Listen While Reading: Dreaming of You // Cigarettes After Sex.
The sweet, almost dizzying, aroma of the tiny boulangerie around the corner is wafted in the summer breeze; a cloud of butter and almond and cinnamon. A lady in a crisp white apron and immaculate, elegant flats is rushing to the front of the shop and in a series of orchestrated moves, she’s barricaded the door and away she goes, soon disappearing down yet another unknown street. As I turn my head around, I’m almost cast out of balance by a couple, racing on their vélos. They’re chattering in loud, rapid French, and I’ve been here long enough so as to be able to make a positive guess that they’re most likely not settling a quarrel but rather just babbling about. “Je te dis, c’etait vraeiment terrible!”, the man exclaims with a grandiose gesture of his hands and the woman soon falls into a fist of fairy giggles, her quivering body effortlessly maneuvering the bicycle underneath her.
Carried away by my thoughts, I find myself descending the creaky steps to the bank of the Seine. Hoards of tourists are scrambling about, surely debating which of the myriad Parisian chefs-d’oeuvre they should marvel at next. At the flight of the steps two men- one lacing his fingers idly in the strings of his gigantic viola and the other banging away at his guitar- are humming a melancholic jazz tune. A little further away a painter seems to have fallen into divine inspiration, as he’s manically sketching with his coals, a concentrated frown distorting his face. Another man is strolling absent-mindedly alongside the river with his head tucked down into his scarf, this morning’s paper dangling from his arm. And as I’m averting my gaze, finally focusing on the laze, emerald grey waters of the river ahead, I’m struck by an unsettling thought; to all these people this, the majestic scenery, the idyllic ambience, is but the ordinary routine of their lives, unmoving and mundane.
To them, the flickering Tour d’Eiffel that’s picking out in the distance, blanketed in the soft silver night haze, is nothing but a background installment. The Van Goghs and the Rodins cramming in the Musée d’Orsay in all of their glory cease to exhilarate. The architecture of every other building, romantic, eclectic, history-bearing, all sweet curves and tiny brass balconies, is a given. When they talk, they’re hardly aware of the poetic, almost love-confessing properties of their language. What a sweet torture to live engulfed in such a magnificent culture, at the same time immune and dependent on it.
And then again how can I be sure that the lonely wanderer isn’t conjuring analogous romanticizing tales about my boring old hometown? Maybe to the exhausted Parisian commuter, it’s the tranquillity of the cobblestoned roads in your recluse Argentinian village that evokes nostalgia. Or the crystal starry horizon in your African town. Or perhaps the shock of bright colours of the paper lanterns surrounding your small Vietnamese street. So I challenge you:walk in the shoes of the ecstatic tourist, admiring your birthplace with their gleeful eyes for the first time. Roam the streets of your city with wanderlust and an unceasing passion to discover and cherish all of its little treasures. The empty cafes. The little markets bursting with food and screaming vendors, the scribbles on the benches and the indigenous flowers on the window sills. Beauty is generously scattered in the most profound places.
Words by Maria Stratoudaki // Photography by Grecia Villa.
© 2016 Reef Magazine