I think… I might be? Superman.
Back in Lille, one friend I made advised me that if I’m going to Paris, I must fulfill all of the French clichés. ‘Have cheese and wine by the Eiffel tower’, she told me, ‘walk the streets at midnight’, and ‘have a French kiss’.
Well the first two were easy. Although admittedly, I didn’t want to waste my money on wine, so I just listened to Iron & Wine instead. Also I didn’t want to waste my time on seeing useless architecture so I count the Iron part of that musician as being the Iron from the Eiffel tower. Whatever, I got it done. I did get a little lost on the streets around midnight while I was looking for a place to set up my tent and rest. My bike was locked up against a rail somewhere, but all I needed to find was some small park with a few trees and that would do me for the night – so walking was okay. A pair American tourists stopped me and asked me for the directions to the nearest metro. Instead of answering I decided to stare at them in silence and see how long it would take for them to leave… 57 seconds.
As for the third goal… Let me impress you, by explaining how easily I got a French girl’s number, just the other day.
She approached me.
Good start, I know. Hold up hold up, I hear your howling, let me tell the story.
So she approached me. I was on a low chair with my laptop typing what was to be the third post I discarded yesterday. She leaned down towards me and spoke. Sentences. I can confirm, there were multiple sentences involved. And she definitely used the word ‘telephone’ at least twice.
I figured she was using that ‘French language’ technology to communicate with me. So I pointed at the socket my computer was plugged into, assuming she wanted to charge her phone. But I was only pointing out of courtesy. I was ready to fight her to protect my socket.
‘No’, she said, shaking her head. And her eyes widened a little bit when she realised I was one of those English-speaking creatures.
‘I have lost my telephone!’ she said. ‘Can I use yours to call mine, to see if someone answers – so I can find it’.
‘Sure’, I said. So she did. And no one answered. I was pretty sure someone ate her phone, or maybe threw it down the toilet in the name of boy-ish jealousy. That’s what I would do. If I was a prick.
Anyway, where-ever her phone was, its number was now on my phone, because of the call log. This is how you get a girl’s number. Feel free to refer to me as ‘Dear Nate-y’ in comments, and tell me your romantic woes. I’m sure I have the solution to everything. I was to meet her again, but I admit that we did not even hug.
While she was speaking, I observed the twenty-something girl’s heavy grey jumper. She had sweat stains under her arm-pits. A young, attractive girl, wearing no make-up and walking around with sweat-stains. I instantly fell in love, so I told her I’d help her find her phone.
Of course I didn’t get up from my chair, no-no. That would be creepy, probably. So instead I said I’d call her phone again in a few hours and see if someone would answer then.
I did, and a woman answered.
‘Hello. Je pense, mon ami, perdu, la mobile.’
‘Ah? Ah! Ouais! You are the Englishman!’
‘Irish’, I answered.
‘Yes, I have found my phone! Thank you!’
I waited about five seconds. Yes, indeed, this was sweat-stains girl. Why did I take so long to fully realise that?
‘Yes, thank you’, she awkwardly repeated.
I waited again. I estimate three seconds.
‘Want to go to a movie?’ I asked.
‘To a movie. There is a cinema outside the library.’
‘Oh – ehhh.’
‘À vingt heures. When the library closes.’
‘Oh, ahh,’ she began to laugh.
‘Oh, I mean – aha, why not?’
‘Yeah, why not.’
‘See you then.’
I wasn’t sure what movies she would like. I wasn’t sure what movies I would like. In France, almost all cinema movies are dubbed-over, because English is for losers. And English people. English people are losers. I decided upon a movie neither of us would understand; After the Storm, a Japanese film about what-ever-the-fuck-I-wanted-it-to-be-about-because-I-couldn’t-understand-the-dialogue. Unfortunately, it had French subtitles (big surprise!) so my neither-of-us-understanding wasn’t actually going to work out.
‘What kind of movies do you usually watch?’ I asked her when we met at the entrance.
‘Oh well, you know, I usually go to the movies with my friends, so you know, Marvel and stuff.’
It was at this point that I realised that this girl had terrible sweat-stains. How horrid.
But whatever, I could look past a shitty-horrendously-bad-fucking-should-be-buried-a-hundred-feet-beneath-the-Earth-kind-of-trash-film taste. Actually I couldn’t. The mention of Disney or Marvel upsets my soul. It seriously makes me emotional. I’ve watched a man die and didn’t twitch an eye. But I can’t stand the thought of someone liking Marvel.
But things could still be okay; she only said she goes to Marvel with friends, that didn’t specifically mean she liked them. Anyway, she had Marvel, I had a huge fucking bag on my back with a sleeping-bag and tent attached the side. No-one’s perfect~!
She yawned a bit through the film but said it was okay. I asked her if she wanted my arm around her. She said she didn’t want anything.
When we came out it was raining, raining in Paris. Was that on the cliché list? I can’t remember. We took shelter beneath a bridge and watched the passer-bys. I didn’t say much, so neither did she.
Above the National French library are towers made from glass. This sounds like an impressive sight, but because it’s France, they decided to put a layer of wood behind the glass, so you can’t see most of what’s inside. Only, from the bridge, one can see the side of one of the buildings, which has a series of stairs, going from left – to right – to left – to right, all the way up to the top. It was 10.30 p.m; the stairs were illuminated by light. Inside the building, a man in a suit was climbing the stairs. He was one quarter of the way up the building. I pointed him out to Marvel-girl.
So we watched the man climb to the top of Paris.
‘Isn’t that funny?’ she asked.
‘Maybe’, I answered, and she laughed.
He climbed another set, from right, to left. He turned and began the next stairwell, from left, to right. He had a briefcase in his right hand.
‘What do you think is in the case?’ she asked.
‘Maybe he’s bringing something to the top’, I speculated.
She looked at me, laughed again, and playfully bumped my elbow. ‘Yeah, maybe.’
‘Like binoculars’, I continued. ‘I would take binoculars to the top.’
I nodded, then realised I was on a date. ‘What would you bring?’
‘Hmm’, she looked up thoughtfully.
I realised if this was a movie she’d say ‘you’. She didn’t say ‘you’.
‘I don’t know… I will have to think about that.’
Actually in the movie the man would say ‘you’. I’d been practising my rumbly Hollywood voice recently. I’m sure I’d say a great ‘you’.
‘I think perhaps he is lost. Perhaps he is in the wrong building, and hasn’t realised it yet. He will have to walk down the stairs all over again, and walk outside in the rain. He will be in the rain and we will be under this bridge. Then he will enter the other building, and he will climb the stairs again. And when he reaches the top, he will feel certain of himself. Like he’s on the right path in life.’
‘Then maybe he will look to the first tower’, she said.
I finished for her.
‘And realise he forgot his briefcase.’
We both nodded, twice. And we stared at the man. He was three flights of stairs from the top.
She snapped her fingers,
‘Oh! I know what I would bring to the top!’ she said.