Pont Alexandre III
I still have that photo of you taken on the Pont Alexandre III long before we met, your favorite bridge you told me once when we were there together walking on the banks of the Seine. You know the one I mean, the black and white gone brown, a little dog-eared at the edges, but unlike you, still here.
It was taken right after the war, you told me. You wore civilian clothes once again, your gabardine coat all new and flying in the wind and your hair filled with the blowing and giving you wings. So you climbed up a lamppost and when you turned toward the camera and smiled, they snapped you.
Now you are forever nineteen and in Paris, with your teeth white and straight and your stomach flat and the world newborn amid the rubble of war. No wonder you loved that Paris so much. Walls were cracked or tumbled by tanks or riddled with bullet holes and grenades lay unexploded in the streets where dogs peed and children played. Yet life throbbed with a vibrant shimmering, you told me.
People made love. They filled cafés and drank wine and more wine and toasted the Liberation and danced. Somehow they found enough petrol to fill the tanks of a few rusting Deux Chevaux and belched them down tree-lined boulevards.
Soon everyone went back to living and loving and raising families. Painters filled large canvases with exuberant strokes, putting down swaths of ultramarine deep to create a sky. They squeezed out naples yellow into little stars while Piaf sang her elegiac throatiness to the world and sailors took full-breasted beauties into their arms for one last hungry embrace.
And so we come around to ‘one’ and ‘last’ and ‘hungry,’ and my question remains. If I stare long enough and hard enough and right enough at your photo, can I hear your laugh again, can there just be, please, a kernel, a few dregs, a little more more?
Photo: The Grand Palais as seen from Pont Alexandre III, 2008. Credit: Eric Pouhier, Wikipedia Commons.