by Elizabeth Stokkebye
Seventeen and in Paris on my own. My first encounter with the city of love and fortunate to stay with an aunt and uncle. Both being workaholics left me with oceans of time to explore. What I had in mind to see was the architecture; the art museums; the places that tourists went.
The air was springlike, mild and sunny, although I was spending my Christmas holiday away from my home in Denmark. This is the one time in my life I experienced pure freedom. I remember how my breathing felt different: effortless and silent but steady and consistent. It was a breathing devoid of depression and anxiety. I breathed without past or future and let the air be present.
Walking along grand boulevards beneath a blue sky sporting white clouds I felt a loving heart circulate blood through my veins. On my way past the many cafés lining the wide sidewalk my sway caught the attention of a street performer playing his violin. As I danced by him he let go of his instrument and started to sing Ne me quitte pas. I stopped, turned around, and listened to his chanson. Was he performing especially for me?
My disposition was romantic and I was attracted to the situation. At the same time, I could hear my mother’s voice: “I’m so proud to have brought up a good girl!” I didn’t move. When he was done with the song, he waved me over. I was embarrassed and blushed but followed his hand. He grabbed mine and kissed it. I felt the touch of his soft lips. My skin everywhere reacted by turning prickly and my breathing became choppy.
“Ma Cherie,” he whispered.
All of a sudden my body felt heavy and I pulled away. Caught between wanting to leave and wanting to stay, I sat down on a bistro chair.
“Please, I need a minute,” I uttered.
He held his violin once again and with closed eyes he played the sweetest melody that could melt any tough disposition.
Paralyzed, I tried to think. Should I leave or should I stay? My sense of freedom had slowly vanished which made the decision so much harder. The guy was cute, romantic and talented.
A waiter came over asking me what I would like and I ordered a café au lait. As more people gathered around to listen to the pretty music, I started to relax. He didn’t sing again which made me feel special.
With his violin case full of money and the crowd thinning out, he declared:
“La dernière chanson!”
From his slender body came Que je t’aime and I didn’t know where to look. My gaze fell on a young woman advancing hurriedly towards us and embodying a sense of pure joy. She stepped right up to my singer and kissed him on the mouth.