In France they Kiss on Main Street
Amour, mama. In the first few days at my new job, I took all of the possible combinations of metro, bus, and tram routes at various points of time in order to find the best way to get to and from the office. It’s quite a curious optimistic feeling, riding along a bus route on a street I’ve never been on, exploring new neighborhoods, knowing that if I find a particular route fruitful, I can take it daily. As the bus rolls though a particular neighborhood, I take it all in, the beautiful old town houses scattered between the 3rd arrondissement and Montchat, the little islands of commercial activity, where there is a bakery, butcher or epicerie along the route in proximity to the stops, places that I can stop off and pick up necessities here and there.
In France metropolitan areas, public transportation is seen a bit differently than it’s seen back in the US, where only the unfortunate down and out and people who don’t have cars must take the bus. Here, it’s definitely used by the masses from upper crust to the underbelly. You’re just as likely to see a woman draped in expensive cashmere shawls lined with fur and bedecked with diamonds as you are to see someone more humble in means and appearance riding on the bus in centre ville. My daily journey takes me on the path from the center of town past the main train station, so the diversity of the population I see on the bus is even more pronounced.
I have taken three different buses, each with slightly different routes, because when you’re dealing with city traffic, the actual direct route from point A to point B can take more time than a more circuitous route through smaller less traveled streets. I have found that what looks to be the most efficient route on a map actually ends up in gridlocked traffic if you leave the office within certain times of the rush hour. Smaller neighborhood routes are graced with stops that conveniently are just next to all the amenities one needs daily like bread, butter, fruit, etc. whereas the central conduits often are surrounded by large squares lined with chain restaurants or sandwich stands and cafes.
Riding by the train station is interesting. I never really thought about it, but it the train station is the place where one is most likely to run into people kissing. It’s really amazing how many times since this began I have seen people are locked in long embraces. She is holding flowers. He’s got a bookbag.
Some young couples stand with their feet facing each other, looking directly into each others faces and aware of only one another. They only bend at the neck as they smooch, a little bit like still wooden dolls feeling the bliss of their stillness in the midst of city movement. Sometimes his hands cradle her head. Some stand side by side and swivel around each other like swans to kiss, intertwining with one another and also with the world around them, swirling into the movement of the hurried world by the sheer chiaroscuro of their adoration for each other, in announcement to the world. Amour mama!
Today I am bedridden, caused by the French phenomenon called the ‘arret de travail’. This is an order from a doctor to stay at home and take it easy. Which generates a paper of which the third copy generates a paper which must be sent by mail along with the second copy to a central depot for papers of this sort. Seems quite complicated, non? I am lying on the couch, with nothing to do but drink water and every so often pop one of Lucas’ mom’s pralined almonds into my mouth. They are like little kisses from a mother. Even if these delicious bites in which the sugar is just the right consistency to resist for a moment and then reveal and mingle with the almond which has roasted in sugar to give just the right tooth within are coming from Lucas' mother and not my own, I am feeling the motherly love with each one. Don't worry, I'm not having too many. Thank you, Lucas' mom. May I have your recipe?