Paris held boucoup des choses pour moi.
Bridges and architecture. A pink setting sun over the Seine. Sitting in a cafe, drinking café from a minuscule cup with a cube of sugar on the saucer. The glow of the Sacre Coeur from my flat window. Battling roving Frenchmen hands in the metro. Fresh, warm baguettes smothered in brie. A glittering Tour Eiffel seen from everywhere in the city. Hours studying Le Langue Français and hours drinking the language away in wine. Wandering winding streets and losing myself in museums. Quartier Latin for class and Le Neuvième for home. Delectable pastries and cigarette smoke.
It seemed to me smoking was as integral to French culture as hot dogs and apple pie are to Americans.
Paris for me was a young man dressed all in black, jaywalking in the middle of impossibly dense traffic, no hat or umbrella, smoking despite and to spite the heavy rain, a “fuck you” look on his face that he was born with.
It was four course meals, including a cigarette course, snaky trails enhancing bitter espresso and long conversation au Franglish, sips and drags and laughter.
It was spoken word performance, a cigarette in a poet’s hand, swirls of smokey air tinging each word with poignancy, murky air carrying the metre, hazy breaths punctuating each pause and stanza.
It was loud jazz music in the park on a warm, humid, summer night. Syncopated notes mingling with smoke and setting a delicious scene in my memory, a souvenir all its own.
It was Vogue cigarettes, endlessly long and thin in my fingers, making me feel like fucking Audrey Hepburn or Brigitte Bardot, the rose flavor sucked down with relish, the whorls emanating pure, smokey sex, no matter what the surgeon general says.
J’ai fumé. I smoked shamelessly in Paris. Perhaps it was an effort to fit in. Perhaps it was a deluded way of feeling more Française. Perhaps I was just giving myself over to the culture, letting my preconceived notions and cultural taboos go for a bit, opening my mind and experiencing something new. Savoring a different way of living that centered around truly, truly living, setting aside my endless worries and enjoying a meal and good company and conversation and the sweet buzz of a cigarette.
J’ai fumé à Paris, but I quit several months after I went home to California. I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock of going back to a place that had been home for 26 years. And smoking wasn’t as acceptable any longer. Didn’t hold the appeal. Didn’t punctuate poetry or enhance experience, didn’t ooze sex Français.
I still have the last box of Vogues, half empty, sitting in a box of French memories, nestled next to maps and postcards and metro cards. That’s how smoking will always be for me. In my box of memories of Paris. The experience its own souvenir.
This was a post for the RemembeRED prompt: Write about the first (or second) memory that comes to mind when you see this:
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