Gold Slice of life

Canal Saint-Martin

Matteson Quint

I am sitting on the border of Canal Saint-Martin, Pink Flamingo pizza boxes resting on my right as the Seine sweeps my left, singing a serenade she wrote just for me. It is interrupted by the occasional crash of an empty beer bottle roaring against the paved cement. Sloppy drunks line the canal, dropping glass like the cash they spend on the alcohol they consume. On the opposing side of the water, there is a group dancing to music with a deafening bass line, and when I ask what type of music this is, an Australian simply replies, “shit.” She is just one of the five expats I am spending my Friday night with. We met hours before on a walking tour of the city, splitting three bottles of wine in the Parisian alleyways while learning about the literary women whose history is often forgotten. Going out together after the tour happens effortlessly but I don’t tell them how much it means to me after spending days traveling in solitude. There is the Australian, twenty-eight, waiting to hear back about a teaching job. Her hair is the shade of dark chocolate and curls just above her temple, coloring a contrast on her translucent skin. On her right are two English men, one of which has found comfort on the stones beneath our feet. Laying on the ground, he says, “I’m bloody fucked, mate,” accompanied by some groans of a rapidly approaching hangover. His eyes are still open but the size of a bug; just a sliver. There is an American who passes for French much better than me, in her navy blazer and silk neck scarf, her hair in a polished ponytail. Next to her is an Irish woman, matching my five-foot-tall frame, who is living here illegally. She is quick to explain that visas become much more complicated after the age of thirty, though no one thinks any less of her. Between us is a Canadian who entered on an “exceptional talent” visa as an acrobat and sommelier. It took two years of living hell to obtain, but she declares it was worth it, and her passion is vibrant. I am the youngest of the group by seven years, but age is disregarded tonight. As I walk, I stub my toe and trip over the cobblestone and swear I’m not drunk – I just don’t have streets like these at home, and even though they all see through me, they let me have it, nodding and sipping on their drinks in response. I am swaying, though the sounds are anything but gentle, and the lights from the streetlamp above me paints reflections in the water. The layers of mismatching accents all begin to blend together as my ears soften and stop trying to decode which distinct voice says what; I just listen to the air they create. My mouth tastes sour from mixing martinis to manhattans, but my cheeks are warm while my skin tingles as the water breeze devours me. The sensation asks me to drink more, and I do. Pizza grease coasts my fingers like a cast, and I scrape my forearm as I reach into the grubby water of the canal to rinse it off. Next to the water after midnight is another side of Paris. The side I wouldn’t take home to meet my mother. The side people only get to see if they are with the right people at the right time. It’s the kind of place where if someone passes you a joint, you take it, and when someone offers you coke, you consider it before politely declining; they won’t be offended. I breathe in the noises and the people and the sounds as time stills. It smells of piss and cigarettes, and anything you can smoke but everyone is smiling.


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Matteson Quint

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