Earlier last week, before the chaos, I was walking through Paris and in the Tuileries Garden there are lots and lots of these public chairs. I took a photo of one. And then another. And then I started to wonder, how did these chairs get to be the way they were? Who put them them there? What stories do these chairs tell? And in my mind I started to make up stories and then in my head a story came, Paris Chairs is my storyline of what I thought maybe could have happened, over days, weeks, years or maybe in just one day. I didn’t move any chairs, I just took photos as they were.
#1 — Staring at a French ladies ass
The first time we met I was walking through the park with Marie, she knew you and stopped as we walked by. You were hunched over a stretch book and pencil. You said it was a break from class. After talking and flirting, we turned to walk away, I asked if you always stared at French ladies butts, you said smiled and said ‘yes’. And 20 yards later, I turned, and caught you. You kept your word. Embarrassed, you pretended to be cool, raised your pencil as if to size up proportion, you shrugged, shook your head and turned away.
#2 Fall’in Drunk
Marie bought a bottle of Absinthe to the park. We sat and past the bottle around. When it was finished we all laid back and stared up at the tree, drunk, and fell asleep. I dreamt I was with you, when I woke up, your hand was on my mine. We were all covered in autumn leaves.
A pigeon seemed to fly straight at me, I screamed, ducked and twisted my ankle. You set up two chairs and lifted my leg onto your lap. You poured some water on my ankle, telling me it was magic water, that it would heal anything.
You sat me in a solitary chair beside an ageing flower bed. I knew what you were planning. You knelt beside me and pulled out a box. I said ‘yes’ and then pushed you over. “In a Paris park? Too cheesy”
#5 Making Plans
Satisfied at deciding our new adventures we placed two chairs in front us, we plonked our legs on them, happy in the world, confident in the future. Everything was in front of us. The world was our park to play in.
#6 Public intimacy
You set up the ultrasound image on a chair on front of us. And we both stared at our little future.
#7 Far enough
It was getting cold and I was getting tired, we stopped along the path and you got two chairs for us to sit in. People looked at us and wondered why we had sat in such a place. I wanted to scream “because I’m fat and pregnant!”. Instead I put my hand on your leg. And we sat. And watched the world go by, shoulder to shoulder. It’s nice to be fat and in love. No one else matters.
#8 The battle
You taught me how to play chess. But I beat you, every time, but once in 60 years…. I let you win.
You made us sit down in the middle of the path. I thought you wanted a rest, instead you told our son of the time I was frightened by a bird and twisted my ankle. Laughing the whole time…. Until a pigeon on the tree above you pooped on your head. Timothy cried laughing at the two of us. “pigeons hate mommy and daddy!“
#10 Fear’is Wheel
It took us an hour of him crying before he would get the courage to ride it. It wasn’t until we sat and watched a full revolution did he believe it was safe. “You’re a brave little man”, you said. “Let’s go”.
We saw a guy in the park taking photos of empty chairs. I said that maybe he was taking photos to make up stories about how they got there. So I suggested a joke. We arranged the chairs in a line, too far apart for people to talk to each other. And then we hid as he took a photo. You could read it in his face, thinking, ”how did these chairs get here?”. Snot came out of your nose you laughed so hard; you’re a teenager’s mind in a grown man’s body.
#12 Love lost and gained over cheese
Timothy moved his chair away when you opened the cheese, “how can you people eat that?” he said, the rest of us ate it like it was our last meal. We lost a son but gained a daughter.
#13 Alone together
You got grumpy at us and turned your chair away. “Gossip” you said. But while you pretended to sleep, I knew you kept listening.
“My legs aren’t shorter than yours, they’re just more efficient. Drink your wine.”
#15 The dance
Timothy and you and I sat on one side, and Anne and her parents sat on the other. In the middle, Sophie danced her dance, her tutu was so white under the park light. She twisted and the leaves moved with her. Proud parents, and teary eyed grandparents.
#16 Parallel together
You insisted on reading a broadsheet newspaper. But to stay close you arranged our chairs so that the newspaper wouldn’t be in my lap. You’d read your newspaper and I’d read on my phone, my feet on your knees. Occasionally you’d lower the top half the paper, look at me and tell me a story from it. “Interesting” I would say, never telling you I was reading the same story.
#17 The beginning ….. of the end
We walked from the doctor’s office and beside the pond, we sat and put our feet on the pond’s edge, I lent over and put my head into your shoulder. “Be brave”, I said, whilst my own heart crushed.
#18 “We need to tell you something.”
I took a pillow from the hospital and put it between your head and the tree. I placed my feet on a chair and a rug over our laps. You fell asleep. I wondered if I should wake you. And when I decided it was time, it was too late.
We told each other that it would last forever. Forever wasn’t long enough.
#21 The path never taken
There was never an adventure I went on without you, no one told us what to do, we found our own way, but now without you, everything seems impossible.
And then there was nothing. Memories no longer owned. Ready to be blown away. Cleared for new beginnings.