Marie meandered through the city as thoughts meandered through her mind.
I remember the running, she thought. I remember the running, but never the walking.
Walking first to meet the city, the sprawl and noise of it, the colour and aroma, meeting it wide-eyed. The country girl in the big city, holding her aunt’s hand as her aunt looked for clothes and food in the myriad of shops. Then later, older, looking herself for clothes to define her. The young lady about town, strolling around her city, heavy lidded and sharp tongued. Always something clever on her lips.
Then later again, in the siege, despite the madness, a walk of defiance, of pride. Having nothing but being everything, being, still, part of that city. The only city that mattered. Its streets her streets and its sights hers to see. Even when the shelling came and then…
And then the running. And the fear. And the remembering of a past she had forgotten.
So why did I remember only this, that I tried to forget. Fear and running? How had she forgotten the days walking in the sunshine and the rain, in all the seasons and feeling alive, fearless and above all, Parisienne?
She clutched the diary tight to her, afraid that if she lost it again, she would lose the memories it had brought back to her. She found she was walking by the river, by people dancing, by boats passing by.
Where am I now? she thought.
She turned left on instinct, up a street she had never visited but knew every inch of. Felt the strange tidal pull of something, someone calling her. Past the coffee and smoke of a café and the old guy on the corner sitting alone. He called something out as she walked into the road and there was a screech of machinery. Someone shouted at her and she glanced and moved on. Right, left, along.
I shopped there once didn’t I? That little boutique where she bought a hat newly made that morning, newly designed. The very height of fashion. Now right down this alleyway, a shortcut, but to where? Ah, of course, this little café where she had met her friends, now all, now all what? All elsewhere, all abandoned by her. She felt an ache then and headed across to the confectionary shop, lingered a moment looking at the artistry before the tug of that tide came again.
Left, left and over this square, past the lady in the shop eyeing her curiously. What is she calling out? Marie didn’t know as she went down the street and along the boulevard, listening to the tide, the call, his call.
And who was he? Not who I had thought. Not who I had thought at all.
Not far now, she thought. Right, left and up to this door. She knocked and waited, still and quiet, until the door opened up. An old man looked out at her, his expression of confusion.
“Hello Uncle,” said Marie.
The man’s eyes grew saucer-sized and his smile broke like a wave.
*Artwork by Jean Béraud, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1350726 (modified)