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An Autumn Day In Paris (A Short Story)  发贴心情 Post By:2016-12-13 23:08:26

An Autumn Day In Paris (A Short Story) November 24, 2016 It was one of those chilly autumn days in Paris. After a job interview in the Latin Quarter, I was pacing along a street lined with sycamore maples, feeling like a deflated balloon. Large yellow leaves danced silently in the air, as the sound of my heels hitting the stone pavement echoed in the narrow streets. I tilted my head to look at the grey facades of the buildings crowding one-next-to-another on the side of the street, fantasising about the homes inside the buildings. Those narrow, deep-set windows must have many perfumed secrets hidden behind their diaphanous laced curtains; or maybe not, maybe they just appeared so. Maybe when you go inside the mysterious little homes the most provocative things to find would be baguettes and cheese. But in either case, I would give up everything I had to be behind those veils. Whatever was the truth of Parisian life, I longed to be in, not out. A sinister gust of wind made me close my black coat even tighter. My legs were trembling in stockings. The business wear for the interview was not enough for the outdoor temperature, and the matching coat was not long enough to cover my legs. And the walk to the tramway station just seemed endless. Finally I arrived at the station. The only other passenger was a young man dressed in a black suit talking on the phone. I walked in front of him, towards the wooden benches on the far end of the stop. “Vous êtes charmant, Madam.” Suddenly he stuck out his head and said to me. “Vous êtes belle.” * I replied a somewhat embarrassed smile and went to sit in the corner. The man went back to his conversation on the phone. I remained in shock for the next half an hour or so, feeling lit from the inside. While sitting in the homeward tram I sank into memory. I recalled how I got similar “oral harassment” in sweet form like this when I first arrived in this city, and one day in the French Language class, a routine discussion on French manners made an unexpected turn and landed on something that was perplexing me. “A man called me ‘Petite Princesse’ on the street today.” An American girl with long blond hair said with an annoyed tone, her eyes blinked with pride. “Oh, yes, there is this gross man who whistles at me every time I pass in front of his store!” Another girl shouted with excitement. This Mexican girl always showed up in class in black miniskirt and tall boots. She could not agree more and added disgust to the inquiry about French culture. “And I got comments about my bottoms.” A reserved English wife of expatriate added with a sophisticated half-bloomed smile. I did not join this discussion because I was paying attention to our French teacher Catherine, who would just listen patiently with her usual gentility. Catherine was in her forties or fifties. She was tall with a thick torso, loved to wear garments in neutral or sombre colours: beige waterproof hooded jackets, maroon cardigans, plain white shirts, dark blue and brown jeans, and black boots. Somehow she was against all stereotyped notions I had about French ladies, yet at the same time so typically French to me. Like the film actress Fanny Ardant. Some French ladies carry with them the same air of tender sadness as from old French movies, and she was one of them. After hearing all the complaints or inquiries about French etiquette, Catherine smiled one of those smiles of hers that always made me feel warm and sad at the same time, and said: “I also had experiences like this when I was young, but now nobody would say these words to me any more. I remember when I heard these things, I was always glad. They say it out of kindness. It is a beautiful thing to hear words like this from strangers.” (End) (2013)