Before he leaves for work, we go out "en famille" to our local boulangerie. He has fresh-squeezed orange juice and only a bite of his croissant. They aren't quite as light and flaky since the place changed hands a few months ago, and today they are slightly over cooked. Even Filou leaves the crispy crust on the sidewalk, eats only the buttery bites I tear off the top for him. The foam on my cappuccino is creamy and dense like I like it. When I ask for a second sugar, the blond sever pulls one from the pocket in her apron. She speaks English, but not to me.
The Labrador who sits every morning in front of the restaurant across the narrow street from the boulangerie leaves a big dump in the gutter two doors down, wipes his derriere on the pavement, and comes running to "greet" Filou before he has a chance to piss on the Lab's lamppost. Filou doesn't like dogs, swings wide across the sidewalk, pretending to ignore them until he can't anymore, wraps his leash around my legs or those of passers by as he scurries to escape... then sniffs the air in their wakes, watches them being led away.
Lots of suits and briefcases hurry to and from Les Halles, chatting into cell phones about their whereabouts, when they'll arrive, their rendezvous. (How do you make that word plural?) I wipe the orange-juice mustache from my man's bristly lip and leave him at the entrance to the RER, watch as he slips into the flow of people moving down the escalator and into the labyrinth of stores not yet open. We--Filou and I--cross the exterior patios all freshly washed of the night's piss and everything else. The carousel is empty. The mirrored arches reflect the sky in fragments.
A dad in day-off jeans and a tee shirt rumpled like his hair holds his little girl as they kiss Mommy goodbye at the entrance to the Metro on Rue Rambuteau. Maybe he doesn't have a job. A tanned man in pinstripes asks me the way to the Rue du Louvre and I show him, hoping I'm not mistaken. I am, but only a little. (It doesn't run parallel to Rue du Rivoli but intersects it just past the Bourse de Commerce.) At least now he's headed in the right direction. He's carrying nothing.
I pick up a parcel at the post office at Place Sainte Opportune. The sign on the door says no dogs--a symbol with a red circle and a line through it--but the receptionist is happy to see my cutie, lets me come in anyway... "a votre service," she says respectfully whenever anyone thanks her. It takes the clerk a few minutes to track down my box. His neatly pressed dress shirt and slacks are eggplant and khaki, respectively.
The street sweepers in grass green synthetics, heavy black boots, and neon vests, run water from municipal spouts in the gutters then brush the cigarette butts into the sewers with their brooms. The plastic bristles, all bent and frayed at the ends, match the vests--a pleasing ensemble with the trash cans dotting the curbs. Filou jumps over the little streams like a show horse.
The slight woman who works for her brother-in-law at the creperie just downstairs from our apartment smokes a cigarette at the threshold of the tabac on the Quai de la Megisserie. Her hair used to be so thin that I wonder if maybe she had cancer. This morning, it's pulled back and she's smiley and bright. She isn't always.
There's no school on Wednesdays, which means I won't hear the recess ruckus out my kitchen window today from the primary school around the corner. I often think I'll go to Tuileries and sit and watch the child's play--their chase on the dirt paths, their sail boats floating in the fountain. I never have, at least not on a Wednesday.
By noon, protesters arrive at the Hotel de Ville chanting along with the drum and the guy with the megaphone. I can't see them for the new-green leaves on the trees. Later, hopefully, music will float from the windows at the back of the Theatre du Chatelet... Piano, some stringed instruments, and a woman's operatic voice in curling notes tempered by the passing cars, delivery trucks with plants-a-plenty for the local vendors, not-too-distant sirens at intervals just long enough for me to regather my thoughts and spill them here, in pieces.