France, Part 10
I come to Paris to find myself, to know where I stand. And despite that, location awareness seems to be the first thing that I want to abandon. I lose myself in a relentless fugue state, numbly drifting down dark alleyways, ignoring everything but the silhouettes of things outside and focusing solely on where each synapse fires as my eyes and ears flirt with foreign matter.
Time waywardly wanders away as much as each person passed dissolves into the horizon.
I was meeting Mike at the science museum yesterday. 1PM, we agreed.
I walked up Rue de Pyrenees, wrongly assuming the street dumped into Buttes-Chaumont Park, which it most certainly did not. Instead, it forked into Ave. Simon Bolivar and Rue de Belleville. I managed to forgo the path of one of the world’s most socialistic freedom fighters, taking Rue de Belleville instead. I realized I had about 10 minutes to get to the park, but figured it was okay. At some point though, I didn’t go down Rue de Crimee, which is a straight shot to the park in a northwest direction, but instead turned sort of north-east onto some street I have never been down before. Rather than say to myself, “This looks wrong,” I decided to scramble myself further into the mess and ended up so far out that I was no longer in central Paris.
This is where the adventure begins.
First, once you leave the circle of central Paris, you’re pretty much fucked as far as navigation is concerned. The bus stops no longer have maps, for one. The sidewalks disappear and are replaced with rocky crags and piles of the bones of dead American travelers who lost their lives trying to make it out of this nasty abyss.
As I am standing on what is probably the ribcage of a 12-year-old girl, trying frantically to make out where I need to go, I get a sudden vibe that I am being watched and my gaze buoys up to see a tall man standing on the other side of the street. He is staring at me. And I don’t know what to make of it, other than recall the numerous bits of scare tactic advice that friends bestowed upon me. He begins to yell. He is now walking forcefully towards me, looking all like a black version of Yul Brynner’s cyborg Gunslinger in West World, freaking me the fuck out.
I do the only thing I can think to do, and run. My arms flailing wildly, I look back to scout out his position, yell, “STOP. GO AWAY,” continue running. I realize about thirty seconds into this that the guy really probably only noticed that I looked lost and confused and wanted to help me in whatever way he could. Embarrassed by my overreaction, I of course, continued to run and flail my arms wildly.
Being idiotically late at this point (I think it was about 1:19 and I was supposed to be there at 1), I ran faster than I ever have in my life, but all these awful obstacles kept popping up. A giant free market with tent booths clouded the sidewalk with slow-moving people, old women, tourists with cameras, random bystanders. I was pushing people out of the way. I was also extremely thirsty, so I chucked a Euro at a fat Armenian dude and grabbed a can of Orangina from his booth. Opening the can mid-run, it exploded all over the place and I showered an arc of it all over my face, only managing to get about half of it in my mouth.
By the time I got to the park itself, it was about 1:30 and I couldn’t run anymore. It felt like someone was stabbing my liver with little rusty daggers. As I dragged my feet along, I tried to connect to the public WiFi to send Mike an e-mail telling him what was going on. Asynchronously, e-mails started arriving from him as my phone was taking ages to send them. It was confusing. He told me he was waiting inside. It started to rain. Ugh. But at least it would rinse the Orangina off my face so that I didn’t look like the sun had just stickily pissed all over my face, surely.
There Mike sat waiting patiently–I was 45 minutes late. I apologized profusely but I think the overwhelming extent of those apologies fell on deaf ears because I don’t think anyone understands just how frustrated I get by people’s indifference to punctuality, my own included.
One of the exhibits covered the subject matter of “emotionally arousing” imagery. I have never heard of this phrase before, but it stirred up a lot of thoughts for me. I thought about when was the last time that just the feeling alone of contentment, joy, and peace made my heart both palpitate uncontrollably while feeling complacently at rest. When your heart is emotionally aroused, the emotion serves as a lubricant so that each forceful piston heartbeat pump, unlike an overstressed heart, feels so natural and right–like you are more alive than you have ever been.
So with the exhibit, it encourages you to think of something emotionally arousing and place your finger on a pad. When you are emotionally aroused, your body responds by producing more glucose–and you can see this in your fingerprints. What is emotionally arousing for me? It feels like such a personal question. You ask me what turns me on, in the physical sense, and I am free to share with the world what in a guy can rile me up, from strong forearms, to a nice jaw, to some tiny imperfection on his skin that you can only spot once you know him intimately. But you ask me what emotionally arouses me, and it feels like giving people full access into the deepest parts of me–to know that all it takes to get under me is to touch me at the dip in my waist, to kiss my fingers, to free yourself from all your fears and smile straight at me. Emotionally arousing is a secret inside all of us, all the little things we know people do to us that we’ll never verbally give them affirmation is right.
But right now, thinking about emotionally arousing in that sense is tough, because it’s coupled with other emotions. I can only hope that one day, when I remember I felt this way, that I look at all the confusion and yearning and missing that buckles around it… it feels like a good thing.
So I started to think of emotionally arousing as a facet of my independence… I thought about how being here was a growing process. How it will become a part of me and make me more whole. How when I am 30 or 40 and I am somewhere else, having meaningful moments with others, I will be able to recall all these moments when I lived in France, and reflect on them as a part of my life’s story.
I placed my thumb to the pad and it didn’t immediately look any different from the existing thumbprint I gave it, but with more scrutiny, I could see the lines were a smidge thicker.
And walked away, back over to where Mike was, where we talked about books we were reading. I like those initial moments where you get to know people, where you’re allowed to escape your inner demons for a moment. Like he doesn’t know all that’s troubling me, and instead I just get to share with people all the things I am proud of instead and hear from other people all the stories they obviously think are the most significant about themselves to give other people the quickest composite picture of who they are, sometimes mixed with funny anecdotes, like him telling me about the time John Resig came back from a trip to find a 6-story tall picture of himself.
I started wondering how people pick their stories. Like the stories I tell one person may be completely different from another person, based on who they are. And yet I subconsciously make these decisions… I wouldn’t say that I filter… it’s more like I search the card catalog of my library and pull… I curate myself, like a museum, like this museum, by wing, where you visit and you know upfront what you’re stepping inside of… and with that, I wondered if maybe it’s time I re-examine the concept of museums and maybe time I re-examine my personal taxonomy and curation.