There is pain that this city carries so gracefully, there is guilt and there is shame, there is inevitable doom that sways in her eyes, there is a wish for peace, and there is hope.
I’ve travelled long and I’ve known a great number of people; I’ve known giants in beds made out of picked straws, destined, in their own selves, to live ordinary lives, I’ve known small men inline to inherit big, I’ve known cobblers with high boots, and I’ve known lovers bound to spend loveless lives. We are, as people, indulged in hearing and telling stories for how else can we identify ourselves? Like drops in the ocean, cities too are made out of something equally and individually insignificant – people. And everyone has a story to tell.
Paris was something else. To try to describe her would be the death of a poet for how can you describe something indescribable. Good, though, that I’m no poet, it’s just that everything she does is poetry. I had never seen anyone like her before. She was like waves of calm winds, like a tornado of pain and roses, capable of the most beautiful destruction. She walked with her head hung low, dressed in the darkest colors yet carrying the sun in her eyes like it was nothing. She was reckless like the love she pretended she didn’t carry with herself. She was the rise and fall of heavens and she was the measure of time the world set their clocks to. And her eyes, my Lord, her eyes carried timeless darkness with, but not so, a crooked tunnel spiraling its way to comfort at last. I remember the fist time our eyes met: I stopped, but so did the time, and then reality cascaded upon me, so much so, I lost myself for the first time in my life. And that’s where the trouble began. And in her smile I found assurance of a thousand years. She smiled with her eyes closed, flawless but responsible, free but not so. She liked crop tops and ropers, she had hair like that of a raven’s, and her favorite color was dancing.
From the very start I knew Paris was not meant for me. Her mere grace overshadowed everything I held trophy in my life. She was strong and kind, humble and smart, and she was everything a man could ask for. But men, my Lord, men don’t survive gusts of wind and Paris was a storm. Men don’t survive sparks of comment and Paris was hellfire. She was everything right with the world and I was just another man. The stars lived in her eyes and the horizon started and ended with her. She was magnificent and, oh, how gracefully she carried that broken heart. I knew the moment I saw her that I might burn but I had to edge a little closer.
She could wrap the skies around her waist, create a man and destroy him but all she did was listen to his lies and then drink them away. I got close, so much so, I could almost touch her soul. There was pain inside her and confusion, there was guilt inside her and there was lost trust, there was a need of redemption, and there was hope. For a heart I had never felt before, she seemed strangely related. Only after I got to know her, I realized that like second skin, she wore her past and could not let go of things she had done not too long ago. Her past sins had imprisoned her. It had made her believe that she deserved everything that was happening to her. This strange balance of judgement loomed over her; this cloud of guilt followed her and made her believe that she has to repay all of her past errors in full. This idea of redemption had left her hollow and fragmented. She used to tell me that she’s just fine and that she’s happy with whatever she has in her life but she was a pretender – smiling in the mirror telling herself she’s okay now without knowing that mirrors don’t reflect broken hearts.
The time I spent with her feels like decades over decades. Everytime I met her, I saw more of myself in her and so I stayed. Longer than I usually do. I stayed to give this soul another chance at being free and this heart one reason to beat. And then I lost myself.
Her body, delicate, spiraled into waves of new and old, all at once, and then not at all. She was lean and perfect and moved like she knew no laws. What had lost all meaning suddenly meant something to me. That was the magic of Paris, she could carve roses out of stone and men out of themselves. That day the mountains begged of her and the oceans, the eyes of men and the nights of sin; for the sake of ache and greed and the poets that buried her into their pages, she was asked to let go. And when she did, I remembered no words and her body spoke all languages.
She loved another man, though, and I refused to believe her. I assumed how I wanted her to feel and she let me for that’s how Paris was: kind, maybe a little too much. All my life I had lived alone – walking with people I knew would take a separate path when they would – and maybe that’s why I loved Paris. I saw myself in her. I had always known my way through people, I knew how to talk them, confuse them, and manipulate them. I knew how to get inside their heads, make them tell me their stories and lessons they had never told anyone before. I knew what they were hiding and why they were hiding it. I knew everything but how to love someone. I took her for just another girl and she let me until her conscious refused to allow it anymore. I can’t remember the number of times I had told her to take a stand and she did take a stand. And when she did, it broke my heart.
Maybe in another lifetime and in another world, I will see her again and I hope things are better when we do. But for now, I will have to live the life I’ve carved for myself. This house that I’ve bricked out of broken promises, guilty pleasures, temporary faces, privilege, and selfishness I have to suffice until I rise again. Paris will be just fine. I know she will soon lay down a line of victories and memories over my traces and she will soon forget that there was a boy who roamed around the very streets now so frequently used by new faces. I know a time will come when the city shimmers with news of settling down and peace will ring at last. And I know one day the fragments of that someone will the very air the city breathes but for only a second before it vanishes into oblivion. Paris will soon forget my name but I’ll remember hers. I will remember how she used to smile that smile with her eyes closed, I will remember her voice and her broken accent, I will remember every single time she rolled her eyes at me, and I will remember her as she was the first time I saw her dancing her pain away.
I’ll probably never love another but I pray she does. I pray she finds someone capable enough to write her smile into poetry, read her eyes into poetry, and kiss her lips into poetry. For it doesn’t really matter if she belongs to me or someone else, as long as she belongs to poetry.
About the writer: Shahzaib Awan currently heads the Bisouv Publications and House of Entremuse Media Group. He writes for Times, The Guardian, The Nation, and other prominent newspapers. He’s currently studying Computer Science at Jacobs University, Germany. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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