I spotted him as we approached the intersection. Nervously he shuffled to and fro before the ATM machine. Normally I would have crossed to the sidewalk opposite him, but the shadowy blackness of the Palais Royal corridor suggested he would be far less dangerous than the unknown — and unseen — that possibly lurked within.
My daughter and I paused to window shop at a shoe store on the corner to give him an opportunity to move on. But still he loitered and pretended not to watch us watch him. As we approached, he fidgeted and crossed over into the darkness I’d chosen to avoid. But as we rounded the corner he changed course and resumed following in our footsteps.
We drew our bags in closer as we paused and turned to let him know he had not gone undetected. Again he disappeared into the shadows.
And again he reappeared.
“Mom, walk ahead of me and be prepared to run.”
Somewhere in the universe a tone arm skidded across an old 78 and a legion of mother grizzlies rose onto their hind legs and roared. Was she friggin’ kidding me? Apparently the patissier was a little heavy-handed with the amaretto in the tiramisu she’d just devoured for dessert. I realize I’ve mellowed a bit in the thirty or so years since she was 3, but I can’t imagine in what universe — even at her insistence — I’d abandon her to face a mugger alone. At that point my adrenaline so runneth over, it poured from my flaring nostrils. My earrings were off — well, actually, I hadn’t worn any — and I was ready to kick. some. butt. How dare he threaten my child! Bring it on, Pee-yair!
Whichever of the patron saints looks after thieves apparently interceded and suggested to our nemesis that he take the evening off — lest he be forcibly retired — as he wisely chose to disappear from sight a final time.
As much as I love Paris, on this third visit I’ve seen a darker side of the city of lights.
On our way to the market yesterday, we detoured onto the street to avoid stepping over a derelict decorating the sidewalk. As black as the night, he just lay there on his side — stretched out from building to curb — his head resting on a wadded up shopping bag. Apparently his pants had disturbed his sleep as he’d lowered them to just beneath that which they were intended to cover. We’d hoped that by the time we’d finished our shopping he’d have finished his nap, however, he’d simply made himself more comfortable by rolling onto his back. I had serious second thoughts about the sausage I’d just purchased as I passed this unwelcome — and unappetizing — display of his.
One of my greatest pleasures in this city so full of the history is the architecture of the older parts of the city. Many of my sisters have shoe fixations, however I harbor fetishes of Paris’ incredibly beautiful ceilings and doors. While I love experiencing up close and personal the artwork in its museums — pieces before I’d only seen in photographs — the beauty of those works pales in comparison to that of the buildings that house it. However, that which I love so much about the Premier Arrondissement — the area that is home to the Louvre, the Tuileries and the Palais Royal (our home when we visit) — is now marred with graffiti. I realize there are some who consider it art. To me it’s simply garbage. Garbage that destroys the city’s true artwork.
But still I love Paris.
The most incredible meals my palate has ever enjoyed — okay, outside my own kitchen — have been in this place. Some of the most beautiful sights my eyes have beheld have been in this place. Some of the most wonderful times I’ve enjoyed with my daughters have been in this place.
And muggers be forewarned — I shall return.