Kevin and I met in the Hotel de ville Métro station, we had both been on the n° 1 line, didn’t even know it. I accidentally looked him in the eyes, and he responded with that ever-faithful courting signal – the eyebrow flash. I kept moving towards my staircase of choice, but seconds later he was at my side, spilling out words as if he needed help or recognised me as a long-lost friend.
He asked me where I was from. I obliged him with the Malaysia-New Zealand response. Flattery ensued. My noseyness and sense of Asian kinship inappropriately kicked in and made me ask him where he was from.
“Canton, I’m from Canton” he said.
“Oh, you’re from Hong Kong then?”
“Yes, I’m from Hong Kong.”
Already we were above ground and as fate would have it, still going in opposite directions. He insisted on giving me his card, which proved to be a perfect example of the sweet symbiosis between simplicity and mystery. A white card, his name Kevin stood large and black right in the center in front of a background of two faded blue letters. Italicised and in lower case, there they were: bg. Below that, his phone number. Above this he wrote in his email address. In turn I furnished him with my spam receptacle address, my hotmail account. We parted ways with him giving me my first European Left cheek bisou – Right cheek bisou of this trip. Cunningly he stalled somehow for some seconds more to enable him to then go in for a final Left cheek bisou, the real cheek press and rub. The good stuff.
I made my way to the Pompidou Centre and took some pictures, and eventually got to my main mission of the day. I found the art gallery at which the Moroccan woman in my dorm was exhibiting her work, which was a very real achievement given that the street is tiny and the sign indicating its direction was pointing exactly 180 degrees the wrong way. It’s a cool little street though because it basically consists of nothing but independent art galleries – rue Quincampoix. Her medium was definitely a new one to me: paint and other textiles on shrivelled and twisted leather; generally cut in the form of the human body. She had told me earlier that it was based on an ancient Moroccan artform. Hopefully I will look this up further someday, I am curious about a Morocco that exists beyond the well-known Afro-Arab culture.
Buoyed by this encouragement of new thought, I decided I could do with a nice, fresh open-air walk from the Hotel de ville to the Jardein de Tuileries. As it happens I went in the opposite direction to that required, and this time it was completely my own fault. Blithely and merrily, I strolled the wrong way down rue Rivoli when like a sudden gust of wind
“OH!!! It’s you again! How happy am I to see you again!!!!!”
blew right into my face. Kevin told me we were going to have a coffee together, right then. I declined, saying that I had things to do, photos to take. He cajoled once more. I reiterated my desire to do what I wanted to do. He linked his right arm through my left one and drew himself close to me, saying that he would join me and that now I had a bodyguard. Pulling myself out from his grip, I was classic Susan.
“I don’t need a bodyguard.”
That wounded him.
“Oww…. how………. sad!”
We walked a few steps together when he mumbled something and rushed off to stare in the window of an Asian traiteur (fancy takeaway shop). I didn’t want to wait for him, but also didn’t feel I could blaze on off. My compromise was therefore to walk slowly on ahead.
After a surprising length of time without disruption, I turned to see how far behind me he was. It was only two steps, a little off to the left. I guessed that we had been walking like that for a while. He was an abused pet turned stray, conflicted in its affection but above all needing a master still.
Turning to check on his whereabouts was interpreted as an invitation for a renewed enlacing of arms. Once again, I pulled myself out. He took two more steps and then said that he would leave me to it, seeing as that seemed to be what I wanted.
“Cool! Great! Okay! Yeah, thanks, see you bye!!”
“Wait, wait! You give me a kiss goodbye!” he declared through both words and the presentation of a cheek. It was a wall that I was not going to run into.
“No. No, I don’t think so.”
“Oh come on, just a kiss!”
“No. I’m not going to.”
He swayed and shuffled indeterminately, smiled and then cheerfully left with: “Okay then. I hope you don’t forget me! Please don’t forget me!”
He disappeared back into his own direction, and as for me, I spent the rest of my afternoon looking over my shoulder. Yes, literally and repeatedly.
Q: Why do things like this happen to me? This wasn’t the first time by far.
A: Simple, stupid. Because I walk around cities by myself 🙂
Sigh. It would be nice to be out of the viewfinder!