“Paris syndrome is a transient psychological disorder encountered by some individuals visiting or vacationing in Paris, France. It is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution, derealization, depersonalization, and anxiety. … It is speculated as manifesting from an individual’s inability to reconcile a disparity between the popular image and the reality of Paris.” –Wikipedia, April 19, 2014
You told me Paris was wonderful. I am not in a position to argue, but have caution. You have always been one to try becoming the things you adore. Sometimes I think the City of Light is well on its way to blinding you; sometimes I think you’ve snagged the Eiffel Tower like a splinter under your knee.
Paris is a city that has seen too many people. They flock to it, desperately attracted by the notion of romance, of this can make me better, and who is it to say no? It has never said no before. They slip into its boutique hotels and bedrooms and have nights of crimson and gasping plum and never once suspect that when they wake, the sky will be grey. These tourists swarm in by the planeful, and tucked deep in the city’s 5th arrondissement is the old hope that they will tug their country’s sunshine in behind them like yellow balloons on string, but they never do. They walk the easy paths, roads paved with fresh bread and fashion models, the original landscape long tramped down into monotonous flatline by footfalls of people who visited a day, a weekend, four months. Paris has grown tired of touching passports as substitute for skin. The people who stay with the city are the ones who grew up in its low-slung sprawl, who have long since learned the difference between suicides and drunkards pissing in the river. They alone know how to love the edges, the ugly spots, the whistling cavernous underground.
(I confess I am not a local. I did not draw first breath in Hôtel-Dieu or Pitié-Salpêtrière, and my waist is considered Xtra Small on the side of the ocean where I roost. But I have spent years coating my tongue in a language which may permit me to honour you. The rolling R in the back of my throat says, I will stay.)
This is a city whose bridges are all crashing down, locked under the weight of too much misplaced love. I can make you better. They will take pedestrians with them if necessary. If you don’t believe me, the list of witnesses grows ever-longer: Émile, Victor, Napoleon, Beniim, Xavier. After so much kitsch, it has grown bitter—it does not believe in the adoration in newcomers’ eyes nearly as much as it believes in the hallucinations in their heads, the way the streets go empty when autumn comes and all the vacations are up. Do not take after Paris, my love. It may be pretty, but la Seine runs like black blood vessels through its arms.