kids in paris
She walks down the street with those kids like a blues minuet, the kind of independent blond with short hair who dates articulate black blues musicians who write a mean Chinaski pastiche. She’s self-made. She’s a tough broad, firm, young, educated, no bullshit. She’s been taking care of these kids as she gets through a French class at la Sorbonne, but no one knows that, no one knows her place is free as fuck and has green floors, no one knows she’s getting paid to play scrabble with the little ladies of the house. These people think she’s the kids’ mother. Izaure spits a bit as she whispers happily,
—Ils pensent tous que tu es maman! Tes cheveux!
So they think she’s tough as a well manicured, immaculately enameled nail. She’s blond. Teeth and grit. She’s busty and she thrives on the shit that makes these other folks throw-up their cornflakes. It is written that she was selling pictures of her babies to greeting card companies and then galleries when I was still just fingering girls in Park-X and cumming too early. A lady. Mademoiselle. Class. She knows how to wear a turtleneck dress and knows how to work cleavage, for herself. I mean Class. If they think these kids are hers then these kids are hers. Let them stare, let them ‘ce rinser l’oeil’ at the self-made goddess in black leather converse, a steadfast lover of a woman with fists like polished piano ivory. This woman wears the pants. This woman’s come a long way, baby, and she don’t even smoke.
The kids’ parents are getting a divorce and it’s been hard on them. These seem popular ages for the occurrence. The parents have been worrying about themselves, and the 9er and the 12er have kind of fallen into the blond Swedish miss’ arms. She adores them and they’re making due. Kids are strong little fuckers. Happy telling faces. We walk down the street talking love and the 9er, Izaure, just looks up at us, as she crisscrosses backwards, hopping or something,
—L’amour, c’est beau. Mais l’amour, c’est difficile.
Kids kill me, and we smile kindly at her, she lovingly, with a little laughing sigh. She scruffs her hair.
I’m too dark to look like the dad here. People are smiling, looking me over, wondering what a man in skinny jeans can provide—i.e. wondering what to call a man in skinny jeans. They barely ask, even rhetorically, if I’m worthy. I don’t mind. Low expectations. I get a fuzz out of her hair. I blow it out and above and mademoiselle smiles, tightens her grip briefly. We watch Izaure is doing the Charleston in her brown high heels. She walks like a lady. Not bad at all. You can see bits of stuffed paper rolling over the edges of the shoes, some little bits she’s used to make them fit, some little bits flying off, like little white clouds in the street. She swivels around and gives an Audrey-Hepburn pose, one hand on her hip. She gives a coy, severe and closed-lip smile, like a Soho magazine girl out fto make a killing.
—Aimes-tu le ping-pong? she asks.
She shrugs and goes back to her business, does a little road-to-Oz tap-dance down the walk. She’s her own little Garland with all that red hair flashing in the breeze. She falls behind with her favorite demoiselle.
I buy a couple of 2-euro apples and give the nicer one to the 12er, Aimée. She says ‘Vank you’ and gives me a one-eyed squinter of a smile, the sun illuminating her face. She’s cute in her glasses. She’s the first baby portrait that made it big in a gallery I imagine. ‘Première lunettes à Aimée, en couleur’. She’s quiet, sweet little knock of Cons, a nerdy little genius waiting to turn into a Swedish no BS fox like ‘maman’. ‘Maman’ is coming up behind us doing a hip-roller of a dance with Izaure excitedly imitating.
—Look, she screams. Nous dansons comme des gonzesses américaines! Ooowwwwoooo!
‘Maman’ biffs her ear playfully as they walk past us and all we head down butte Montmartre. We sit in Auvers Park before getting on the metro home. ‘Maman’ has homework to do, so we do it. Aimée scouts out the bushes and does a little secret interpretive dance of her own. She hums to herself. Izaure is off doing something confusingly unexplainable, but innocent and lovely all the same. Aimée sneezes into some dandelines. Izaure laughs. They both laugh.
—Des pits sans lits!!!
They run off together through the park and I bum a cigarette and smoke it softly, thoroughly. ‘Maman’ clears her throat, leans on my arm a bit. She smiles with some mock earnest eyes, mouth closed, pen to paper like a 1920s paper man.
—With who do you play backgammon?
I dump the cigarette and chew on Orbit. The caplets are in a paper rapping. They do not know how to package gum over here.
—Avec qui joues-tu au backgammon? I think.
She writes on and finishes up quickly, with a little help. I think about home a bit and feign hunger. We head on down into the metro.
It gets crowded pretty fast and the kids are holding hands, telling us about their day at school. Izaure smells her red locks, licking a bit of them. Aimée is talking history class, opening up.
—Mais Marie-Antoinette! Pfff.
But some man is slowly squashing her as the wagon fills up. I see Izaure getting pulled down by her sister’s arm getting pushed away. She keeps on, all muffled.
—Dorlotte la gerlotte!
Some kids just don’t complain sometimes, like they think they’re besides the point. These two are unphased. Izaure looks like she’s bowing. Aimée’s so close to the guy’s jacket we can hear her breathing loudly against the Gore-Tex, her nose protruding from one side. ‘Maman’ finally steps in. She cusses him out. Even uses ‘tabarnak’, like a good Quebec girl, which no one understands but me. It’s epic. And then after a short pause everyone else is cussing him out, cause that’s what Parisians do. It’s our stop and the yelling is still going on. The kids are keeling over, covering their mouths, a couple of giggling little ditties looking up at the wagon of yellers. Indignation. It’s funny, and I look at ‘maman’ and she laughs too, finally, and I smile. No one doubts who the boss is. I slowly pull the bunch off.
We’re walking down the street. We pass a McDonald’s seeping out onto the street, overflowing with frenchies. We’re nearing home and we buy some arugula, some chicken, some cheese. A couple of bottles of wine. I tell her about an idea I have for a story. I take a picture of Izaure doing an MC Hammer. ‘Maman’ is holding my pinkie finger. I do a little MC hammer myself. ‘The picture’s all wavy from the dimming light and I show it to her.
—‘Intouchable, in November light’
She laughs. They all laugh. Aimée even breaks into a tutting routine for a second or two, with her hands half way in her sleeves. I close a shutter on that one too and she hears me, straightens right up, covering a giggle. ‘Maman’ pulls on my finger and I look over at her, all freckles and tough broad. She looks good.
Life’s doing fine for now.