I watched the Cathedral of Notre-Dame turn into a shadow as the sun went down. Just like her I was a weird silhouette standing in the middle of the bridge, writing on a notebook. Around me, everything was lighting up : the monuments, the quays, barges with their cocktail parties. On the bridge, couples were exchanging sweet words, gangs of friends were laughing, tourists were holding their cameras. up. Shopping bags bumped into each other, tired heels bended. Suddenly all heads turned a bus : this was the first time I saw something like that. A nightclub-bus. Filled with loud music and lights.
No one in Paris knows I’m here. I stopped begging for the crumbs of the time of busy people long ago. I am just available for this city that witnessed my hopes, my sufferings, my wonders and my revolts.
Not much has changed since my Parisian childhood. Maybe heads are leaning more, hunging to the little screens we carry everywhere. I still love to attend the show of normal people going by their business. People who receive messages, who go out on Friday nights, who plan holidays with their friends, who can say « Hey, it’s me ! » on the phone I watch them with still the same certainty that I am not part of that world. Sometimes I envy them, sometimes I despise them.
Clinging to my notebook, I try to ignore them, like one tries to ignore the currents and make his way through the raging sea. I try to hold on to my little rock, because it stands in the middle of beauty. At this moment I am well. Anonymous in the city, nothing planned, feeling the heartbeat of the streets, the flood of sidewalks, living most intensely all these scenes that people offer me when passing. These half seconds in which they say so much of themselves and of our society. Yes, I believe am well.
Yet something in me is still waiting. Waiting for someone to stop on that bridge, and tell me ” You look like someone who is thirsty ». A hand finally stretching, a shoulder offered, a smile. That would be enough.
I close the notebook and head back. I cross the square of Hotel de Ville. The musician who was singing Leonard Cohen an hour ago is still there. Still singing Leonard Cohen songs. I smile, and find myself in Montreal again, another city in which I threw everything I believed in. He is definitely playing a tribute to L. Cohen. I walk by him, and then turn back and sit among the improvised audience. Now I’m in Istanbul, last time I had this same hesitation, when, in front of Aya Sofia Church, an Irish violinist had made me walk back. We spent the next four days walking the city together, and met a week later in Paris … in front of Notre-Dame who still had her towers. The circle is complete.
This time it took me just a verse to dare. He was singing Famous Blue Raincoat. I walked to him and sang without asking permission. I don’t remember what we said, or even if he said something. We ended the set with two microphones, marveling at how we knew all the songs and how our voices blended. We still didn’t know each other’s names. We were watching one another, paying close attention to our body language. We improvised a midnight supper in his truck-house and played each other all the songs we knew, L. Cohen, folk, country and old blues of the 30s. I was a street artist in my hometown. We talked about Paris as two strangers, and about music like two children from the same motherland.
The night was aging. As I was crossing the river, I wondered if this encounter would unfold or if it was only a shooting star. We roamers know the smell of encounters that grow only in a place, a moment, and then fade away in the dust of the road each one has to take.
This companion of music was going from Germany to Italy, but decided to go to Paris after the burning of Notre-Dame. I was in transit in Paris, but decided that evening to pay a visit to the wounded cathedral. We met while others kept passing. Numbers are cruel. We only remember what is happening, and believe that it was meant to be. But nobody tells the stories of what could have been, of all the aborted potentials.
We met because of Notre-Dame, because of L. Cohen, because of Paris. Surrounded by the beauty of stones we offered to people the beauty of words and sounds. In the flow of the busy streets, we raised a small rock where those who wanted could sit and smell another breeze. We interrupted their route, so that for a moment, they would listen and be available. We teared off looks filled with stars, smiles that came for far, eyes closed and pennies. And that was enough.