La Flâneuse, Wanderlust

After Midnight in Paris

That’s okay. I don’t mind getting wet. Paris is the most beautiful in the rain — Midnight in Paris

I tell them I’ll walk the rest of the way alone though it is approaching midnight and the rain has started to fall. I am in the 11th arrondissement, near Rue Oberkampf, more than two miles away from my apartment in the 6th. But there’s something about walking home at night in Paris in the rain. There’s something about the urban night that beckons la flâneuse, seduces her, something that promises her sanctity through anonymity.

Although winter is looming, tonight’s rainfall isn’t problematic; it’s just a light glossing. Pedestrians don’t seem bothered, even when it starts to pick up in intensity, even when the wind begins to blow, and I quickly abandon my battle with my already-broken umbrella and embrace getting wet.

Boulevard Richard Lenoir is quiet, though not entirely deserted, with couples walking arm-in-arm on their way to or from. I pass a tiny bar, empty except for a group of three women dancing outrageously to disco music, the heat from their bodies pelleting the steamy window. Out front, a woman in a black trench coat and black boots sits in idle solitude at a table. She holds a cell phone in one hand, a cigarette in the other. I cross the street to the tree-lined median, walking beneath the uncovered stalls of the Marché Bastille that in just a few hours will be open to sell fruits and vegetables, soaps and scarves, olives and sausages. But for now the median is near deserted, the silence only interrupted by the background hum of traffic, the whisper of the rain, and the occasional spurt of laughter coming from the shades. Things liven up as I approach the bright and bustling intersection at Place de la Bastille, and I clip the edge of the Le Marais, quickly passing closed shops on Rue de Rivoli before turning down a side street, heading for the Seine.

I cross the river at Pont Marie, walking through the center of Ile Saint-Louis. On Pont de la Tournelle, I stop to watch the distant spinning spotlight at the Eiffel Tower. Just ahead, on Ile de la Cité, Notre Dame sleeps in silhouette. The river prances in a rainbow of light, shadows mutating on the water’s surface in harmony with the rain.

Back on the Left Bank, I stroll along the Quai de la Tournelle in front of the green Bouquiniste book stalls that are closed for the night, getting replenished by the rain. Across the street, I see a man and a woman huddled together, taking shelter in a covered shop doorway. I hear the clink of glass as it hits pavement. I hear their laughter.

At the cafés surrounding Place St. Michel I pass couples sitting under table lamps who linger over bottles of wine and Coca Cola. I enter the Latin Quarter, with its crooked, crowded streets. I’m hit by the heat from the open bars and restaurants that spills onto the asphalt. Outside, people keep warm with falafel and cell phones and cigarettes. I walk alongside a group of men in leather jackets and peg-legged jeans and women in five-inch silver platforms and spaghetti straps. And I’m thinking, as I eye the beads of water that congregate on the women’s bare shoulders, that they must be freezing until I remember the times when I was young and lovely and wore inappropriate shoes and inappropriate straps, and the weather was inconsequential when a handsome man in a leather jacket put his hand on the small of my back.

I pass them now on the shimmering streets, these lovely women and their handsome men, and I know they don’t even notice me. But I find comfort in my invisibility this night as I weave my way between the masses, the cacophony of music and light and voices and smoke and rain somehow melding into something that makes sense only in Paris, something that helps guide me to home.

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2 thoughts on “After Midnight in Paris

  1. Oh, I love this one! Your writing is always good, of course, but here I feel your powers of description are at their height. I was right there with you (except for the part of me that was sad I wasn’t right there with you!).

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