You, Me, Paris
The apartment looked nothing like the online picture, but neither of us commented on this because we were in Paris. I stood behind you as you unlocked the door, heard you scoff as you pushed it open. Inside, a perfect dollhouse room, stacked with origami furniture that magically unfolded to human size. I was just grateful there wasn’t a Murphy bed, but you had to assemble and disassemble every object at least once before you were satisfied.
You said you’d forgotten a toothbrush and ventured out to find one. When you returned, you kicked open the door, brandishing a cheap bottle of champagne in one hand and a single red rose in the other. I put the flower in a tall drinking glass and we drank from teacups, holding the mugs near our faces to let the bubbles tickle our noses. When the Eiffel Tower lit up at midnight like a constellation of shooting stars, I cast wishes at it desperately. Please, let this be enough for me. It was only later that I found out the twinkling happens every day, every evening, every hour, as reliable as clockwork.
We ate croissants on a park bench the next morning, allowing a pile of pastry flakes to gather at our feet until a gang of aggressive pigeons descended on us. I remembered we had once watched “The Birds” together, back when we first started dating and I wanted to impress you with my affinity for Hitchcock. You’d had recurring nightmares for weeks, clutching at me in the dark until I cradled you in my arms, listening to your breathing resume its normal cadence. As we fled the angry flock you reached for me again, taking my hand with an unspoken need that anchored me to the earth with its weight.
You took me to the Louvre after you remembered, with sudden clarity, that I was an art history major. Only modern art, but I didn’t correct you. It was the kind you’d reference whenever we were washing dishes and I passed you a plate smeared with bright slashes of food. I lost and then found you, entranced, in the Dutch still life room. I tried to see the paintings through your eyes, but it was all black velvet backgrounds and fruits splayed open like flesh. Too obvious, somehow; too morbidly human: the way we are born and live and die and cannot do so without hopeless, helpless reliance on other people. I felt a wave of nausea rising in my throat that was unexpected and yet intimately familiar.
We caught a cab to the Eiffel Tower and stood in the nearby park, contemplating the queue and the distance to the top like a math equation. If Bobby and Sally wait in line for two hours and ride in an elevator for fifteen minutes, do they still have to be themselves when they reach the top? “Let’s just sit here for a bit,” you said, and we lay in the damp grass facing the monument. How jarring to find that up close, the elegant, weightless tower looked like any other industrial structure, just a tangled mess of steel beams.