The Accordionist is playing Edith Piaf. Sat next to the Crepe stand he serenades the scent of salted caramel as red, white and blue bulbs pulse in time with his fingers. The night is balmy, a city made fresh by afternoon rain. I am struck by the memory of Paris but really it is just the idea of Paris because in truth I never heard a single accordion there and it was only the grey of snow and boots that marked the streets. This then is the Paris of dreams, the city I knew before we met. The idea of Paris as the busker smiles when I reach for a coin. The Paris I considered, stronger as fiction.
In this way some people imagine entire cities, entire lives before they’ve ever lived them. Fragrant, coloured lives with songs that fit and play in a certain light, giving off a certain shadow when they close their eyes. It is how we think we know a place before we get there, how we cast our truths to fit our fiction. To a disciplined mind they’re actually one and the same. Truth bears silent witness to an idea that’s held tight.
Idea has its root in form, in pattern. The images we make of the things we have seen. For sure and entrenched, the image outlasts – in fact the ideal comes long before. You named me for this very idea. Eidyia – so close it’s pronounced just the same. The idea of me that preceded. How from the very first you said – it wouldn’t work, I feel no connection. Because the idea of me walked first through the door. Your Magdalene of lore found in the flesh. The one to whom you should not connect. Even as your head slid carefully down between my thighs. You knew that Mary was for other temples.
The idea of me. No less or more than my imagined city. The experience never quite matching the want. The want never quite what you thought. Women like me don’t make for good lives, am I right? Not the ones you live out in your head. You were bound to like this reality less when I refused to stay within your bounds. I must confess you finally said, I’ve let the gap between reality and fiction widen. At first I thought you had misspoken but now I know what you meant was this:
I have an idea of you. A frame within which you fit. One I’d imagined before you came, the idea of my good god and men. An image to use then I’ll box you up, put you high on a shelf when I’m silently through. I’ll set you down in the dust and dirt of separate lives because you’re not the kind to whom one connects, not the kind to whom one consents.
I have an idea of life and of you. You may never hear an accordion in Paris, Eidyia. But it will speak of the city just the same.
Well my city reminds me of Paris tonight – but only for a second. It is far more beautiful on its own, the streets wide with contradiction as I look up for the stars. No idea could ever be more compelling than this reality. If you let it go and let it in, the city and night can still surprise you. Still un-teach you what you thought you knew, or remind you to keep asking. Because you think you know, but you’ve got no idea.
You really have no idea at all.