It was many years ago now. Late winter. The only sign of spring the intensity of the light: the sky had an endless quality of blue layered upon blue, with a light between the layers – a vibrating blue.
But cold. It was the cold of the North, the cold that holds your bones and burns your eyes. A clean cold.
We sat outside, in the sun, and the sun mixed with the cold like stratified surf. Later that day we were due to get on a plane that would take me away from the complicated city, with its art and its avenues, its courtyards in shadow and limestone-light.
A flash of black caught my eye. A cat. A sinew-limbed, tall, long-legged short haired black cat. Around the cat’s neck was a perfectly fitted collar, attached to the collar a long thin leash. Attached to the leash was a hand, the hand of a beautiful man. He was sinewy, tall, long-legged and had beautiful thick short black hair.
The cat pranced, clearly comfortable with some morning ritual of promenade and then, I imagined, a lovely fish breakfast. The man strolled behind the cat, a newspaper under one arm. He had headphones wrapped around his ears, and I wondered what he heard as he watched the cat’s proud mast of a tail.
Memory is a trickster. Was the cat white, the man old? Was the cat a small dog? No. The cat was a cat and his companion his twin. I remember. It’s true. Blue. Cold. Tall man, tall cat, cobblestone.
Often when a guest leaves after a lovely visit a gracious host will offer a small gift to remember him by. A sketch, a book, a scarf. Or a man and a cat strolling down a quiet street on a cold Sunday morning.
Rain. A heavy, burdensome rain. A rain that one couldn’t believe was not snow, because it was so thick, so raw and cold. The broad sidewalk was dark, the street alive with the blurred yellow headlights of scooters, delivery trucks, commuters. The pavement was so wet it created a mirror to every light, as if one could live both above and below the Earth.
Such weather does not create a mood for lingering; reality itself seemed to pick up speed as the rain and the darkness deepened. I knew I had something of a walk ahead of me, and even with an umbrella I felt I would never be dry or warm again.
I reached the Eglise de Saint Germain des Pres. This was my landmark. Soon, home. But on this night, this most impossible of nights, in front of the church, was a man. He was extremely well dressed in that Parisian bobo style: he looked like an attorney on holiday.
The man had no umbrella. But he did have enormous, DJ-quality headphones, which apparently were waterproof.
He was dancing. In the rain, under the eaves of the Eglise. When I say dancing, I do not mean to indicate that he was conspicuously bobbing his head. He was… moving. Head down, legs engaged in an intricate pas de bourree, his torso undulating, gorgeously, to the silent sound. Whatever he was listening to, he really heard it, and, as someone who knows a bit about the subject, I tell you the man could really groove.
No one paid any attention. Big city, big rain, cold night. And he was not performing. His was a private joy, and those who caught a glimpse were just lucky. Someone, I am sure, caught sight of Isadora Duncan’s first white-robed solo on top of the Acropolis. I saw a nameless man moving like a feline snake on the Boulevard St. Germain.