Paris Diaries: Trapped In Yves St. Laurent
My legs were seething with pain as I made my out of the garden towards the Metro and so my progress was far slower than the gathering storm clouds. I passed by an apartment building that looked familiar and remembered it was where the young poet from Provence in this Paris entry tried to talk me into some afternoon delight 3 years ago. I hurried past a church courtyard where two of the workers lugging heavy beams of wood paused in their work to hit on me. "Ca va?" they asked as I walked by, I kept on head down. The sky now almost entirely black.

Even though I hadn't walked very far, the pain was slowly becoming impossible to cope with when I saw the Yves St. Laurent store. I had promised Bakerina that I would buy her a bottle of a limited edition, only available in Europe Yves St. Laurent scent. I figured the store would be a good place to take a break. Besides unlike other perfumes high end French perfumes (Hermes, Cartier), you can only buy Yves St Laurent perfume in Yves St Laurent stores OR at the duty free shopping area at the airport. I walked into the store and asked about a bottle of Paris: 4 Roses. She went upstairs to check and see if she had a bottle while I stayed on the main floor feeling horribly out of place. The staff were all sleek and beautiful in black and here I was in my yellow t-shirt and jeans. To make it worse there were mirrors all over the place and so my failure was refracted at me in multiple angles. They invited me to sit on the large comfy couches just as the sky opened up and it began to pour. One of the sales girl locked the doors to keep anyone else from coming in. We stood at the door and watched it come down by the bucket full. It didn't look natural-it looked like a re-enactment of a scene from Moby Dick. Despite the fact that it was rather early, the sky was absolutely black. "You're going to have to wait," one of the sales girls said to me, "You can't go out in that." I nodded my head. As if I was made of sugar and might melt all over the sidewalk lest I get wet. Still her concern for me was touching, considering I was hardly what they expected in terms of clientele.

The saleswoman came back down to tell me that they no longer carried the limited edition 4 Roses variation, but they had the regular one. Even though I could get that version in the US, there was something about buying the perfume in the store in Paris during a horrible storm. It was a perfume with a story, with it's own little romantic history. It had been purchased while I was locked in YLS and the staff wouldn't let me out for fear that I should get drenched. I bought the perfume and went back to the couches to read my slim volume on Kafka for a bit. The staff all gathered on the stairwell looking at the rain. One of them told a joke about the Da Vinci Code that I couldn't fully translate. They warmly invited me to come sit with them and enjoy their inside jokes. I was too embarrassed to come near them. I looked like a tourist and here they were happily burbling away in French and in English in their pressed black clothes, their sylph-like bodies, their well made up faces. They were welcoming, but I was scared of them.

The storm showed no signs of letting up. Much like NY, I had no hope of getting a cab, but there was a bus stop right outside the store. I had not yet ventured onto the buses in Paris. The system, unlike the Metro system, seemed to me a typical product of French bureaucracy Byzantine to the point of unintelligible. A system so elaborate and difficult that a single miscalculation could result in a trip to the guillotine. But looking at the stop I realized that I could jump on any bus, and it would eventually stop by a Metro station. From there it would be easy for me to find my way back the hotel where I could rest my ankle for a bit, put on something warmer, and get some dinner eventually.

I asked them to let me out. They couldn't believe I was going out in the storm, they assured me I could stay. I told them it was alright-it was just water after all-and dashed to the bus stop. The first bus that arrived I jumped on. Once I was on, I consulted the bus route which was difficult to decipher. At first I panicked that I had compounded a bad situation and I was going to end up in the ass end of nowhere in Paris with no way home in the middle of the storm of the century. Eventually I did figure out where we were headed and where I could transfer to a train that would take me to the hotel. I arrived at the hotel soaked, but with minimal fuss.

I made the mistake, as I stripped off my wet clothes, of examining my feet. My left ankle was still inexplicably but definitively swollen. The good news was there was no indication that the swelling was the result of a rapidly spreading localized infection. I continued to put my money on soft tissue damage which meant resting the ankle as much as possible. I turned over the foot and discovered that the skin on the underside of the little toe had essentially come off of the foot. It was there, it just wasn't attached, revealing the muscle underneath. There was no blood, but the skin was dead. I took a large clean band aid, knowing this would do nothing, and bandaged the skin to the toe in order to protect it.

I've coped with lots of situations like this in my life and anyone who doesn't think I'm disabled would do well to consider how many health issues I had to cope with in a 12 day vacation. I could feel my eyes fill with tears. I couldn't call anyone. What could they do by phone? Besides they were more likely to panic than I am. And things weren't dire enough to require a doctor, not yet. I had coped with a lot worse on my own in NY without a doctor. I only needed to make it through 2 more days. It could be done. I refused to cry. I had never cried in Paris, I wasn't going to start. Not today. I decided to do what I always do-go next door to the familiar restaurant-fill myself with good food and wine-and try and forget that my body was falling apart.

To console myself at dinner I decided to try and think of all the states I've ever had sex in. It was a longer list than I thought: Connecticut, Nevada, NY, NJ, Maine, and Florida. I've only had sex in one foreign country, France, but I've made out to varying degrees in Mexico, Scotland, Ireland, and International Waters.

I also decided to tally my numbers so far for this vacation-

Overt Come-ons: 2 construction workers
1 creepy guy outside metro station
1 creepy guy on the RER
1 architect in the luxemburg gardens
1 the hot muslim (who I bedded)
1 the guys in the alley by Notre Dame

Grand Total: 7 come ons

Theoretical Come-Ons: 1 guy in the white suit outside of the Cluny
1 the painter in place de vosges
1 the guy by the movie poster store
1 the guy by the bookstore (before the luxemburg gardens)
1 the guy who hung outside the restaurant

Grand Total: 5 theoretical come ons

Health Problems: 4 blisters (both feet)
1 skin on little toe split
1 mysteriously swollen ankle
1 very painful knee (l)
1 very painful ankle (r)

Grand Total: 8 health problems

Much Like Mulder on the X Files, when I'm scared , fear rarely shows on my face. While some emotions are broadcast perfectly, if unconsciously, by my facial expression-fear is stifled. To others around me, I often seem calm. Yet another disparity between my internal and external reality. Sitting at the table eating dinner, no one would think I was overwhelmed with fear and upset and frustration. I might have looked serious, pensive even, but not scared or upset.

I decide the following day I'll do Notre Dame and the Blvd St Michel. I'll sacrifice St. Eustache and Sacre Couer even though St. Eustache has one of my favorite stained glass windows. I have been there once, I suppose, and I'll go there again next time.

Next time, I think, assuming that my legs and ankles and feet hold up better next time. There's a lot of hope in that thought. But then Paris has been the city of wishes and dreams for me in the past. Not this trip, I thought. But of course, it wasn't over yet.

**(While you can buy Paris in the US, YSL puts out variations on the scent like this one that are only available in Europe. Their latest limited edition only in France variation is Paris: Jasmine Gardens.)

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