How do I even write this—
Je t'ai vu, Paris, je t'ai rencontré, la première journée, en plein air.
Everything was good, everything was light, everything was blue roofs and beige stone. Paris didn't really seem dirty, like Amber Saffen said, and even the street art didn't bother me.
Then I descended into the metro, underground tunnels like an animal, don't touch those silver poles, don't you know they're filthy?
There's a rush of humans, a press, suffocating, rushing, hunted like an animal, pressed against you between the folding seats and the silver poles, neon colors and stripes worn threadbare by other people's bodies, who knew who sat there?, sit down and think about your dress getting dirty.
Stand there in that press of people, don't look at anybody, don't let anybody look at you. Hold your bag in front, watch out for pickpockets, watch the faces of the people, are they bored or just exhausted?
The cables are falling down from the ceilings of the stations, chéri, concrete arched underground tunnels, white tile on the walls and advertisements and graffiti and tags, follow the numbers and the circles and the colors, avoid the puddles on the floor, who knows where they came from, every surface covered with grime—
An endless flood walking toward you, past you, rush of blue and black on the white and faces you'll never see again, each one their own individual lives, swim in and out of the press in the crowd, hunted, hurry, musicians in the tunnels, musicians on the train, beggars on the ground, J'ai faim merci, 1€ ça aide, shaking cup, unclean, unclean.
Grimy pigeons on the street corners, gray and purple and green, hopping along on pink feet missing toes, nibbled, fringed ("but you would pay, wouldn't you...?"), one following the other, puffed up, harassing, threadbare grass in parks, dark green slats on benches tagged with black, pale sable sand, fences of wrought iron.
Keep your head forward when those men try to talk to you, from the steps in the alley, at the side of the road, leaning over the stairs, Eh salut les filles...eh? eh?, You, with the curly hair, I want to draw you, hey you, I won't draw you naked!, Excuse-moi, excusez-moi, eh! excuse-moi!, Pourquoi tu souris pas? Smile! Smile!
Street art, tags, graffiti, names and drawings and cats holding the Eiffel Tower scrawled in black and white and purple and green on every available surface and every non-available surface—how did you get inside that metro tunnel? How do these people decide what to write, where to put it? And all I want to see is someone in the act of tagging something, but I'll never see it because I don't go out at night.
Trash on the street corners, dirt on my legs and black marks on my feet at night, cigarette smoke on the streets, smoke smell heavy on my floor and on the 6th, dark, oppressing, and it don't smell like cigarette smoke if you know what I'm saying.
Canicule d'été, heat wave, no one here knows how to deal, c'est insupportable, vous buvez beaucoup d'eau? I'm from the mountain west, I don't know how to sweat, the backs of my knees, my forehead, my chest—I come home every night feeling sticky and filthy.
A creeping rash on my hands, my arms, the backs of my legs, red and bumpy, it comes and goes, why are you giving me a rash, chérie?
You were light and clean when I came to know you, Paris. Pale buildings and red roofs and a smell like pink in the air. But I can't even spend a week with nothing but concrete and metro tunnels and old bones under my feet. But your parks are pale and light brown, your grass is balding and threadbare, covered with people like ants. So I walked up the path past the rose garden, hid in a close little circle of bushes and trees where people go to drink or go to have sex, laid on the grass and looked at the fading pale evening sky through the trees, these evenings that go until after 10pm, laid on the grass and tried to feel the earth and ignore the sounds of the people and the roads and the city behind me.
So I went to the 6e arrondissement, to the Bois de Boulogne, the wild spot à côté de Paris, and I saw those streets and were pale and clean and beautiful, cobblestone street rising away, beige stone and blue roofs, wrought iron and plants on the balcony, red church, expensive cars lining the streets, little boulangerie on the corner. And everything was pale and beige and clean and good, and I thought that this is what Paris is supposed to be.
I didn't have any culture shock for French culture at all. I've been studying this stuff for nine years. But the thing that's killing me is the city, the city, I don't know how to live in a big city.