The vista outside the counter posed weather beaten Beax Arts wooden doors at the bottom of the stairs to 76 seemed a postage stamp of much of Paris. A proliferation of ornate iron balconies protecting limestone framed openings, the uniformity of same in contradiction to the jumble of small businesses at street level. Odd collections of entrepreneurs and national franchises attending to every local need of the neighborhood residents anonymously sheltered within. A strange sense of privacy emboldened in unaccountably similar aeries pretty much the same all throughout much of the older parts of town. A long lasting ongoing fiction of a life lived within the context of “how it once was” dutifully appreciated. The prevailing goods on hand based upon ‘looking good’, ‘eating good’, ‘smelling good’ and having easy access to one’s finances to purchase it. That particular sense of national urban esprit in force throughout that demanded both wit and taste in every part of the experience of one’s life of a resident without outwardly ascribing to bourgeois aspirations.
Sandrine and Harry walked out nearly alone down the avenue together in the grayness of another Sunday morning haunting their footfalls the echo rebounding upon an otherwise empty street. Walking side by side over to the next block Harry choked with unexpected nostalgia when he unexpectedly caught sight of an Office Depot’s garish sign. Its banality plastered unrepentantly across a classic Parisian art Deco limestone facade. The two continued past without comment on the opposite side, the double story edifice of tall iron barred windows protecting the local neighborhood fine art college from potential assault. The architecture seemed to share much in common with that of a prison. Harry considered the disparity of his typically American romantic notions about Paris. The ones fostered in a hundred Hollywood movies. The reality of the place was inconvenient at best! Sometimes very strange overwhelming realities that were generally accepted by the indigenous population as mundane and without comment. He felt Sandrine take his hand in hers and he abruptly looked over. The simple act seemed almost psychic as if she was reading his mind and the turbulence within. Was this the reality of the typical French female persona he wondered, “To run both hot and cold at the same time in ceaseless contradiction?” Wanting intimacy and rejecting any overt demonstration of it outright!
A group of Middle Eastern adolescents suddenly came running down a side street gallerie. Harry reflexively swung and arm out and pushed Sandrine back against the wall behind him, preparing in an instantaneously cavalier fashion to take on the brunt of the onslaught. A swarthy ensemble of youths tumbled by dressed in the mismatch of the resident North African bargain goods. The fast approaching clatter of a slightly better accoutered posse of French youth hot on their heels. One of the tow haired lads tumbling carelessly hyperactive into the couple tossing off a rapid “Excusez-moi, madame !“ The erratic clap clop from the multiple hooves of these natural assailants diminishing almost as quickly as they had originally been summoned to the ear. “Où sont les flic?“, Harry heard his female companion hiss vehemently. He turned towards her seeing sparks flash from her dark eyes. “Chiens arabes baise!”, she spit out loudly for his benefit. The ironic counterpoint of a distant descending police siren passing far off as they cut back on the main Rue at the far end of the next block. “Rue Epee de Bois”, the street sign back at the corner had announced. The streets of Paris had not abandoned the panache of the potential of mortal danger long spoken through the characters of A. Dumas. Two large cafes stood like guard posts where the Rue Monge abruptly expanded into an avenue of double lanes. “Traiteur”, the ornate script imprinted upon the canvas ribbon announced at the edge of the corner bordering the change of traffic flow. People were restless milling about the points of the five corners. The tables at the opposing cafes conspicuously empty. “Is that caterer or traitor?”, Harry asked frivolously without measuring his tongue. The ongoing silence of the woman was becoming maddening. It was like being handcuffed to a steam boiler ready to explode but unable to find the proper valve to get it to vent.
The purchase of baguettes was scrupulously aseptic with no apparent emotion betrayed by either party. No extra words were wasted nor was the accompanying effort by the attendant superfluous in any sense of the term superfluous. The purchase was conducted with a level of competence demonstrated by the counter caissière that would have comforted the skepticism any naturally querulous owner. The walk back to the apartment was equally terse at the market that they had passed two blocks previous. Harry had not bothered to offer a word to his companion but simply by the opened his wallet and presented a few Euro notes at the second counter. When they returned up the stairs, his companion opened a bottle of wine. Once more without more than simple inquiries as to the details of his culinary peculiarities she cooked them an omelet. They watched the local channel BFMTV that hosted a number of bureaucrats attempting to keep their cool answering to customary accusations leveled at their organizations attempting to avoid further hint of scandal. The convenience of hindsight had encouraged the media to laser focus on the most vulnerable targets of responsibility who had to the context of the public ire had failed in their responsibility in some way. Well-practiced performances or measured outrage fenced with mock sincerity. Every gap in performance the authorities that had since been brought to light in the news was now being set upon by the moderator by whose rhetoric reminded one of a voracious eagle swooping down upon a frightened rodent. The televised similarity of the featured ‘accused’ was remarkably exact!
The spectacle on TV might have seemed hilarious to Harry but he felt himself becoming demonstrably nervous. A slight sense of nausea had quelled his appetite and he excused himself repairing without any hesitation to Sandrine’s bedroom to lie down. He lay upon his side there like an adolescent listening imperfectly to the conversation continuing wishing for the relief of a commercial. Her silhouette suddenly filled the doorway and she crawled into his arms curling up like an unprotected Armadillo pulling his arm around her tightly expecting his comfort like a temporary shell. “It kills me too!”, she said, “I’m sorry, I know that I am driving you crazy, but I need you right now!” The audio of the televised narrative continued uninterrupted in the next room. Point countered with a blocking comment. Official policy recited pushed back by even more wearing questions. Her heart beat through his forearm like an excited bird’s The crescendo of repressed emotions suddenly exploding into her corkscrewing around roughly cradling his face in both her hands her lips wet and violently restless upon his own.