Winter hit the city, hard and suddenly. It hit the streets with frosty winds, rain like razor blades and after a few days it turned the city white. But I didn’t notice it. I was hit much harder by a side effect of the weather. A depressive episode. To say it came unannounced would be a lie. I have felt it coming for months. But I suppressed it, denied it.
And one day, while I was walking along the Seine, looking at Notre Dame, it broke through. My face, frozen by the wind, grew stiff. I felt, like in a slow-motion sequence from a movie, how my teeth started to clinch. My eyes spit fire while I was silently cursing at my fate.
Snowflakes landed on my cheeks, made my beard wet. I didn’t care. I just stared at the mighty church on the other side of the river until my vision blurred and the two towers transformed into the slim figurine of a woman. She stood there in the darkness, tall, rising above all those tiny humans in the streets. Unimpressed by the snow, looking down on me. I didn’t know, who she was. Was it Rosie? Or one of my affairs. I looked at her, I thought about screaming at her. But I couldn’t find any motivation to raise my voice. So, I just looked at her. She leaned forward and her giant hand reached for me. A finger touched my face. Even though it was soft like a summer breeze, the emotional impact hit me harder than the snow hit Paris.
Her off putting arrogance made me angry. Surprisingly, it made me angry with myself. It was like she was holding a mirror to my face and highlighted a thought deep in the background of my conscience that I always pushed away the second it crawled slowly forward: After Rosie left I started to fall back into old patterns of behaviour. Moreover, those patterns have never been the right way to deal with pain and failure.
The first thing and the most obvious thing was my increased consume of alcohol. Even though I limited it in the meantime, it is always the first way to numb my pain.
Then, to take my mind of a specific troubling issue, I started to meet women. Not because I am intrigued by an interesting character but because it covered up my feeling of loneliness.
Falling into those patterns is not a surprising modus operandi. My self-reflection is clearly aware of it. However, I chose – without actually thinking about it – to ignore it. They are familiar and offer a quick reaction process so I don’t need to come up with something new. They connote a false feeling of safety.
Now, I was deprived of this safety. Because she took my pattern and put a spotlight on it. She showed me that all those sensual encounters I had last month were always the same: I met a beautiful woman. I was open to intimate relationships – but nothing serious. When it was over, everything that lasted was a hollowed mask of a happy man who was living on his own. There was no one else who knew this fact about me. Because there was no one else who knew me at all. When Rosie and I went to Paris, we left everything behind. At least I did. I just realised that I didn’t know her as well as I thought. Wherever she was right now, maybe she was with friends or family. I realised, I lost my hope that she would keep her word and come back one day.
It was a thought that gave me pain. It has been my sole intention to bring joy to her life. We didn’t need anyone else to be happy. Or do I have to say, I didn’t need anyone else to be happy?
But who did I need to be happy?
What did I need to be happy?
Until now, I would have sworn it would be Rosie. But thinking back to my time with her, it became obvious that this has not been a mutual feeling. I made her happy – for some time. Or did I? Did I make her happy? Maybe she hast just been content with me.
I satisfied her need for companionship and intimacy. For adventure when going to Paris. But made it Rosie happy? To be honest, I didn’t know. She never told me she was happy.
I just assumed it.
I thought she was happy because I was happy.
How could I have been so blind, I asked myself? The question fuelled a new stream of rage roaring through my body. A growl came from the depths of my soul and I swung it against the still smiling Notre Dame. It just amused her, what made me even more angry.
With a sheer force of will I turned myself around and stormed off, away from the old cathedral, her laughing ringing in my ears. With every step I moved faster until I was running through the streets. The cold air brought tears to my eyes. Images emerged from deep inside and broke through the surface of my consciousness. Images of Rosie. Of my neighbours, the mother and her daughter. The innkeeper. They had hoped to have more with me than just an affair. While I was looking for Rosie in those women, I became what Rosie was for me: a mask that covered the truth.
The truth about the reasons someone had to spent time with you. I have been looking for love. They have been looking for honest admiration. And we all got the same thing. Hurt.
I kept running through the streets of cold and snow-covered streets of Paris. Tears in my eyes. I was not able to tell anymore, if they come from the wind or my emotional pain.