This is the latest instalment in my feature Just Some Things!
In case you don't know, here's how it works...
I send a writer an individual email with a series of prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book – chosen entirely at random most of the time – and then when I get the responses, I dedicate a post to them and their piece. It could be short, long, backwards, in another language, I don't mind. It'll be an adventure whatever happens! And they can use or ignore however many of the prompts they wish.
When published on the blog, their piece will be put in first and then I'll add in a little piece beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers.
This post features and celebrates the legendary Amy, author-to-be who (literally) kills it at fiction and is another of my harshest editors. I feel she and Kasim are a perfect(ly evil) dream team...
Her prompt was: That day in Paris.
You did not believe me. How magical, how your life would transform, seeing the sun glistening over the Seine. Curtains rising – a city waking, ready for the show.
Ready for the most enchanting day of your life?
There is too much to do, you said. Too much, too much, too much.
I laughed. There is not enough time.
And then, taking you by the hand, opening your eyes to the Musée de l’Orangerie.
Monet was a pretty cool guy, you said.
Cézanne was better, I shrugged.
But you said that was impossible. Nothing could beat the masterful, lustful strokes of Monet’s brush.
Challenge accepted. Onward, I shouted, faux military leader. To the Musée d’Orsay!
You protested that it was far too early for the day to peak, but I ignored you, as I so often did. It is never too early, I insisted.
1665 steps. 1665 laboured breathes. 1665 mumbled curses, hating me with every inch I forced your body to take.
But then, you understood. The blistering sun perfectly illuminating all that stood below.
It isn’t too early, you conceded.
Hemingway wrote here, I told you, knowing it would leave a dazzling impression.
I watched closely as your fingers ran along dusty spines, mouth falling open at this newly discovered treasure. You stroked them delicately, your eyes widened at the carefully inscribed words of the greats who had been there long before us. All at once, I loved you more than I could’ve believed possible.
Wine in the Latin Quarter.
You always find a bookshop, you chuckle. I can’t tell if the words are meant to be as scornful as they sound.
Scientia sit potential, I said, raising an eyebrow slightly.
And though you thought I couldn’t see, I caught your eyes as you rolled them, tired of my enthusiasm.
Though you yawn and protest, I drag you to dinner. It is essential, I tell you, to understand the ghosts of greatness that surround us. I shrug my shoulders at my own pretention.
You tell me you have read about St-Germain des Prés. You have learnt of its history. I ask if you are impressed.
Ville de l’amour, the waiter says, but you do not understand and I do not care.
You smile politely at the elderly couple at the next table, sharing a bottle of champagne, dining à deux. I cannot meet their gaze.
I walk you along the Seine, knowing not to speak. When the time is right, I give you the crumpled notes from my wallet and give the taxi driver garbled instructions.
You leave without saying goodbye.
I come to a stop on Pont Neuf. I do not miss you.
The last flickers of daylight cling on desperately.
The curtain falls on my most magical day.
You could never love me as much as I loved that day in Paris.
And here is my response to the same prompt...
I'm panting, trying to keep up with my dad as he strides ahead, upwards. I think he forgets my legs are more than half the length of his. I'm 8 years old and about 5 foot. I'm tall for my age, sure, but he's 6 foot 4 and ¾ legs.
Sometimes, I really worry I won't inherit the tall genes. I really wanna be tall.
C'mon, legs. Work harder. I feel them burn as I run-step after Dad.
Are we going to go all the way to the top of the tower? I don't know if I can handle that...it's so high, and while I could make it up all those steps probably, I couldn't deal with the height. We're almost at Level 1.
By the time I get to the viewing platform, Dad's leaned against the wire guard and is looking out, very peacefully. As soon as I approach he turns and smiles. 'Sorry, treasure,' he says. 'I didn't realise how hard that would be – are you tired now?'
I nod. He brings me up in a hug and holds me so I can see out over the city. It's beautiful. Like a jigsaw puzzle. Everything is in its place, its perfect spot.
'Now,' Dad says, lowering me a little. 'It's up to you. We could go up to Level Two, or we could stay here. We're not going up to the top, I know that's a bit much. Bit high! So what do you think? Stay here or go up one more?'
I think for a moment. I take in the view. I wonder how it looks from even higher...will it be scary? Will I get scared? Or will I hate that I didn't do it, later?
Then I turn and run up the next lot of steps.
(Perfect image by Kayleigh Causton illustration)