paris -- i'm wandering around in
the rain with a photo in my jacket. It's a picture of a nude woman, a teenager really, standing by a window. I don't know who she is, but an old friend has asked me to leave the photo somewhere in Paris, someplace pretty. Choosing the spot isn't easy, as I'm discovering, in this, the most beautiful city in the world.
It's my first visit, thanks to a gift from my father. I suppose I should start saving for a house or invest in mutual funds, but I knew that as soon as I had the chance I wanted to spend two weeks wandering around Paris alone.
As I was heading out the door after a bon voyage party, my friend Michael urgently took me into his bedroom and handed me the photo of the mystery woman. He couldn't explain then, but would I put it somewhere nice? He only said that she was never able to make the trip herself, and the look in his eyes told me not to ask why. I agreed, and now my pleasure trip has turned into a mission.
My first days in Paris are overwhelming. It's very cold -- it snowed, and I'm underdressed -- but I walk for miles, following twisting side streets that lead nowhere in particular but are too charming not to explore. At first I pack each day with as many tourist trips as possible -- the Louvre in the morning, a lunch of crepes in the Jardin des Tuileries and then an afternoon among the millions of bones stacked in the catacombs under Montparnasse.
I revel in each spot, and while I'm by myself, I'm not alone. The mystery woman is with me, resting inside my coat pocket, and during each stop in my travels I whisper to her, "Do you like it here? Is this where you'd like to stay?"
I consider the symmetrically perfect Place des Vosges, built by Henri IV, but it's too controlled. Where could she hide? She'd surely be discovered and gathered up by the ever-vigilant Parisian cleaning squads who patrol the city in their lime-green vests picking up garbage and washing away the mounds of dog shit left on the sidewalks.
There's the gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, but it's all stone, and she'd be forever surrounded by tourists and very few Parisians.
I've fallen in love with Père Lachaise Cemetery overlooking the city. I've visited the tombs of Abelard and Héloïse, Gertrude Stein and -- I couldn't help myself -- Jim Morrison. I'm not sure what happened to my companion; if she is dead, she may already be resting in a place like this. I decide she should be among the living.
I'm tempted to leave her in the Luxembourg Gardens, the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen, but there are too many people watching one another. I feel exposed, and think someone will see me leave her there and investigate after I go. On my third day I visit the Eiffel Tower, and on my way back to the metro station, behind the tower, I spot a small garden with a few benches.
It's twilight, and no one is about. The flower bed's bulbs are beginnning to peek through the dirt. I bend down and look back over my shoulder. The Eiffel Tower fills the skyline, and I dig a little hole under a small bush, place her inside, surrounding her with small stones and dirt.
From here she'll be able to see the tower, and flowers will bloom beside her in the spring.