Because this is Paris, imagine an early springtime evening at the moment the cafes which line the streets near Notre Dame have closed. The air is dark, fog-filled and cold. A mist hangs in the trees. The streetlamps glow.
I linger in the square, the Place du Parvis, what people call the heart of Paris, the starting point for all French National Roads. A cup of hot mulled wine, ladled from a pot on a sidewalk cart at L'Ombre de Notre Dame, warms my hands. A slice of orange rests on top of the red wine. Because this is Paris, this could be my first cup. Because this is a springtime evening, it could be my third.
I linger because I am hoping for street performers. I have been here before. Accordion players, sad songs at night. Men on roller blades dancing to music from a boom-box. A man on a tight-rope. But the night is too cold for any of this.
A woman walks up next to me, stands close enough to be familiar. I have my camera raised, pointed across the square, the telephoto lens zoomed through a gap in the buildings where I can see the Eifel Tower. Because this night is foggy and damp, the beacon at the top makes a sweeping bolt through the sky. The cathedral bells begin to ring.
I lower the camera and look at her. Because this is Paris, she is much younger than I am and very pretty. She has long hair and her hands, which hold her own cup of hot wine, are neatly gloved. She rests a hand on my elbow and glances toward the tower.
"Attendez," she says, softly.
I look back at the tower. The cathedral bells toll the hour and the tower begins to sparkle. Let's say ten thousand lights, on the beams and girders and rails of Eifel Tower, glimmer-wink and shine.
I take a picture and then hear the woman next to me breath. When I look at her again she smiles at me.
"L'Espérance," she whispers. She takes a sip of her wine and walks away, toward Rue Dante, the Latin Quarter, some other place to be.
Because this is Paris, I will think about this moment for a long time.
Because this is Paris, she might not have been there at all.