They sit with their backs against the spotless glass, bordering the cafés as if they’ve become one with the translucent substance as they sit. Though they are not like reflections, but rather the beings who stare at the glass to see through. And even with their bodies benched outside, they watch everyday life as if there is a window between them and the very concrete we tread.
One woman, wearing a heavy shade of rouge upon her lips, puckers as she takes a drag of her cigarette. She has one leg over the other, with her cobalt sundress draped lazily over. The tail of her gown is ruffled by the wind every instance it tries to stir her. She is unaffected by the outside though, be it the people, the smoke, or nature herself.
Her olive irises scour my figure like a curious feline in the shade. I grow quite nervous under her stare.
I didn’t seek to appear so foreign in a land where I am quite that, but my wondrous ogling was easily belittled by the woman’s unwavering curiosity.
The city of love, lights, and sweet nothings, Paris— as I navigated through the tarnished alleys— was not just a historical setting but a land of another nature unlike anything I’d yet experienced.
But shouldn’t that be the point of the world? To explore all you can of the land that breathes life into you every day?
My pupils found a thin man hovering over me. I blinked rapidly a few times before discovering I’d benched myself at the cafe to which I thought I’d walked past.
“Bonjour, un hot chocolate s’il vous plaît.”
He nodded diligently as I handed him the plastic menu; his fingers glided along mine almost tenderly.
He wore a light flush as he treaded away.
“Merci,” I called, my voice being carried off in the arms of the breeze.
I tucked dark locks behind my ear and noticed the woman in rouge eyeing me speculatively. When our eyes met she averted her gaze, tilting her chin up and turning for another drag of smoke. Her jaw could almost cut the glass that bordered our backs. I swallowed and looked back out onto the streets.
People of every color, status and moral character stepped with varying speeds along the cobbled road. They were all so different, yet because I knew none of them, I saw them as the same. They are people. They are just as much a part of this world as the very land I reside in thousands of miles away.
I dipped my hand into my knapsack, returning with a paper pad and a glittering pen. I twirled around the inky object until it was nestled sturdily in my palm’s embrace. A dribble of purple ink bled from my pen before I glanced up hastily.
The young waiter had placed a delicate teacup in front of me; it was filled to the brim with liquid chocolate. The fragile china rested on a saucer with watercolor flowers adorning the edge.
He hesitated a moment after I thanked him once more.
“You are a uh, writer?” His accent was thick, but his English was coherent and I appreciated the effort.
I beamed, “Yes,” I answered with a light blush of my own, “It’s what I love to do.”
“You write American stories, yes?” I detected an almost untouchable sneer to his tone, “Can’t make much on those eh?”
I guess my French didn’t fool him.
I pursed my lips before engaging him with another smile, “I write about passion, life, and love, but nonetheless I am proud of where I come from. It is the same world as anybody here. So I’m just a writer. A very passionate one who explores the world to know where she comes from. I am nothing more nor nothing less than who I am.”
His smile held nothing of contempt or admonishment, “Then I hope one day to see your picture on the next livre I purchase.”
“Merci, j’espère aussi.”
He bustled another table then, with a triumphant demeanor I couldn’t entirely fathom.
I chuckled to myself. No matter where you are, some questions— some people— are truly one of a kind. I am often asked how passion drives me so tentatively in my life. How can I vanquish reason for something so uncertain? How can I live with the hope of being something without ever being sure I’ll truly attain it?
I rapidly flooded the page before me with my scribble.
“Passion is not the pursuit of excellence, but rather a ceaseless test to endure that which makes your life worth something. How do we hope to attain the infinite depths of such achievable longing? You deal. Through the challenges, the societal opposition, and the emotional baggage— you do your best to endure through it all in the hopes of not just finding success, but earning it.”
My fingers delicately folded around the handle of the cup. The thick aroma of chocolate greeted my nose before overwhelming my tongue with a flood of a perfectly smooth, bitter liquid.
“But no one comprehends the struggle like you do; but you too have the power to give others’ words meaning. This is your life. And if you can find passion that makes you feel distinct in a world of people that watch you without truly seeing you, then you have made something of yourself that not many people can face.”
My teacup clinked as I set it down upon the flowery plate. I watched the people pass along with the utmost intrigue and thought that there must be passion even in watching others live. How they wander. How they play. How they must see the world with the unique ardor they each hold.
I placed my things back into my bag, holding tightly onto the strap as I watched the bustling population once more.
I am not just a storyteller. I am an observer. I am a passionate soul with an incomparable fervor to accomplish excellent things. These people before me may very well appreciate themselves in the same light; I can never know for sure, but I can only hope that if they find something they love to do, they’ll learn to love themselves more because of it.
I smiled. I was in Paris after all, where passion flows more brilliantly than even the Seine.
I left a few Euros on the table and headed towards the next arrondissement I had yet to explore. My steps neared me towards the lady in rouge and I stopped abruptly as her gaze embedded itself deeper into my skin. I looked back at the people and then towards her still, cloaked figure. I was a yard from her now.
One of her brows was raised high above her olive eyes as I approached.
I beamed as a warmth expanded within my chest, “Bonjour.”
I wondered if in all her passionate observations, had anyone ever just smiled and said hello to the figure unbeknownst to them. I mean, do we ever think to just smile towards the people we share the world with? This place where we hope for them to gaze at our words, our paintings, the creations of our passion?
Her mouth twitched before giving in and meekly smiling in return.
“Bonjour,” she greeted back.
I gave her a small nod and walked on, content and still grinning.
Passion can be found everywhere you go. It can be found thousands of miles from home. It can be discovered despite the doubt others hold. It can be found in even the simplest twist of lips. You can even stumble upon it by just watching life.
Because that is passion for something we sometimes forget to explore.
-Kiran Bains Sahota