was not in my language the message was universal.
Naomie then took us to the Picasso museum. We took out in the rain, all sharing one umbrella. I felt bad for Reni, her sweater was thin and clung to her skin. But I would wait in line for hours in the rain to see Picasso. We saw four floors of art that ranged from what you would expect, to the blue period, to sculpture and mixed media, and black and white video installations. Cyb and I stood in front of paintings and discussed color, movement, and mood. She commented on how the pieces had such emotional depth but this childlike nuanced view of the world. He saw what others did not. That really struck me.
After we briefly stalled for fries and then made our way to a traditional french vegan restaurant. We split french onion soup, “beef” stew, spinach lasagna, creme brûlée, and chocolate mousse. The entire evening was so lovely.
I got home and thought I was tired but I was really just tired of talking to people. I snuck off to my room and laid awake for hours daydreaming about what it might be like to be a regular in a coffee shop, have artist friends who pop in as they please, train rides to the south of France, and being… almost french. Maybe studying language, or writing, or history, or art, and learning how to make a vegan croissant.
I’m in Pére Lechaise, drunk and sitting by Oscar Wilde’s gravestone. I’ve taken loads of film photos and “smoked” three cigarettes. I really just let them burn in-between my fingers and watched the smoke twist up into the air. I tried holding them in front of the camera lens in hopes of capturing ghostly images.
This morning, Cyb made us french toast with a baguette, slathered in dark chocolate chunks paired with dollops of raspberry jam, and drizzled with warm maple syrup from a crystal candy bowl. On the side she cooked some coconut oil potatoes and onions and orange mimosas. After breakfast, I was too tired and crawled into bed with the intention of reading “M Train” but I finished half of a page. I put on a playlist and dozed off with Cybelle in my arms— a little angel.
Waking up was hard to do. A 20 minute alarm. A 15 minute one. A 13 minute one. A 12 minute one. Finally, I rose, threw on my Calvins, a striped turtle neck, Cybelle’s shoes with ribbed white socks that I have been wearing for days, and a fluffy periwinkle jacket. I walked 2 miles to the cemetery, everyone else had gift shopping to do and was unable to tag along.
On my walk I tucked between two carnival esque stands that you would find at an American state fair. Giant plastic vanilla swirl ice cream cones displayed outside one, and twinkly orange and pink lights outside the other. On my left, I passed a neon sign— a man’s abstract face being zapped with a lightning bolt from the left. I passed grocery stores, drug stores with colorful gummy candy in plastic boxes by the register. I tried to gather my cemetery supplies— wine, cigarettes, and flowers.I popped into a few shops but none of them took card and I wasn’t willing to get out more colored notes seeing as I was leaving tomorrow. I finally found a convenience store that had the size wine bottle I wanted, 350 ml bottle of 2013 bordeaux for 3 euro. I got a lighter and a pack of Marlboro 27s. Thankfully, the back was a photo of two people in bed with their arms crossed. A french caption saying something about how cigarettes ruin your sex life. Not a photo of blackened lungs or an exposed larynx. Not that I would smoke them, it would just kill the romanticism of them.
I shoved it all in my backpack that I got from a small town in Italy the year before. I told my mom I felt weird buying leather. It’s someone else’s skin, I said. So she bought it for her, going on and on about how it would ward off pick pockets. (It does, the pocket is in the back and the main compartment is complex with two ways to secure it.) I wandered to the cemetery.
The leaves are dying and so so beautiful. There are just as many trees as headstones here, maybe even more. Yellows, reds, light green, gold. Not yet crunch and brown, in more early stages of lifelessness. Still so vibrant. A lane I looked down was coated in yellow leaves like a first snow of winter. I snapped away on my film camera, thinking about the adjacency of falling leaves and final resting places.
I went to Jim Morrison first. It would’ve been impossible to find if not for a small crowd of people. It is sandwiched between massive seven foot monuments and is quite humble in comparison, but is covered in bouquets. Someone had wrapped their headphones around the fence protecting it. Many stopped, stared, and pointed. I waited until everybody left and there was a gap in the crowd. I was alone with Jim, and put on my headphones and listened to The Spy. As he said “I know your deepest, secret fear,” I took off my lapis ring and threw it to his grave. I stayed there, staring, until a couple excitedly approached the dead man’s personal space. Their pointer fingers pierced into the air. I blew Jim a kiss and left him to be with the couple.
I gained elevation. I found a spot no one was particularly interested in and sat on steps. I got out my personal bordeaux, realizing it wasn’t a twist off. I searched the ground for a sturdy stick. It took three different ones, but pushing in, I popped the cork down so it was bobbing in the bloody red bordeaux. My first sip was filled with clumps of dirt— residual from the tools I used to a chess it. I spat it onto the soil and after that it was fine.
I sat and listened to Tiare’s voicemails I still had saved on my phone and glugged down the wine. It was undeniably bad wine, so with two inches left, I tipped it and watched the blood red liquid dribble down granite stair steps. I got up and began to wander more. This cemetery is huge.
I found another visitors slat with names of people who had died that you might care about as a tourist or would want to take a photo in front of to show friends. I scanned names. Chopin? Degas? Wilde? Wilde. 89, 83.
I aimed there, the bordeaux started to filter into my bloodstream and the world seemed hazy. Rain trickling down and the sky like a lavender pearl. Perfect cemetery weather. I walked and wandered. Section… 96… 92… Where was 89? I saw a red rose lying in wet grass and not on anyone’s grave in particular. I picked it up and said a prayer for whoever it was meant for, and walked to Oscar Wilde.
I finally found him— a large, light, ridged tomb with an Egyptian woman on top. Her long feathered headdress steaming behind her. I wondered why this headstone was chosen— it didn’t seem to jive with what Wilde represents to me.
Many people took pictures out from. I kept my camera in my bag. this rigid, effeminate, Egyptian tomb guarded by steel and a glass case? It wasn’t right. I stripped the thorns off of my rose as a gesture of sympathy.
A girl in a yellow rain coat and red galoshes stepped forward to snap a photo. “I will remember you for your words,” I thought. Once everyone had left, I tossed the rose over the glass shield. It nestled at the base of this large granite eyesore. The only pretty thing about it was it’s location, along a cobblestone walkway gilded by golden trees. Each end of the path curved down, looking like a walk into the abyss on either side. A walk towards infinity indeed.
-Peking King and the New York Queen, The Doors