I forgot to go to chemo this morning, mostly because yesterday evening something heavy came out of the bottom of a box I was carrying and fell on my foot. By morning I was pretty sure I’d broken my big toe. It was blue, swollen, and though (or because) it didn’t hurt, Arielle persuaded me to go to a local urgent care facility. A hundred bucks later, I was told I’d fractured the toe. There is nothing to be done for that sort of injury. Back when I was doing martial arts regularly, I broke four toes over a dozen years, so it’s a familiar feeling.
But this isn’t a blog about chemo or toes.
After the doc-in-a-box, with chemo overlooked, I went to a local café for espresso and a bagel and at the table next to me where two women speaking French. They were both Moroccan and, like me, had lived in the US most of their lives. They were traveling to Paris later in the day. We all agreed that this was a typical Parisian day—rainy, on the cool side, the sort of morning you want to spend at a brasserie with a coffee and a croissant, watching people hurry by.
The women and I spoke of travel forty years ago, and travel now. We agreed that what was once a privileged pleasure and a positive experience has become drudgery; an unpleasant, time-consuming chore. Still, I envied them their trip. It’s been a few years since I was in my native city, and I could certainly go now save for a certain reticence. It’s true–you can’t go home again. Paris hasn’t been my home for more decades than I care to count. I would venture that the only thing that has remained the same is probably the weather.
Days like these make me long for a table at Shakespeare & Co. I go there every time I return to Europe, and I’ve learned to limit myself. It would be easy to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars there. I also go to my late father’s favorite restaurant near L’Opéra; to Montparnasse and Montmartre; to the Père Lachaise cemetery where years ago I scattered my parents’ ashes. I visit the Left Bank booksellers and hit a few museums. I own a sketch by a minor artist, Puvis de Chavanne, and last time I was in Paris, I discovered Puvis had been promoted to a room of his own at the Musée D’Orsay. Rain or shine, I walk a lot. In fact, aside from getting from airport to hotel, I seldom use any other form of propulsion. I eat in cheap restaurants. I occasionally pretend not to speak French. Other times, I pretend not to speak English.
I’m not sure why, but grey days in Paris are not as grey as they are elsewhere.