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  • I am in Paris for the first time ... it’s to see my daughter who is living there for the summer, a good excuse to experience what I have been led to believe is the epitome of all cities. Everywhere the trees shimmer in the sun, the river laps against its containment as if it doesn’t mind anymore. It is a glittering, glimmering, exquisiteness of a place, but, I will tell you truly, Paris does not love me. In fact, I have never been so little loved by any town before. Everywhere I go I am derided and dismissed. I understand nothing. Laughed at by the man who sells tickets in the Metro for my sorry accent. Cheated by the woman pharmacist who hates my guts for needing a band-aid. Overcharged by the supercilious waiter who brings my thimble of coffee to a sidewalk table, and I sip it with the lips of a tiny bee, renting the chair for as long as I can make it last. Ignored, ridiculed, insulted, I am walking along the river trying to be small enough, looking down at unpronounceable words that fall around my feet unmet. Particularly, I am trying not to speak around the locals. In Paris I am a little bee-lipped mute in her succubus thrall.

    Cars are thick on the boulevard, but I decide to go across and walk around the Tuileries. I don’t know anything about the Tuileries but they are over there and I cross, with some difficulty, and get to the great square that is filled with galaxies of multi-tongued tourists. Suddenly, there is a ruckus in the far corner of the square: a man, running insanely, as if on fire. If it were after the twin towers fell, all of us might run away in alarm, but it is before, and many heads turn to watch his erratic churning. He seems to be coming in my direction and I stand stock still as he nears. Indeed, he skids to a stop right in front of me! Even before I can register anything, he begins talking, very agitatedly, in English, “I was fulloweeng you! I fullow you! I cannot find aneee parrk-eeng! You weel not look at mee! I was trying to make you see me!” Gesturing back toward where he just ran from he goes on, “I poot the cahrr verry farr...! I was run-neeng!” he turns back to me, and with a beseeching look on his face, drops to his knees and cries out passionately, “You are so beeyooti-fool! I want to marrreee you!” You know, he is not a handsome man, not an elegant man, but I tell you, I am looking at a sincere man. I am looking, honestly, at a man who expects an answer.

    “Please get up, sir!” I say, so embarrassed I could drill a hole in the cement with my feet and spiral into it. And at the same time thinking: In a city like Paris, a Frenchman is a good idea.

    July 2006
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