Night rises slowly here.
A show of darkened gold, amber, fierce orange. Almost three hours after it started the glowing embers still spark in the western sky. Looking at them ignites a longing, as if the fiery trails – all that’s now left of the hottest day of the year – hold something just out of her reach.
She’s here to meet someone.
In all of the eighteen million, three hundred and ninety six thousand moments that she’s lived (give or take; she’s never bothered to adjust for leap years) only a handful stand out, coloured threads in a thick spool of grey. This will be one of them. The hard slats of the park bench digging into her thighs, the rustling and shifting of the trees, the warmth seeping from the city stone. The waiting. The two music students practising harmonies on the grass; alleluia over and over again. She doesn’t understand the rest of the Latin, but listening distracts her from wondering.
She’s here to meet a woman, but she doesn’t know what the woman looks like.
Her hands feel restless, jittery. She hasn’t brought a book because she doesn’t want to blend in. She needs to stand out, to make herself known, to make it clear that she is the outsider here because the other woman doesn’t know what she looks like either. Not any more; she’s all grown up from the year-old baby who survived the night on the convent steps. Left there by the woman she’s here to meet. Raised by nuns instead. She is imagining an older version of herself, and she imagines that the other woman is imagining a younger version of herself, but what if they are both wrong? How will they ever find each other here, in Paris, if it isn’t like looking into a mirror of the future or the past?
She wonders whether, like an animal, she will know her mother’s scent before she knows her face.
The sunset show is almost at an end. She doesn’t understand why people talk about night falling, because this husky, inky purple seems to be floating up from the heat-soaked ground. Her feet are swimming in it, along with the grass and the paths and the bottoms of the trees. Her hand nervously pats her small bag, wishing that she’d at least insisted on a photograph. All she has is a letter. She doesn’t know how the letter found her. Her husband is a diplomat, and she’s travelled so much that the ground sometimes sways beneath her feet. She wonders whether the handwriting – looped, heavy, spiky in places – will show in her mother’s eyes.
She wonders if it will finally feel like coming home.
Violet creeps up over her legs, over her arms, tangles in her hair. The leaves are swaying in it. The park is gradually emptying and she thinks this must be it, over, too late, but she doesn’t want the deep, rich colour to run with her tears. The moment is gone. With shaking hands, she gathers her bag and smooths her skirt. She’s glad she hasn’t told her husband.
She steps towards the night, and the woman on the bench opposite lowers her book
Elodie Rose Barnes is an author and photographer. She can usually be found in Paris or the UK, daydreaming her way back to the 1920s, while her words live in places such as Burning House Press, Bold + Italic and trampset. Current projects include two chapbooks of poetry, and a novel-in-flash on the life of modernist writer Djuna Barnes. Find her online at http://elodierosebarnes.weebly.com, and on Twitter @BarnesElodie.
Image via Pixabay