In the cold, damp air of morning, the sleeping bags’ warmth was too comfortable to leave. We dozed and woke and dozed again until the morning was half gone, then dashed through the rain to the shower block. An hour later, we were on the bus back into Paris, wearing plastic ponchos and sharing a fruit and bread brunch out of a paper sack.
Raven called American Express from a public phone. She had called her father twice since we got to Paris, but there had been no answer. Finally, she had called her sister to have money sent. The Amex people said it was in, so we took the metro to Place de la Concorde and walked up to the 9th arrondissement. Twenty minutes later, Raven came out holding up a new credit card and wearing a grin a mile wide. “Now!” she said. “First clothes, then food, then a room that doesn’t leak.”
“You don’t like my lifestyle?”
“I like you. Your lifestyle is for bag ladies.”
Raven would never make a bag lady. That soon became clear. I followed her around Paris for three hours while clouds played tag with the sun. The streets were wet and shining, the rain came in brief showers, then retreated before brilliant sunlight. The clouds above the buildings were piled high and menacing. The leaves of the sycamores sagged with dampness, and sent quick showers out of a clear sky every time a breeze disturbed them. It was a Paris for lovers, and a day I would never forget.
Despite her threats, Raven bought sparingly. When I pointed out that she could only carry one back pack, she said, “I know, silly, but don’t spoil my fun.” Her fun consisted of trying on two dozen blouses in order to buy one. My fun came from watching her model them. She bought ugly, chic, mannish suits and frilly dresses, and had them shipped to America. She bought a pleated miniskirt that let her navel peek over and barely covered her rump, along with a blouse that she left unbuttoned, rolled up from the hem, and knotted beneath her breasts. That outfit took the place of her jeans early on, and made my day infinitely more stimulating.
We dodged rain showers, moving from store to store. She vowed that she was going to treat us to a dry room tonight. Late in the afternoon, Raven bought us a meal in a sidewalk cafe. We made a ceremony of it, laughing and flirting for two hours while we people-watched. At the end, she said, “Now, isn’t this better than a burger at MacDonalds?”
She cocked her head to one side and said, “Do I detect a bit of hedging.”
“It was delicious.”
“Then why the hesitation?”
I didn’t quite know how to explain. I was afraid that talking about it would make it more important that it really was. “The food was wonderful, the company was delightful, the conversation was sparkling. It’s just that being in Paris with you was equally wonderful this morning when we were eating bread and fruit out of a paper sack.”
“Equally . . .? Oh, come on, Ian!”
“Look,” I said, “I heard a woman talking to her friend today while you were trying on dresses. She had just been to the Louvre, and all she could talk about was what she had eaten in that little cafe that overlooks the bookstore. When I remember the Louvre, I will think of the paintings, not what I had for lunch. When I remember today, I will think of you and the way the rain felt, and the sunshine, not the food we ate.”
“Ian, you’re deeply deranged.”
We went out to walk around in the fading sunlight, holding hands.
We talked about the weeks to come. I told her about Rouen with its cathedrals, half-timbered buildings, and monuments to the passing of Joan of Arc. Raven agreed to a day trip, so we walked up to Gare St-Lazare to get tickets for tomorrow. She walked so close beside me that the swinging of her hips was sweet music against my thigh.
The train station was a huge, crowded, echoing barn filled with overpriced fast food booths and sleazy magazine stores. We bought tickets, and headed back toward the street. Over the crowd noises, I could hear the sound of distant thunder. Raven was squeezed close to my side and I was as happy as I had ever been. I could see no end to that happiness.
I spoke of foreshadowing in 230. Blackie Ryan. The end of this post is a subtler form of foreshadowing. I didn’t say, “If I had only known!” or something equally cliche, but the reader can still sense that all is not going to work out well for our lovers. more tomorrow