FROM PARIS II
The siren song of never moving on.
I always hide money from myself in various apps and accounts. It’s a pleasant discovery—three hundred dollars here, one fifty there. There’s a grand or so in flux, lying in wait in my investment account. I try not to look too often as it changes red to green to red again—the chaotic graph strokes shakily take cigarette drags and tell me to keep holding, before racking up more lines with the next fall. I’m often tempted, but I luckily haven’t yet met the rainy day that lump sum was meant for.
Hiding money from oneself is a tender practice—your past and present self in union, taking care of you in the future.
Sometimes, unintentionally, I hide feelings from myself too.
I spent the day with a new friend—we both found our way here partly as an escape from a never-ending romantic cycle. Walking the busy streets around the Marais, we traded war stories and smoked just under ten thousand cigarettes, finding comfort in our shared feelings of loss, longing, and a freshly budding sense of strength.
I talked a big game all day. I boasted about my freedom and clarity, offering myself up in service as a guide to light the way along my lovelorn comrade’s journey to the same conclusion. I felt a sense of pride.
We made our way to the secondhand pay-by-the-kilo shop, agreeing that we needed to find cheap fur coats to guard against the frigid night temperatures. We haphazardly pulled off our outer layers, stashing them in various corners around the store to try on a variety of animal pelts. By the grace of the thrift gods, I found a coarse, variegated brown otter fur, and she discovered a softer rabbit coat that fit her slight frame like a glove. The scent of both evoked the ghosts of old, perfume-drenched Parisian women, but stinking to high heaven seemed a welcome trade for the warmth they provided.
As I collected the clothes I arrived with, I realized my sunglasses were nowhere to be found. My blood ran cold as I patted myself down and turned my pockets inside out.
Panic. They weren’t just any old pair.
I tore through racks of post-mortem donations and holy jeans. My friend sweetly joined the hunt, scouring the floor and suggesting an array of places they could have wandered off to.
“Fuck,” I stopped rummaging and turned to face her, wiping an anxiety-induced bead of sweat from my brow as tears welled in my eyes. “Those sunglasses are special to me—they’re the ones he gave me.”
Her face mirrored mine—she understood more deeply than most and knew the fear of losing even one more small piece. She placed a comforting hand on my arm.
“Maybe someone turned them in—let’s check the front.”
We weaved through the dusty racks to the checkout area where a surly-looking French girl with facial piercings stood, looking off into space.
“Excuse-moi, uh—sunglasses? Looking for…” I dumbly pantomimed the act of donning eyewear. She stared blankly for a moment, then turned to the storage area behind her, pulled something from a drawer, and held it out to me.
“Oh my god, there they are!” I exclaimed at the sight of them, an undue amount of relief and joy washing over my entire body. “Merci beaucoup, merci, merci…” I stammered again and again as she nodded curtly with each thank you. I turned to my friend, clutching the sunglasses to my heart with a heavy sigh.
“Huh, it would seem I’m not so healed after all.”
We left the shop and lit up more cigarettes, the pair of us quiet for a moment as we both drifted off into our respective thought spirals. Unbeknownst to my friend as we walked, I gave in to my urge to message him.
“I thought I lost the sunglasses you gave me today. I found them, but I cried at a vintage store. I was gutted.”
“I’m glad you found them,” He replied. “They are replaceable though.”
“Yes,” I said, dissatisfied of course with the matter-of-factness of his response. “It was more of an emotional loss than a material one.”
I closed the messages and returned to the present moment.
“Well, I say we get a drink,” I said to my friend with a rueful smile, swallowing my shame.
I put an arm around her in a gesture of comfort, but it was more for me than for her—a silent apology for abandoning my post as captain. I’d spent the day lashing her to the mast and stuffing her ears with wax to keep the siren song temptation of love from reaching her—I didn’t even notice that my own bonds had come loose.