Alone in Paris

  It is 37 degrees in Paris, and I decide I want to get off the stuffy Metro a few stops early to look at something. I don’t plan to walk the rest of the way to the museum I’m hoping to end up at eventually, but I get distracted by a garden, and then I’m walking. And walking, and walking. 

For some reason, on very hot days I almost always find myself outside, walking for a lot longer than is probably advisable. 

My feet are dusty and sore, my cheeks are red, and my hairline is sweaty. I am dishevelled. I sip the water in my bottle. It’s warm. My steps are slow and steady. I chase shade and rest often. I think about the muscles and bones in my feet, and the trajectory of weight through them as I walk, and about how I’m probably getting sunburnt. I gaze at buildings and the river and the other people walking and shimmering in the heat. 

When I reach the museum, what I wanted to see is closed. But I have walked all this way in the heat, so I pay to see something else. And I walk more. Only this time it is cool. In the bathroom I splash water on the back of my neck, but there is nothing to be done about the dusty feet.

The art makes me think and feel. Things I don’t have words for. Things I don’t have to find words for because I am alone. 

One year when I lived in Sydney, I had a theatre subscription, and most times I went alone. I would walk home from the plays in the dark, thoughts and feelings rattling around in my head, changing me ever so subtly. That I went alone and walked home alone felt precious to me. Solitary in the same way as reading a novel. 

The walking, the museums, the river, the dusty feet, being in Paris alone feels like this to me. 

By the river another hot day I buy an ice cream. Even though I eat it within five minutes of receiving it, it still melts all over me. My hands, my legs, then my face when I touch it with my hands. I get what I think is most of it off, then realise I don’t really care. 

I keep walking. Dusty feet, ice cream sticky face and hands. Smiling. Solitary, like reading a novel. 

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Thinking time

I seem to spend a lot of time on my own these days. I only realised just the other day how much time I spend in my own company. Most of my work is in the evenings at the moment, and I’m not a late sleeper, so I spend a lot of time pottering around by myself during the day.

But by no means am I lonely. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy the time.

Most Mondays I get on a train and head up to Newcastle to visit friends up there and attend a production meeting for a creative collective I’m involved in. The trip is three hours long. At first, I thought of that three hours as a chance to get a little bit of writing done. Or some class planning. Work-time, that is.

As it turns out, I find it impossible to work when I’m in transit. I’ve tried, but I usually end up with two or three words on a page and frustration in the space between my eyebrows. I’ve found the same thing on the three-hour bus trip I sometimes take to and from Canberra when I visit my Ma, Pa and brothers.

So recently I stopped trying to force myself to work. When I did, an interesting thing happened: I started to think. Properly think. You know, about life, the universe and everything and nothing. I thought through the problems I was having with my writing and often came up with solutions — I thought through life problems and again, often came up with solutions. I also started to think bigger than myself, to think, dare I say it, philosophically about the world. No solutions there. But interesting nonetheless.

How often does one get a chance to just sit and think these days?

Now, when I travel alone, I call it Thinking Time, and I don’t understand how I ever did without it.

Here’s the view from my thinking seat on the train to Newcastle. Sigh.

On being alone.

What leaves me more bereft than anything else is the feeling that there are stitches loose in all my joints; that I’m wobbly when I try to do things on my own, because any one of the stitches could break at any moment and I would lose a limb. I have not aged: I have been pushed back in years to a time when the unknown in the world was terrifyingly weighty.

It is heavy as it presses in around my body, like I am deep underwater and fighting to keep the barrier of my skin intact. And in that dark world of water I am alone. But, even as I wonder how much air I have left in my lungs, I am learning to sew.