One afternoon many years ago we were feeling bored in our Paris hotel room and, on the spur of the moment, decided to hit the street to visit the Montmartre quarter. After getting out of a taxi at its base, we walked up the hill where our favorite Parisian church lies: the Sacré Coeur. The beautiful Romano-Byzantine style church can be seen miles away at the top of what Parisians tenderly refer as “la Butte”; that hill was the scene of a firing squad liquidation of several priests during the popular uprising known as La Commune de Paris in 1871. After the revolt was tragically put down, the city and religious authorities built it to “expunge that memory” and atone for the Communards‘ sins.
After leisurely watching passers-by and tourists swarming the beautiful Place du Tertre (where there are many amateur artists that prepare great portraits) and savoring two crêpes from a famous “little hole in the wall”, we slowly walked downhill until we reached the Place Blanche where the Moulin Rouge stands. We bought an ice cream and nonchalantly walked around peeking at the shop windows and the marquees of mini-theaters where “oversized bi-gender anatomies” are displayed. As it was getting cold, we decided to go to the nearest taxi stand to patiently queue up with other tourists.
While standing at the queue, we noticed that in a dark corner across the street a group of young men were harassing an old hag; she tripped with a bag and fell, lying defenseless at their feet. She looked like one of the old gypsies squatting in street corners to read tourists’ palms. Incredibly, not a single policeman was beating the street at that time.We immediately crossed the street and firmly confronted them in French for their abject behavior; even though we were out-numbered, the cowards quickly took off in a jiffy. We helped the destitute woman with haggard looks and a run-down flowing skirt to stand up and collect her belongings; her smell of untidiness almost knocked us down.
-“Are you hurt?” we asked her. “Do you want to go to a hospital?”
-“No, thanks, I’m fine, “ she replied with a crackling accent that smacked of a Slavic origin. “I just want to go home. My bus stops over there,” she said, pointing at a darkened corner down Boulevard de Clichy where more trouble might have been surely lurking .
Without hesitation, we told her that it could be dangerous and that we would offer her a taxi ride at our expense; the fact that she lived in the distant suburb of Saint Dennis made us briefly hesitate. But watching her calamitous state, we carried on. We approached the taxi stand’s attendant (it was a touristy site with lots of clients) and made arrangements to pay in advance for her ride home; we gave the driver and the attendant a good tip apiece so they would take proper care of that poor woman.
We escorted her to the back seat of the spacious car, and we put her stuff in the trunk. Before the taxi took off, we leaned over the open window to say good-bye to her. She suddenly grabbed our right hand; we felt a jolt of electricity like we never did.
-“Thank you for your generosity, Mystic Wanderer…You do a lot of good to many people, even those you do not know. Like me…You’ve earned the protection of good spirits.”
-“Er…”, we mumbled. “Have we met before?”
-“I know who you are…You have a special halo that gives you immediately away.”
-“Mmm…Someone said the same thing to me in New York some years ago—”
-“Let me give a little present to treasure…You were committed twice but they were not the love of your life…A beautiful sorceress will steal your heart and seduce you.”
-“Really?” we shot back with a touch of derisive sarcasm. “Where is she, eh?”
-“She hasn’t been born yet…And she will be coming from the East…Beware.”
With a final caress, she departed in the speeding taxi, leaving us dumbfounded.
That incident occurred more than twenty years ago but it still troubles us deeply. Just in case, we always peek at the distant horizon in an Easterly direction.
En tout cas…
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.