my shrink lives in the Marais, the gayest area of gay Paris, in the Jewish quarter where you can get the best falafel in town (just ask Lenny Kravitz.) i’ve been going every Monday for the last few weeks, and it forces me to get out of bed before late afternoon and go out to be a part of the living. i no longer spend the entire métro ride hiding tears beneath a lowered head, and i have even come to enjoy being in a charming part of Paris where i can wander undisturbed among the queers and the jews and the starry-eyed tourists.
sometimes i walk all the way home, crossing the Seine, skirting the limits of the Latin Quarter and then drifting down the small side streets where i’m mostly alone with my footsteps and my thoughts. it’s a long walk, and today there was a steady fall of sloppy snow that might as well have been rain, so i decided to see some sites and then just take the métro. i randomly chose a direction and started walking.
it’s not the first time i have encountered this particular street artist’s work. three years ago, Froggy and i spent many months trying to find a sperm donor for at-home attempts. we received a lot of ick-inducing emails, but we finally connected with a man who seemed legitimate and mostly normal. the three of us met one night at a bistro and discussed our project, and after he’d agreed to be our donor, we all said our goodbyes at the nearby train station. as the man walked away, Froggy and i looked down and realized we were standing on a piece of street art exactly like the one above. at the time we thought it was a sign, and we talked excitedly about the fact that we would soon be starting the journey towards a family of our own.
(were we ever wrong…)
i saw it again a year later, this time in a miniature version that was painted on a cash machine. i’d just been telling a friend about our donor and doctor woes, and i was feeling particularly pessimistic about us ever getting all the right pieces of the puzzle into place. my friend Fia (an expat who left her high paying job in NYC to move here and start fresh as a professional photographer) looked at it and said, “see, it’s a sign. you’ll get your baby.”
so after seeing that fetal street art again and taking a rapid and violent trip down amnesia lane, i headed south west and suddenly found myself looking at a not-too-distant Notre Dame. my feet took over for my brain, and i automatically crossed the Seine on to L’Île de la Cité. i braved throngs of tourists and passed the many mediocre, overpriced restaurants that suck them in. i also passed one tacky Parisian souvenir shop after another for what felt like miles. here’s just one example:
i know it’s a poor shot. there’s a huge bleacher like structure directly in front of the entrance now (in preparation for the inauguration of the new bells in a few weeks, i imagine), and i had to climb it to even get that much of the façade in the picture. and then my phone rudely informed me that it was getting too tired to play cameraman, so i couldn’t even try for a better picture. from the top of the bleacherthingy, i could look down on the ant-like line of eager visitors that advanced in a steady stream into the cathedral.
i’d planned to go in and light a candle for little sun. not because i’m religious or spiritual in any kind of organized way….the place just has a special meaning for me, and i wanted to be inside among all those flickering flames, with the glow of the rose window behind me and another mother who’d lost her son looking down on me. i knew i couldn’t have that meaningful moment in the middle of a crowd, so i crossed the Seine again and headed towards a métro.
the whole time i was walking, i kept thinking that i wanted to do something nice for Froggy. she’s having a particularly rough go of it this week, and i thought if i could bring home something tasty to eat, it might help to quell the tears for a while. on one of the streets just across from Notre Dame, i saw the familiar sign of our favorite Indian restaurant. there are two other restaurants with the same name and ownership here in Paris, but both require significant travel on public transport, and neither of us really wants to sit in a restaurant and eat just yet. this particular branch had apparently opened recently, and i was happy to see that all of our favorites were on the menu at just a slightly higher price than in the other two. (the grande Dame has that kind of influence.)
because it was nearly 3pm, a time when most people have already eaten and most restaurants have already closed, there were only a few others inside. a beaming young waiter took my order and then began to chat with me. i learned that he was from Sri Lanka but grew up in India and that he’d only been in France for five months. the conversation was light and easy, and i found myself liking this sweet, cheerful guy who was telling me about his life.
i don’t know why i did it, but at one point, i found myself asking him if there were any special rituals done in the Hindu religion for lost babies. and of fucking course i choked up and teared up and found myself struggling to regain any kind of composure.
“was it your baby?” he asked. i nodded, gulping back sobs. i apologized again and again, but he just shook his head and gave me a sympathy-filled smile. i finally found my calm and we talked about Ganeesha and about which deity a babylost parent might pray to. before i left he said he would contact me when he found someone to do a ritual for little sun. i have no idea what that means, but the idea of someone thinking of him and speaking his name is always appealing. i was so very touched by this young man who works 13 hours a day, six days a week and who has yet to see anything in Paris besides the Eiffel Tour and Notre Dame. he’s the first stranger i’ve talked to who didn’t flinch or turn away when i lost my mind and started talking about my dead baby. i really needed that little brush with kindness. when i left i gave him a big tip. even if i’d had a hundred on me, it wouldn’t have been enough.
i had a thought today while i was at Notre Dame. maybe there are other babylost parents out there who would like me to light a candle for their child when i go to light one for little sun. if anyone out there reading this would like me to this for them, please let me know.
and now it’s time to try for sleep once again. it’s nearly 6:30am here, and despite having only gotten three hours of sleep the night before last, i am far too awake. i hope my brain will slow down soon.