We sat by the park just behind Notre-dame cathedral. It was a cool day, an incredibly freezing but fresh winter morning. It made all people flee from the stress letting us to enjoy fully this emptiness of the city, recreating the atmosphere you may often find in books and films about Paris.
‘Quite scary, isn’t it?’ – Albert said looking up.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, look at him starring at you…’ – he was pointing at the Gargoyle on the very top.
‘Yeah, they are a bit..’ – I disagreed in my mind but said nothing.
‘Well, they are actually quite functional, they mean to catch the rain before it would get to the cathedral, its quite a sensitive construction. You know?’
We both now had our heads up staring up like little birds waiting for mum to feed us.
‘I don’t find it scary at all – I said whilst still looking up – it is weird that people call it really dark and gothic, its probably one of the lightest building I’ve seen, remember last night, on our walk, absolutely beautiful?’
‘Ah, you right, there is something charming here. But I still prefer London. Maybe I feel that Paris is bit feminine for me, don’t know how to explain, its slightly over the top, everything is so grand..’
‘Feminine equals over the top?’ – I said to myself but out loud said instead – ‘Well, I like it, people look charming and the food, pace of life.. something we forget to enjoy back home.’
‘Well, you certainly only see one side of the coin. You know that things here aren’t as perfect and once you leave the centre of Paris , all these romantic bits you adore so much will disappear, phew! – he waved his hand.
‘Sure, you are right, as anywhere else.’ – I turned my head deciding not to carry on with this, I was not in the mood for arguing and just wanted to live a moment longer in this rather illusionary piece of experience.
‘You like to always spoil everything, are you?’ – I said but laughed, I did mean it but did not want it to sound too truthful he also took it as a joke, after all I don’t want to spoil our long weekend myself. In the end, our nights in Paris were quite charming indeed, we stayed out late, have tasted amazing wine and eat late dinners, enjoyed late jazz music and dancing as if we transported into some very different universe…
‘Postcards, postcards!’ – old lady was passing by. Don’t think I ever seen anyone actually passing by and selling postcards like this. She held a pile of quite worn out mini carton pictures and photographs of the city.
‘Get one for your lady, would you, you lovely English fella? – Albert, smiling at her French accent said: ‘Alright, lets see what you’ve got here…’
She passed him a pile and he gently scrolled down a few cards – ‘This one!’
‘A tenner? You must be kidding me!?’
‘Kidding, what is? Do not understand! Do not be angry English man. Want or not want?’
‘Well, first of all, – he said angrily – ‘I am not English, I am Scot..’
‘Albert!- I said calmly yet interrupting – please.., just get the card’
‘Alright, alright.’ – ‘Told you, you only see one side of the coin. These people are just everywhere, needing money, attention, unbelievable!’
‘She just wanted to make a bit of money, that’s all, you do not know her life and why she is here.. after all, could be a little souvenir from our trip, show me which one you got?’
He chosen one which has two young girls on it, dressed in white dresses, they looked as if they were photographed somewhere not far from where we were just sitting. Perhaps there, under the bridge.
‘Is one of them getting married?’ – I asked, not really sure what was happening.
‘Not, not at all, they are on their way to be inaugurated into Catholic church, probably. Look at their shoes, and the crosses, looks like 60s or something…’ – he did not look like he knew what was happening either.
‘Ah, they look so young, fresh and happy. ‘ – I said, taking postcard out of his hand.
‘You seem a bit sad finding out that they are not getting married after all?’
The did look indeed as if one of them was about to marry, they wore beautiful white cloths and their eyes were fulfilled with high expectations, anticipations of a new stage in their lives, excitement, maybe. One of them was holding the dress for the girl in front, it looked as if it was summer.
‘Just don’t know, guess we live in the age where it may sound weird just to give away your youth and life to the church…maybe not.. we’ve grown to be so liberal..’ – I did not want to sound to judgmental but felt some sort of unfairness to these two little girls.
‘Well, how is that different from marriage, which seems like a better option for you I guess?’
‘What do you mean?’ – I looked at him without smile this time.
‘Well, could say it the same as marriage really, only they are marrying themselves into church, relationship with God…same commitment really, same excitement too, I suppose. Commitment for responsibility and devotion, new things always seem exciting as if everything from now on will be better. In truth, everything turns out to be the same thing more or less as it was before or worse, if too unlucky..’ he said it as if to himself, mumbling the last bits of his speech.
I did not say anything. What did he mean, did he mean that our marriage is also is like this ‘same thing more or less or worse’.
‘Some people just need commitments of all sorts to convince themselves their life have some meaning,..’ he continued.
I did not say anything.
‘It’s a bit cold, don’t you think?’ – I said after a pause to get us moving.
‘Why don’t we take a walk then?’
We walked around the park which felt deserted as no one was really there. I did not talk to Albert, instead I travelled somewhere else in my mind, where it felt warmer.
‘You are a bit absent are you? Or you are so cold that your mind froze?’- he laughed.
He knew I was feeling cold, he could have offered something, a hug, or warm hand, instead he starred somewhere else himself, laughed with the laugh which made me feel even colder. Here we are, in Paris, for our marriage anniversary and even though we are talking, we are not any different from some two strangers passing in the street…