I go to Paris.
The day I leave, I go to the bank to make sure I can take out the money for the rent due on the apartment where I’ll stay, in the 1st. The woman teller is wild-eyed when she looks up. Before she says anything, I know she’s incapable of helping me. I consider the etiquette of asking for someone else.
I have asked if there is a withdrawal limit and if so what is it. She squints at the screen. Well…
She looks over at the next teller and asks her to come over, as I knew she would. What is that, she asks?
You take money out on that card? She looks at me as if I am a child.
Yes, I say. I think of all the money I have taken out, a river of cash in my mind.
Hunh. She squints at the screen. I’ve had people in with that who couldn’t take out money.
Don’t change anything, I say, with an abrupt suddenness that surprises me.
What’s my daily limit, I ask again. This all seems like something any of them should just know.
1000, she says, and then if the machine is offline, 1500.
This makes no sense to me at all, and in fact seems indicative of everything wrong with my country’s financial problems. I still have to go to get a crown put in, teach about Persepolis and Helen of Troy, and then drive to Newark airport, so I don’t ask about offline. Instead I have a brief fantasy of taking out all of my money, right there, and buying gems. I imagine myself going through passport control, my hands covered in cocktail rings.
Thanks, I say.
Have a nice trip, she says, still squinting at her screen.
It takes 5 hours to get to Newark. On my Air India flight, a beautiful male steward gives me 4 bottles of Gordon’s gin when I ask for a gin and tonic, along with 2 glasses full of ice and two cans of tonic. I wonder briefly if he’s joining me and decide I must look like a man who needs a bit of restocking.
Air India is a revelation. I don’t pay for the cocktails or movies, though my headphones in my seat pocket don’t fit the socket. I say nothing, not wanting the steward to feel badly, instead watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers twirl silently. My seatmates are American. one is a young struggling writer. Her boyfriend is impressed that I am published. He asks me about it, what it must be like.
It’s…a bit weird, I say.
He wrinkles his brow.
This thing you’ve had in your head for years is suddenly on a shelf, where any stanger can go look at it. It takes some getting used to, I say.
They nod. They see all my gin bottles and order gin also. You don’t even drink gin, the writer says to her boyfriend, laughing.
We toast the flight and the airline, our excellent inflight Indian food.
I am in Paris for the next thing in my head. The city is full of handsome men with shaved heads. I am here without my computer. In my bag I have clothes for 5 days, 2 notebooks, pens, a sketchbook and a camera. I am writing from the Rue de Rivoli, where a cute waiter is making tight turns around the tables and flirting with the men behind me, who are very taken with him. All of the chairs are facing the street and no one pretends they are not there to watch everyone pass by.
This weekend I go to see castles. More soon.