You find yourself in a different city, a different country. You find everything here is different, perhaps even a bit surrealistic. Yet, you fit right in.
You’re in Paris. You may be on vacation, or perhaps this is where you live now You’re not in a hotel room; you’re staying in an apartment in a new high-rise building in the 4th arrondissement, on the right bank. It’s one of the many new eco-buildings that have started going up all over Paris since the old height limitation was repealed; you think about how there should be buildings like this in California.
The design of the building is very modern. The apartments have floor-to-ceiling windows with magnificent views. The furnishings are also very modern in keeping with the design of the building. There’s a sliding glass door that leads onto a narrow balcony; it extends across the width of the apartment. The view across the city is impressive. What you see for yourself is an extraordinary life living in Paris, laid out in front of you, going on forever.
You look down to a large public plaza, a ‘place’ as the French call it, a short distance from your building and continuing off to your right. It’s busy with colorful vendors’ stands and crowds of people, even though they look to you as if they were the size of ants. You can’t see much detail; your apartment is on a floor near the top of the building. Distance and lack of detail make it appear that there are moving swirls of color in the plaza; you find this more interesting than mere people.
You notice that, as part of the building’s eco-design, there’s a windmill of some sort attached to the edge of your balcony. The design is unusual, in the rather effusive ‘Modern French’ style. The windmill is attached to a long, heavy-looking pole that is in turn attached to the balcony by a strong-looking hinge-like device. At the opposite end of the pole are the five vanes of the windmill itself, the shaft of which extends from some sort of mechanism which is attached to the pole. You wonder what it's for; perhaps it's used to generate electricity. There’s a clasp holding the pole horizontally against the top edge of the balcony railing. Curiosity makes you decide to release the clasp to see the windmill in action.
The pole swings slowly outward and upward to an almost vertical position, perhaps by some spring hidden inside the device to which the hinge is attached. The breeze begins to intersect the vanes of the windmill, and it starts to turn. It spins faster and faster, and the pole begins to vibrate, then to shake; it appears that it’s not as securely held in place as you had assumed.
You step back, then retreat into the apartment, closing the sliding glass door. Suddenly, the windmill mechanism breaks away from the pole with a loud SNAP! You watch it loop through the air in a graceful arc that reaches a peak, then it hurtles downward toward the plaza below. You can’t call out to warn the people down there of the danger, it’s too far away. You want to see what will happen when the windmill reaches the ground. To do so, because the location in the plaza continues some distance to your right, you rush to the bedroom to gaze through a corner window that extends your view beyond what can be seen from the living room. The floor-to-ceiling window gives you an expansive view in that direction; however, the next apartment blocks your ability to follow the trajectory so you can’t see where the windmill lands. You watch the crowd of people in the plaza, but don’t see any reaction from them; they seem to go on with their business as if nothing has happened.
As you look through the corner window in your bedroom you see across into the living room of the next apartment. The residents appear to be having a party; there are number of people drinking wine and nibbling on hors d’oeuvres being presented by a serveur. You watch them eat and drink, and realize that you are hungry. You decide that you don’t want to eat in, that instead you will go out to dinner.
You remember to take your key card as you exit the apartment, and you walk to the elevator. The door slides open the moment you press the call button, and you enter. You exit the elevator on the ground floor and exchange greetings with the concierge and the doorman as you walk through the lobby and exit the building. You turn to your left, away from the plaza, and stroll along the esplanade at the edge of the Seine to the Pont de Sully then cross the bridge to Ile Saint-Louis. As you cross the bridge you overhear a conversation between a couple walking nearby. They are discussing a meal they had at a little restaurant that is at the opposite end of the Ile. You decide it sounds interesting, perhaps interesting enough to try. You have forgotten about the windmill; dinner in a quiet café is all that’s on your mind.
You turn onto Rue Saint-Louis en L’Ile and join the crowds that are part of the early evening promenade. The air is warm and pleasant, and you watch others as they pass, and they watch you as well. You arrive at L'Ilot Vache and are greeted by the maître d’ as if you were a regular customer; you take part in this harmless deception and return his greetings. You are seated at a prime table next to a window that looks out onto the Rue and has an unobstructed view of the Seine. The maître d’ recommends the Brochettes de Bœuf Grillée, one of the choices on the 37 euro prix fixe dinner. It is to be preceded by a Terrine du Chef, accompanied by spring vegetables, complemented by an amusing white wine from the Rhone valley, and finished with a Mousse aux Deux Chocolats andcafé au lait.
Your meal is unhurried, the serveur is prompt and unobtrusive, the food is wonderful, and the wine is superb. Despite the included 18% gratuity you’re generous with the additional tip, leaving 3 euros for the serveur. As you leave you slip the maître d’ 5 euros; he accepts with only a small amount of reluctance to demonstrate that he appreciates your generosity.
You walk to the end of the Ile, where you take a seat on a park bench near Pont Saint-Louis and look across to Ile de la Cité. The sun is setting behind Notre Dame Cathedral, and your meal and the unusually warm evening combine to lull you. Soon you drift into sleep.
You wake. You’re sitting at a desk in a small cubicle in a highrise office building in downtown Los Angeles. On your desk is a half-eaten tuna sandwich sitting on a square of plastic wrap, accompanied by an unopened bottle of water, to be ended with a vending machine package of Oreo cookies that is nearby. You look across the office, past dozens of cubicles just like yours, to a bank of windows that are some distance from your cubicle. The sun is setting behind a layer of brownish-green smog that masks the city. Even though your view is limited because of your distance from the windows, what you see for yourself is the continuation of a mundane life living in Los Angeles, laid out in front of you, going on forever.
Your dream of Paris ends. Once again it is over, the same as always.
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This story and the included images are Copyright © 2010 by Colin Kelly (colinian). They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted.
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