took my grief to Paris. Yes, I took it to Paris, for it was cluttering
my provincial mind with a thousand grotesque shapes artfully created to
take the place of love. In the small Alsatian village of my sorrow, it
was mocking me for an artless marriage, and reproaching me for my divorce.
And I thought, "Twenty-four years old is too young for all of this, too
young for grief. And -oh! - a provincial twenty-four is even younger yet."|
Why Paris? I must say I do not really know. I know so few things. Let me simply say that somehow I felt that Paris would know what to do with grief. And I myself did not. Yes, alone in that gabled house I was helpless before a grief that knew how to profit from the architecture of my solitude. All those empty spaces I had created in the narrowness of my mind, it used to build long galleries of imagined loneliness that stretched out around me from where I sat each day, on my pile of cushions, to read, to cry - to think of him. It is sad to say, but those were the cushions that I had sewn so that he and I, while making love, could tousle our lives into ever-newer patterns of soft tenderness.
It was not to be. Instead, I could only sit upon them and watch my grief follow the blueprints of my fear and build itself into my future. I thought love had gone forever. And then I thought of Paris, its galleries of art and love, its softer fashion shows. And I began to dream again. It felt healing, so naturally I thought of moving to Paris. It was then that my fear held its major exhibition. Within those galleries of my mind, it hung a thousand versions of itself. I felt them hanging there. A myriad of images caricatured and mocked the hopes and joys of my first married months.
Other fantasies hung crookedly there, one after another - works of loneliness - tacked to the walls of my fear of starting anew, nailed upon every centimeter of space offered by my recently awakened timidity. Framed in thought, his feelinglessness hung in the spotlight there.
There were abstract paintings of his lack of care, some unfinished sketches of my own faltering resolves, and the dark oils of my failure to teach his rational manliness my complex blends of feeling. It was too much for me. I had to leave. I closed down the exhibition, packed everything up in suitcases, and came with them to Paris, still feeling that Paris would know what to do with me. And I was right. Some of those morbid images I could leave that very first day in the Louvre. There were so many paintings there, that it could afford to take some fantasies from my mind without attracting public attention. It happened quietly - when one of the guards, a younger one, kindly smiled at me.
Encouraged, I took others the following week to the Center Pompidou, and dropped them on the stairs when that gentleman took me by the arm and spoke so feelingly of Chagall to me. Well, I didn't drop them, really. They just fell. Between job interviews, I managed the time to carry some other, heavier thoughts to the Bois de Boulogne, and gave them to the dogs to rip apart while those two American fellows joked with me. Later, I felt so light that the five heaviest ones I unobtrusively left disowned behind the door in a corner of Montmartre.
And when my new job left me little free time to play the tourist, I managed to get rid of my old fears and false beliefs anyway, but in other kinds of places: in the metro between stops as I looked at so many different colored smiles, in the bistro when I saw yet another fresh croissant as warm as the wink from the waiter, or simply in the wastebasket near my desk at work when one of my bosses said he liked my blush. Some of my fantasies were so painful for me to handle that Paris herself had to take them from me. (I had known that she would!)
One was taken the night Pierre asked me to dinner, another the night I danced with Jean-Paul, and yet another when Jacques and I, half-drunk with Vouvray, managed to sing till dawn. It took an entire year, but finally, one day, the last two images of my pain were snatched from me, together with the purse I had so carelessly, in a great mood of confidence, left on a pile of newspapers at the corner newsstand. Paris had absorbed my grief. That very night I dreamed some very special dreams. And when I woke, for the first time in fifteen months the feeling of divorce did not awaken me. Instead, the day felt like a bridal day. But that had begun already with my dreams, for they had played all night at being wildly-inspired couturiers, each personally delivering to me his own design of silken spirit-veiled genius, each following closely upon the satisfied heels of the other in mock competition for my favor - each weaving all of us into the latest bold fashion of some moody art.
Imagine what I felt like lying there alone between my slightly rumpled plain white sheets, a loudly-patterned quilt indifferently covering me, while those subtle improvising artists wrapped me in flamboyant styles and whispered shapes, intimately draping them over, around and through my soul, each pinning them alive onto my mind! And then, near dawn, I knew their gentlemanly finesse was leaving it up to me to pick and choose. Which, upon awakening, would my feelings wear? The veil I chose proved wonderfully resistant to this winter morning's cold. Nor did it crumple in the steaming shower I took, but seemingly inspired by the strange game of cleanness it saw me lay, and as if deciding to salute and amuse its own designer, it began itself creating, turning chemically bleached city water-drops into well-wishing spirit-grains of rice. How did it know that showering rice was often done at weddings?
How did it know that people when they see a happy bride can feel the urge to sprinkle her with gentle clouds of falling rice, or dizzy whirled confetti? There I was, veiled indeed but standing naked, feeling that living presence from my dreams watch my skin respond to its showered rice's slightest stings, as if it were masculinely content to see I felt the rising bridal joy it brought.
This veil I wore passed unnoticed in the metro. It remained rippling gracefully in the center of my moods despite the sound of metal wheels on harder metal rails, the pushy breathy fattened woman next to me, the slimy spittle on the floor. Unnoticed, yes - but I think a small child standing close to me saw it, felt it, and rubbed his sparkling eyes with his sticky hand to test how durable the fabric was. Surprised and satisfied, he smiled at me in wonder at my own avowed surprise. And so I walked, thus clothed, the last few streets leading to my office.
I was smiling as if the city were a Mediterranean village decked out in tribute on my bridal day, and as if all the villagers were relaxed and cheerful: Parisians eating pomegranates, figs and grapes to show me that they shared my smile, to tell me that they saw my veil. Later that day we met, you and I, for the first time, and you told me that it was my joy that caught your heart's attention. You said you knew you needed it to remake your life, to believe in woman once again, to heal an old Parisian grief you veiled.
Francine Juhasz has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and has lived and worked with artists in Indonesia, the Antilles, France, and Spain, developing and testing various perceptual techniques and mind-sets as spurs to creativity. For the past seventeen years she has lived in the Netherlands, helping women to liberate their creative potential by awakening their healing imaginations. She encourages voluntary shifts of perception into more-inclusive mindscapes - including the quest for spirit and the state of wonder.
Once Upon a Visit|
Age of Interconnectedness
Paris A La Fantastique
|The Ten Commandments
of Creative Women