II. paris

postcards from france

Leah and I have a week off from our classes at the American College Program of Provence, and we have met my friend Will in Paris. It is night, the October streets are full of people, and after drinks in the Latin Quarter we are going to see the Eiffel Tower. The métro is still running, shuffling back and forth across the City of Light those accidental Parisian revelers who are not even aware that it is Halloween, something of a peculiarity to non-Americans. I haven't been trick-or-treating since I was a kid, and don't particularly like the drunk college Halloween parties that have recently marked the holiday, but for some reason I miss just having the possibility of disguising myself this year.

The tower is still blocked from us by the tawny apartment buildings, and Leah turns to me as we prepare to cross one last street before our view is clear. She has never seen the Eiffel Tower before, never even been to Paris, and the excitement reflects in her eyes like the twinkling, spinning lights that are illuminating the city. As someone who tends to keep something of a perpetually calm exterior, I like how openly excited she gets about these kinds of things.

We are about to take our first step onto the empty road when a Frenchman on rollerblades zooms in front of me from the right. And then another, and another. Soon there is a whole crowd of them whizzing by under the golden light of the street lamps, some wearing spandex shorts, others in helmets, one is still in a suit and clutching his briefcase from work just a handful of hours before. And then there are costumes, too, lots of them for the holiday. I catch sight of a man dressed like a sandwich, and the slices of cardboard bread are so wonderfully out-of-nowhere and unexpected that I feel a pang for back home. Everyone dresses up there.

The whooshing sound of plastic wheels on cool pavement dies away as the last of the rollerbladers continue into obscurity down the street. We can finally cross, and do. We drink Heinekens by the tower---just as tall as Leah thought it would be, and glittering---and Will talks about American things in his loud, carrying voice. I find myself thinking fondly about that man dressed as a sandwich. Then we go home. Back to the hostel.

Photo by Melissa Delzio on Flickr, Creative Commons License