Old Town

Took a walk through the city this evening. Stopped on the bridge and stuck my toes under the guardrail, watched the river flow by beneath my feet in swirls and oily reflections. There's no oil in the river, mind; it's just the shadows and opacity give it that look.

Spent some time watching a Eurasian Coot (small black waterfowl) fish. She'd take about 6 seconds each time to dive and come up with a fish about the size of her head, then swim for a while before diving again. They're super aggressive during breeding season, but this one was alone and calm.

Life is funny. There are cigarette butts between century-old flagstones. I took an unplanned turn and found a restaurant with a $19 three course lunch (that's cheap here). There's a Catwoman costume in the window of a shop called the Marquis de Sade. Graffiti is always cleaned off the older or more expensive buildings, so the city's disenfranchised tag plywood walls at construction sites, and the irony of that effing slays me.

The rest of the walk was buildings and people. I went down a back alley and found a 40-foot overlook. A prostitute on the road below immediately spotted me and stared, hand on an out-thrust hip. I smiled. Most people never look up.

I listened to a couple on their first date turn away from a restaurant. "Sorry, I know what I want, and when it's too expensive I don't want it," she said. The guy didn't care, he just wanted to eat, but he liked her enough to play along. I knew about the $19 restaurant by that point, but I didn't say anything, I just grinned and thought of all the things people around us knew and we didn't.

I sat in the plaza in front of the cathedral for a while, listening, smelling, watching. The air smelled of acorns and flowers, a little grass, and then, when the breeze shifted, like the pepper infused oil pizzerias use.  People came and went. Taxis - 3 Priuses and a minivan of some kind - slunk by, wheels crackling on the cobblestones. I saw a lone backpacker with a book in his hand, two pairs of men walking - one pair German and the other Dutch - an Irish tour group, and four couples, two pausing and shifting their tone when they saw they weren't alone. A family of 6 with British accents, skin the color of cherry wood, and the clothing of middle-class Americans filled the square with sound as the father took pictures, the mother asked questions, the two younger boys fought, and their older brother and sister looked on. One group would show up as the other left. The square was never empty, and never full.

The streetlamps flickered on. I walked home.


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