The Marais; 2004

There’s a gravel path that crunches under my feet. We’re racing against the light. A casual walk in our neighborhood in the 3rd arrondisement leads to a search for the origin of some heavenly scent…the smell of fresh baked bread. It is six p.m., and residents of the Marais are picking up groceries for dinner.

We stop at the grocers, bread in hand, to look for cheese. Brie is cheap and so is champagne. The cashier does not blink when I speak to her in French, but she does her best to answer me in Spanish. “Los jardines cierran a las ocho.” D checks his watch. We have just enough time for a picnic.

Outside the store, he takes a steak knife out of his pocket that he grabbed from the cutlery at our tiny studio. He cuts a slit down the long baguette and then has me stuff the Brie inside. The bread is warm and will melt the cheese.

We pass Notre Dame on our way over the Seine to the 6th. We huff and puff on a mission. Our boots sonorous on gravel and dirt. And as if by plan, we find two garden chairs positioned next to each other with a view of the western sky. I look around and see a greenhouse and the the famed orange trees, manicured within an inch of their lives into cubes on sticks.

D offers me the baguette as he pops the cork on the bottle. We take turns between bites and swigs. Paris is the last stop on our trip that started at Victoria Station in London, snaked through Northern Europe and down into Italy and at last to Paris. Home. It is our first trip as man and wife. And every struggle we will ever have we have faced on this trip. Only we won’t know for years.

But for now, in this moment, we are at peace. A knife, a piece of bread, a bottle of champagne, two chairs, and the breath in our lungs. The sun begins to set and we will it to remain in the sky just a bit longer. But it seems that even paradise has a closing time.

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