well you'll just have to find out won't you.
There’s a sort of tackiness only Vegas can pull off. In the same sense, only Italians can really pronounce ‘Tagliatelle’, And only the Chinese see Chinese food as well, just food.
I learnt this in Paris. Trying to get onto the whole cultural French thing, I purchased a button-up shirt, a striped t-shirt, and a scarf. I looked like I was at a fucking fancy dress party.
Narrowed french eyes looked me up and down on the opposite side of the escalator I was ascending, they saw right through me. Smoking my long narrow cigarette I later found out was for women, I tried to block out how ridiculous I felt and focused on how to find out where I was without looking like a tourist, which was pretty impossible. I reached top of my mechanical walk of shame, emerged from the underground station and looked for the nearest bin to get rid of my stupid cravat.
As everywhere, the streets were paved with coffee shops and cigarette smoke. The buildings were once shades of stone but the murk of cities had rendered them a grimy grey colour, blending into each other like a dirty mosaic. Alleys ran like capillaries, cutting through the towering structures and spilling people out onto the streets, and all this told me was that I hadn’t a clue where I was. There were no landmarks. No triumphant Eiffel tower rising above the skyline to follow, no signs to the Louvre, nothing. I was on my own. Dressed French in a mass of French people, lost.
I don’t know how it happened. It was either the right train to the wrong place or the wrong train to what I thought what was the right place, either way it didn’t matter. Both got me to the same place- fuck knows.
I joined the rabble on the pavements, infinitely preferable to the rabble of cars and mopeds that zigzagged across each other, making my way through the smokey maze of coffee tables and crates piled up like games of jenga. I thought of many things. There was nowhere I could get a map- it was clear this was not a tourist district. I didn’t speak French and couldn’t face trying to ask a Frenchman where my hotel was in sign language and forced English. There wasn’t a taxi in sight and I didn’t know how to go about calling one. I took a chance, and darted down one of the side-alleys.
One wind, maybe two, and I was met by 3 men in aprons smoking round the back door of a restaurant. I made the mistake of stopping, uneasily standing on one foot, stuttering words under my breath. They looked me up and down and sneered all over me. One stepped towards me and swiped the beret off my head disgustingly.
Earlier on, I lied. In truth, I bought a button-up shirt, a striped tshirt, a cravat and a beret. Yes, a fucking beret, would you still have any respect for me if you knew I was lost in Paris wearing a fucking beret? I didn’t bin the cravat, and I also didn’t mention it was adorned in French flags. That came off next. With a last disgusted sneer they pushed me on my way and went inside. Alone again, a fish in a pond of sharks, I walked the rest of the alley until I met a street.
I’d only been off the street a minute or so, but it seemed darker. The sun silhouetted some solitary trees, and my shadow stretched back until it became invisible. This street was eerily empty compared to the last one, populated only by a few tired footsteps lazily pacing the flags.
It really didn’t matter which way I went. Every street I could see had equal chances of getting me nearer or further from my hotel. I must have wandered that district an hour before I finally sat down on a shabby park bench. Pigeons were painted half-pink by the sun tickling the horizon. My view permitted me a direct look down a long wide street that gradually changed from the colour of concrete to the watery amber of the near-dead sun. In the distance, to the left, the tip of the Eiffel tower stood out majestically from the sunburnt sky, yeah that’s right. Eiffel Tower.
In truth, I lied again. Course I knew where I was. If I was really lost I’d have just got a map from the tube or called a taxi from a phone box, I’m not an idiot. Sometimes, we all just have to feel lost. We all have to do things out of the ordinary and convince ourself we’re out of place, or that we’re unconfident. Pretend the worlds some big scary place and we’re just a fish in the ocean, then we can go back to our secure, safe lives and feel found again, feel wanted and purposeful and more importantly: normal. How can we feel like we have control of our lives and our situations if we’ve nothing to compare it with? I’m only human, and here I was, Paris for fucks sake, you can’t blame me. Theres a reason I picked the last station in the line to ride to. Theres a reason I picked the area with the least tourist attractions as stated by the guide book. Theres even a reason I bought the fucking cravat. I went down that alley dressed like that knowing something would happen to me. I just had to feel inferior, I just had to feel unsafe. I just had to go back to my life and hope all the feelings aren’t as watered down as they were before, I don’t know what it is. Appreciation? Comparison? Knowledge? Who even cares but me.
I stood up, took a left, got the bus back the champs-elysses, and walked back to my hotel room.
My life felt valuable again.