Last Days in Paris

Walking in Paris After Lockdown, Trains Again, Scientology Shelter, Viktor & His Beautiful Lies, & Notes on Endings & Forgetting

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Batignolles, photo by Michelle Richmond
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Parc Monceau, photo by Michelle Richmond
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Parc Monceau, photo by Michelle Richmond

Trains in Motion

I had long since made my peace with Rue de Rome, and the long walk did not seem so long anymore. I stopped on the bridge over the train tracks to watch two trains gathering speed after the departure from St. Lazare. It was a beautiful thing to see those trains in motion.

The Secret Square

During the summer, the shops and restaurants had reopened. Aside from the less crowded streets, the ubiquitous masks, and the signs in shop windows indicating how many customers could be inside at a time (usually three), it felt like business as usual. I passed the store selling pretty, flavorless cookies (Paris does many things well, but cookies are not among them), the concept store displaying ten dresses, four scarves, and a pair of buckled shoes, and the sidewalk cafe packed with smokers, and entered Place du Docteur Félix Lobligeois.

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Place du Docteur Félix Lobligeois. photo by Michelle Richmond

The Second-Best Coffee in Paris

I turned left at the church toward Square des Batignolles and walked the alley to Dose Cafe, which serves the second best coffee in Paris — the superlative going to Honor Cafe, a pop-up shop in a courtyard on Faubourg St. Honore. I had planned to sit at one of the outdoor tables and do a bit of writing, but it started raining just as I arrived, in that drenching way it often rains in France.

What has Scientology done for you?

It was raining too hard to go to the park. Covid cases had reached 30,000 per day in France, so I had no desire to sit inside the crowded cafe. I walked back to Rue Legendre and turned left. I lurked for a moment outside the Scientology Center. If my French were more passable, maybe I’d even go in and watch the free film! I’d once witnessed two women arguing passionately outside the Scientology Center, and now, whenever I passed by, I secretly hoped for drama. A young woman emerged from the building, carrying a large box. Surely it contained salacious files on all their members, secrets gleaned from auditing sessions.

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Scientology Center, Paris, photo by Michelle Richmond

Getting Lost Again

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St. Lazare, photo by Michelle Richmond
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Rue La Condamine, photo by Michelle Richmond

The Ballad of Rue DuLong, The Eager Musuem Lady, and the Waiter at Valois

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Rue de Levis after lockdown. Photo by Michelle Richmond
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Parc Monceau after lockdown. Photo by Michelle Richmond

With Greater Affection

Five minutes later I punched in the code at the entrance to our building and walked through the small courtyard, which looked green and lovely in the rain. Then I punched in the code for the rear building and took the six flights of stairs to our apartment.

Observations on Not Being Observed

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Trocadero during lockdown. photo by Michelle Richmond

Home But Not Home

Sitting in the blue velvet chair, wet-headed and caffeinated, I had the distinct feeling I’d had so many times in Paris: I was home but not home. I could relax, but not. I listened to the rain pounding the balcony and felt a tug toward California, large swaths of which were still burning. We would be going home soon. Instead of a view of an office building, repeating squares of yellow light, we would have a view of our canyon. Instead of the pounding feet of the neighbor children, we would have blissful stretches of silence, punctuated by airplanes and leaf blowers.

Viktor and His Beautiful Lies, Plus Notes on Ending and Forgetting

An essay deserves an ending, but I don’t have one. I remember one last walk in Paris after the one described here. It was Sunday night, and we were flying home to California early the following morning. Our apartment had been packed several days before. We were living in a world of boxes. The Belgian movers had arrived unexpectedly at 7:00 on a Thursday morning with an order to pack everything before it was too late (a strict new lockdown had just been declared). They had left one sofa unpacked and had placed the boxed-up coffee table in front of the sofa, so we had somewhere to sit and put our bottled water and takeout containers (they had taken all the glasses, dishes, and silverware).

NYT bestselling author of the THE MARRIAGE PACT and THE YEAR OF FOG. Caffeinated in Cali. Books at michellerichmond.com Write with me at https://thenewMFA.com

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