Walking around Paris with a heartache was like breathing the nostalgic fumes of a city brimming with melancholy. An endless number of cars, trucks and motorbikes passed me. Even at this hour of twilight, they careened like a herd of iron beasts looking for a way home. I strolled over Pont de l'Archevêché, also known as Lover’s Bridge, stopping at its sloping peak where I could stand and watch the River Seine. The river cut right through the city like a large gray python, snaking its way across the commotion in search of the distant sunset, while its small fleet of bateaux mouches—“mosquito boats”—churned back and forth between quays.
The scenery was mesmerizing; it pulled my attention into a swarming buzz and, my soul into the folds of its momentous history. One day, somewhere out there, I thought, I would find a girl to love, one I would share all things good with. She was looking out from one of those rustic windows, gazing at the sky in wonder much as I was, musing whether someone out there was thinking the same thing. Much as I missed the one that left, this one here would never leave. That was the promise of Paris.
A sudden loneliness catapulted me back to my childhood, when the things we craved most were so simple, when the mind painted everything so pure and harmless. How did life become progressively more complicated and overwhelming? How did our smallest woes grow and multiply into such fearsome, greedy monsters that gave birth to an abundance of more qualms?
The air had grown cool as night drew a darkness above me. Stars sparkled like bright diamonds cast across a black ocean while the promise of a good night’s sleep descended on Paris. Throughout the city, the electricity blinked occasionally in a last-ditch effort at enticing everyone back to consciousness. A cannonade of bright displays fighting to hold our attention for one last minute; flashing neon beckoning from a myriad corner bistros and bars lining the major avenues.
I walked and walked, trying to repel the encroaching emotion which pulled at my heartstrings, and now I approached the gallant neo-modern architecture of the Centre Pompidou. In the daytime, this was a hangout for the city’s amorous youth. Young Parisians snuggled together, sitting along the gray granite stairs and floor.
An occasional outburst of laughter broke the buzz of conversations as lovers here and there exchanged stories, waving away the endless onslaught of hungry pigeons that found the courage to approach them. One day, I thought, I would find someone to bring here, and sit next to these lovers, and laugh. A photograph taken from anywhere, from any angle, would have captured the resplendent beauty and magic of this place. And in the evening, when dusk brought a silence upon the square, now with barely a remnant of its population left, the full impact of the Pompidou’s quixotic grandeur filled my thoughts with a yearn to see it again the next day.
And as I retraced my steps and reached Lover’s Bridge once again, I approached the thousand padlocks lining its railing. Each padlock with initials carved on it, a heart in the middle, a promise made between two lovers, eternally bound. I turned to look at the River Seine one last time. It was romantically lit like a storybook dream, and I wondered if that had been the problem all along. That I hadn’t engraved our names on a padlock and affixed it to this place, so that our spirits locked, as such, would forever stare at the face of this rustic romance.
And our love would eternally flourish here, every night, under the moon of Paris.