Amber in Paris #2 Go Back to Where You Came From
so, i’m in a park in paris and people just finished putting on their clothes. one was a women in her twenties, now walking off to finish her day’s work. the other is a man who lives here in the park, maybe, or on the street, with his big can of piss that all the men drink.
i took a photo for you from outside this little place, on the gates of ‘maison eugene napoleon’, a building from 1856. oh, how the late 1800s make me think of my darling c.y. o’connor. our european architects and engineers don’t go far back, so the ones we have we hold on to – but not really we, just me. i’m in love with c.y. why? because he gave his life the best way he knew how to make things better for others, to make a safe place for ships, to make water flow to the town where i was born, even if there was already water there if you knew how to find it.
so, outside the park stuck to the gates are photos of places near here from 100 years ago. photos of the metro (underground train lines) being constructed, photos of a temporary rollercoaster in the suburb centre, peopled by women in matching black dresses with their hands up in the air (of course, the dresses are only black in the photo, because humans hadn’t learned to move colour through time by then, though the plants already knew how).
my favourite photo has the title ‘l’arracheur des dents’, and no further explanation. this means ‘puller-out of teeth’, more or less, and as you can see, there’s a sea of men in black suits watching this very thing.
i started a tradition today, by doing something that i did the day before, which is to buy one croissant for myself, and one for the man who asks for money outside the supermarket. i have the impression we’re going to be great friends. so, the thing i was thinking, as i skipped up the red velvet stairs to melody’s apartment, is that ‘some people like to tie each other up and whip each other for pleasure; i like to buy croissants for people on the street.’ to each person their pleasure, and i’m no-one to say otherwise.
the place i want to say otherwise though, reaffirmed itself to me as i watched more episodes of ‘go back to where you came from’ here. that’s the one thing i can’t understand with people. i can’t understand that people think they deserve a thing they were born into, that they claim a right to keep it away from others. and i can’t understand how people can think of themselves as separate from the water, trees, animals, mosses, that provide them with life: these are mysteries.
so, a man pulling out teeth in the street. my friend emlyn once pulled a tooth out to see what it would feel like. i’ve talked to him about it before, and i feel confident the conversation would have gone: ‘why did you pull your tooth out emlyn?’ ‘to see what it would feel like.’ ‘and what did it feel like emlyn?’ ‘it hurt.’
so, to some people this would seem ridiculous, but it’s not a thing that matters. the thing i’d like to make ridiculous is for people to think they matter more than others. when i wrote to you last week, i mentioned callais, and all the refugees flooding over, and being pushed back by the barriers of ‘we keep what’s ‘ours’ for ‘ours’.’ and i’d been wondering what these french people do about it. so, i went to see my friend julie who works at the louvre, and she told me a little story.
in her suburb there was a camp of refugees, a few hundred of them. so of course, people from the neighbourhood go to support them. to bring friendship, food, and to organise concerts to introduce others from the neighbourhood to their new friends. a couple of times the police have come to move them away, but the people in the neighbourhood say ‘no’ – because of course, when i asked julie what she thought the government should do, she said they should process their papers more quickly, provide better places for the people to stay while they’re there, etc. you see, here, not letting people into your country who are running from war and persecution is more ridiculous than pulling out your own tooth.
so there’s plenty of shit things here, like the men who serve me out the front of the cafe are white and the people working in the kitchen are black, but my dream is that one part of what’s ridiculous here would be ridiculous back where i come from too.