Like someone who denies their sexuality and only lives from the collar up, so I live from the knees up ignoring my dirty floor in my apartment in the hope that, given sufficient time, it will disappear of its own accord. But wisdom tells me that there will come a day that this nuisance will scream so vociferously, that you would surrender yourself and allow a primal urge to force you onto your hands and knees with a rag and a tub of soapy water to restore order to your environment.
I very much want to tell you about the beggars in Paris. Yes, they are here too, but believe me, they are next level ;-). It looks to me as if each one has their own spot: There is a man with two small Yorkshire Terriers in the Rue de Rivoli. I always think that these super-small dog breeds were created from a sneeze. The little pups are adorned with the most beautiful little tartan outfits, and each has its own small blanket and food bowl. The man sits crossed-legged, usually with one or both of his little loves tucked into the crook of his lap. He is clothed in shades of brown – from head to toe. It makes me think back to the time when I once came down the staircase dressed in lovely brown boots, brown leggings and a long, knitted, brown roll-neck dress and son commented, “Mom, forgive me, but you look a bit like a turd.” 😉
Then, on the bridge, Pont Notre-Dame, there is a whole homeless family. A dad, a mom, a toddler, a tiny tot, and an infant … on the breast. In fact, my daughter wondered out loud “Where do they ‘do’ it?”
Somewhere in Boulevard Saint-Germain is where you will find the man in the bright red wheelchair. The picture contains everything to bring to mind a circus, except that the man is missing a leg. The wheelchair is embellished with balloons, those clown trumpets, colourful plastic flowers on the handle bar curves, a bicycle bell, and would you believe, a number plate too!
There is a small woman who occupies a corner at Square Claude Nicolas Ledoux with a small bunny, but she is completely upstaged by the man at the entrance of the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg with his massive rabbit. Now that is one gigantic white bundle of fluff with long, almost-black, ears. I would like to stand here and watch for longer, but I am rather stingy … sometimes, maybe mostly.
Close to where I live, just around the corner, sits a man with a Bible spread open in front of him. This is a tough one. You can make as if you don’t see him in the hope that he won’t see that you have seen him but are pretending that you didn’t see him. However, with the Word clearly visible, you obviously realise that you are indeed being seen in your finest, tight-fisted ignoring act. And maybe you know deep down you will be punished. Perhaps with a dirty floor.
The building where I stay has five floors. The ground floor has a long, open patio and it is the address for the refined homeless person. In the evenings, the space fills up with a neat row of sleeping bag cocoons, all deftly spaced out across the length like the teeth of a wide tooth comb. It is rare that you see a face, maybe a clump of hair that pokes out, and then only when you’re really looking. In the mornings, the patio is completely empty and has been left spotlessly clean. The one man has a nocturnal ritual – before bed time, he dances with his beloved. He fervently and lovingly clasps the white pillow while he sways and his feet shuffle-shuffle-cha-cha-cha. With his eyes closed, he whispers the most beautiful words and mysteries of love into her petite square and pointy ears. During the last chords of the song, he glides his hands over her buttocks, inhales deeply and breathes in the scent of her neck, he squeezes her firmly against his body one last time. He gives her a goodnight kiss, and then she clearly disappears because then he flings his pillow on to the sleeping bag on the cold, hard floor and quietly and unnoticed crawls in for the night.
In closing: Here and there as I walk along, I see my own reflection in the shop windows. It’s always a bit of a shock, because it’s almost as if I have somewhat forgotten about the lines on my forehead, the wrinkles around my mouth and eyes. But then I remember again, with crystal clarity, that it doesn’t matter, because I feel wonderful and young and healthy and blessed and vivacious and I smell toffee apples in the air.