Making My Peace … with limited love and light in Paris
Three times in Paris I have fallen in the street. Last week, I tripped on the pavement as I was navigating my way around restaurant tables, and bruised my calf. An elderly French gentleman helped me up. Another time, I tripped on the curb and fell into a water-filled pothole, scraping the skin off my palms. Three people – two women and a man – passed by without a word.
My worst fall was earlier this year, late at night. It was raining and I was rushing home. I fell hard, skidding on the road. It seemed an eternity before I stood up, with a hole in the knee of my jeans, and cuts and bruises on my arms and legs. I was visibly stirred, but not shaken. About fifty people, or more, in the busy restaurant zone witnessed the fall. Not one person spoke; not one person assisted. Were they COVID-avoidant? Were they concerned about getting wet in the rain? Did they think I was inebriated? I wasn’t. Age, poor light, limited spatial vision, impatience to get home, and wet ground all led to the embarrassing fall.
Where was the sympathy? Where was the assistance on that Parisian street? Where was the love?
Paris is referred to as the City of Love. Paris is also the City of Light. The Sun King, Louis XIV, declared in 1667 that he would order the installation of more street lighting to make the city safe – which he did with lanterns, candles, and oil lamps – making Paris one of the first European cities to adopt street lights. Love and light – the embodiment of Paris. Are these declining in the modern age – in the post-COVID age? On the night of the fall, there was no love, nor light at all. Pour moi, anyway!
Let me recall other falls in other countries, for I have had many. In my home country Australia, I fell so awkwardly that I knocked my glasses off as I face-planted the pavement in a deserted part of Canberra, the capital. About ten people materialized out of nowhere, as if by magic, to assist me – to seat me at a café, and to buy and pay for a soothing cup of tea while they cleaned the blood from my cheek and chin. With so much care. With so much love!
In Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in the rugged Caucasus Mountains, the greeting banner at the airport is “Tbilisi loves you.” It was there that I slipped on snow on Rustaveli Avenue, and a young policeman, with a rapid reaction, grabbed my arm, preventing a nasty fall. He helped me walk for five minutes back to my apartment, buying me a hot khachapuri from the local bakery to cheer me up and keep me warm. Even when I dropped my wallet, a young man chased after me to return it. And when I locked myself in my new apartment, the emergency brigade assisted – talking to me through the metal entranceway, the thickness of a Fort Knox security door, before one young man abseiled from the roof right onto my balcony and swung Tarzan-like into my abode, cutting the locks with a heavy sledge hammer to rescue me from myself. And then fixing the lock – all for free because it was community service. So much assistance. So much love! It was true, Tbilisi does love me.
In Pakistan, barbed wire barricaded the street during election demonstrations, making a two-minute walk to the café a long detour. Not wanting to detour, I attempted to go over the wire. A big, fierce-looking policeman stopped me; we chatted while I explained my intentions, and he guided me to a hole in the barbed wire fence so that I could walk safely through. Two military guards escorted me to the café and ensured that I was seated at the best table with a pot of their best cardamom chai. And I hadn’t had a fall or even injured myself. Such thoughtfulness. It wasn’t merely the tea that warmed my heart; it was their sociability – the very art of tea drinking accompanied with daily chatter and lots of laughter. Served with love!
Oh, how disappointing that people within the City of Love and the City of Light had little thoughtfulness to offer a helping hand after my fall. I am fortunate that my friends sign off their correspondences and conversations with “love and light, Martina.” It gives me joy. On a cold, dark, and rainy night in Paris, there was so little love and light, but so much from other sources.
Bring back the impetus to care. Bring back the thoughtfulness to share. Bring back the light of safety and stewardship. Bring back the love.
To all my readers, I’m sending you love and light!
Making my peace with limited love and light in Paris, I learned the following:
- There is love and light in the world
- Even if you don’t receive love and light, be brave enough to send it to others
- Don’t rush
- Take care when walking