Oscar Wilde wrote in 1894, "When good Americans die, they go to Paris", Canadians... I don't know. Anyway, on Britain's last day within the EU family of nations, Irish-Canadian UK resident and our favorite writer, Meave Haughey, posits that Paris dumped us all long ago...
I had Paris once. It was in the days of cheap flights. I mean really cheap flights, where we thought nothing of dropping everything and flitting off to the continent for the weekend. My boyfriend at the time phoned me one morning at work to say that his friend, a lecturer on his PhD, had offered his flat in Paris if we could get there that night, so my boyfriend had booked a couple of plane tickets for £0.00 plus tax. Those days we would occasionally leave work and get the train to the local airport and fly off for a weekend in Venice or Barcelona. (Of course, our room in Venice had had curtains over a bricked up window and seemed to be one of the few hotels totally landlocked with no canal views. The Midlands of Venetian hotels. And in Barcelona, we’d walked on the beach in silence -- not having spoken for most of the day). But now, we were headed for Paris. What did one need to do but buy a cheap razor at lunch and shave one's legs in the work shower? Roll on weekend of romance with all its curative power. I had it all planned in my head...the wafting scent of bread from the boulangeries, the poets strolling round contemplatively in their turtlenecks, the sound of accordions drifting through the air as we held hands like all the other lovers. Not to be.
At Gare du Nord we emerged into rush hour. Pickpockets and hawkers. Piss and sweat. Tired, hassled Parisiens and hordes of tourists here for Les Soldes -- the summer sales. Not a beret for miles. How we crossed Paris, I don’t recall, but I suspect it was on foot as my abiding memory is of seemingly interminable walking and with the disappointing sensation of menstrual cramps. Perfectly timed.
At last we arrived at a street in the neighborhood we recognised from the film Amelie. Perhaps things were going to be okay. The courtyard of the flat was indeed charming. Less so the seven flights of winding stairs and the tiny landing where we sat in the breathless heat once the key had broken off in the lock. Oh Paris.
The next day my boyfriend went out alone. He wanted to look at the graves of philosophers in Pere Lachaise. I wanted coffee. I wanted writers and cafes and bohemians -- but faced with cafe after cafe of sullen men sitting smoking on chairs outside, or leant up against tiny bars, I lost my nerve. Instead, I climbed the steps of Montmartre. Looking out into the white haze of June over Paris, I knew -- so many things were just about to end.
'About Paris' - inspired by bad boyfriends everywhere, but also, We'll Never Have Paris (Andrew Galloux) fiction and essays inspired by Paris from more than 70 Anglophone writers
Meave Haughey is a short story writer based in Birmingham. Recent stories have been published in Comma Press’s The New Abject, and Forecast: New Writing from Birmingham, Doestoevsky Wannabe’s Love Bites: Fiction Inspired by Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks and in Birmingham, from the Doestoevsky Wannabe Cities series. Meave's story The Reservoir featured in The Best of British Short Stories 2021 compiled by Salt Press.
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