With Clorox wet wipes, I cleanse Paris from the soles of my boots. I scrape off discarded gum and candy, dog waste from careless owners, urine from the homeless who are too ill or forsaken to seek shelter, or too obstinately insistent to remain under the deceptive open arms of the Parisian sky. Imagining fervent embraces or grief-stricken adieux, I wipe away the remnants of moist dirt dampened by sobbing lovers on the Pont Neuf. I cleanse the miniscule shards of broken glass and fresh impassioned earth left on the Champs-Elysées by the protesting gilets jaunes, who join the historical imprint of those before them. I wash off the lingering fragrance of the perfumery a few doors down from my apartment, where each scent carried me away in a Proustian yearning for the poignant emotions of yesterday. I wipe away the fuzz from the carpet at the Folies Bergères, smile at the memory of the lavish designs of Jean-Paul Gaultier and the show’s sensual dancing and singing. I grin at the sight of the scuffs on the toes of my boots, no doubt results of a missed step or two after an evening of bœuf bourguignon and Pouilly Fuissé.
But I cannot cleanse the inspirational ambiance of the Philosophes Café and the familiar tenderness of the couple seated beside me with their pampered Pug lounging on its personal barstool immediately supplied by the knowing waiter. I cannot erase the empathic conversations, or the enlightening meditations and yoga poses on the apartment’s wooden floor, hinting at its decades of secrets with each sighing creak. Or my wistful melody on the apartment’s grand piano…. I washed Paris off of the soles of my boots, but I left my soul in the City of Light.
Jennifer Vanderheyden resides in a small town west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, teaches French at Marquette University, and tries to find a balance between academic and creative writing. In addition to two academic books and a co-translation of Frédéric Brun’s novel Perla, she has published creative pieces in Robert Vaughan’s Flash Fiction Friday’s, The Writing Disorder, and Blink-Ink.