December 24, 2009


Paris repairs. Consider The Hôtel de Ville, city hall, in the 4th arrondissement, a giant sand castle fantasy that dates from 1357 and is still the working center of the city. At night it sparkles like a dream come true.

Take the Metro to the station of that name or simply walk Rue de Rivoli. Start in Marais and follow that road all the way to the Louvre or further if you are going to eat at Le Zimmer.

Take the Metro to George V: Don’t miss the Champs-Élysées at Christmas.

But walk this city.

The repairs will startle. The lining of my heavy black coat, its hem that touches the top of my boots, got caught on a boot link: separated and frayed. I could have walked into any dry cleaners along the streets of Marais and gotten an excellent repair. But it was Sunday. So I pinned the hem with safety pins and walked to the open market at Bastille: fresh food: roasted beets (yes, they roast them for you), cheese, meat, fish, a rabbit for dinner (Yes, I cooked it. See the recipe below.) But I also found needle and thread and so could do the repair myself. I am not the seamstress my mother was, nor as good as anyone in the Parisian dry cleaners, but the satisfaction of the needle and thread in hand healed.


Paris dreams. For at night we repair through sleep and dreams. Parisians do not balk at movies and books with dreams. In Paris it is safe to dream. It is safe even to write about the dreams. Hélène Cixous wisely advises, “Crossing the frontiers to the other world without transition, at the stroke of the signifier, this is what dreams permit us to do and why, if we are dreamers, we love dreams so much. It’s the cancellation of opposition between inside and outside . . . .”

I go into the closet, hear a noise, perhaps the neighbors, I think, and lean closer to the wall to listen.

This is of course absurd in the way that dreams are.

From inside the closet, from the wall something touches my breast. I’m unable to move or see.

Paralyzed the way we sometimes are in dreams and in this case also blind.

I try to open my eyes but can’t. And still I see. I am no longer the center of the picture. I am the observer. Someone else goes into the closet in the light and finds a box. In it is a large crude oddly shaped oboe. A musician decides to try to play the instrument. It is difficult at first but then he wets the reed with his tongue and the oboe responds to his mouth, his touch, and the sound becomes more compelling, the playing more necessary.

But then the oboe is lying on a bureau. It waits for him—like a demand: When will you be home? When will you play me?

I was hidden.

I lay alone in my bed in Paris and knew this: To be absent was how I dealt with D.’s inability to connect. “Only connect . . .,” E.M Forster tells us in the epigraph of Howard's End. How often I have read that line, spoken it. How deeply I thought I had understood when I had not. Yes, D. left me, but where was I?

When the light came late in the morning as it does in Paris in December, I walked the streets of Marais. There I stood somewhere in the 3rd or 4th before a repair shop for clarinets and oboes and saxophones and flutes. . .

If only I could paint this. Perhaps I will for the dream that moves from the wound to become something other than itself reinvents, repairs.

More to come on dreams. . .without transition: hat trick, bedtrick, mind trick.

Here is Melissa Clark’s wonderful recipe for Mustardy Braised Rabbit with Carrots.