St Jean, samdei soir

Flânuer, flânuerie…a word in French, a flow, a stop and go. I see you there, smiling, your bright teeth, your face in the glass. Visions from the St Jean neighborhood on a Saturday evening, the first warm one in a while: Go, stop, go.

1.Warmth. At the first sun I’ve seen in a month this scene plays in my mind. Often, this godforsaken saccharine song bursts out at inopportune moments. But as I am walking alone now down Rue de St Jean, it hardly matters. I’m sorry to say that, despite how awful it truly is, this song makes me almost disgustingly happy. Until the sky again explodes in rain, of course. And as this is Geneva, it’s only a matter of time.

2. At the thai restaurant at the end of the block. Dancers are visible through the window on the dinner stage; their gold adorned heads rise and fall with a beat I cannot hear. I imagine it must the beat of a slow tambourine, a metronomic procession of many small bells; a deep red, lethargic color. Watching the dancers from outside has that aquarium quality: the arranged display of some other world behind a few millimeters of glass. I am transfixed by how rigid their postures seem, how their arms are suspended like marionettes. It must be only their legs that are moving.

3. An older man sits at the café near the library. He rocks back in his chair, the slanting sun shines through his beer.

4. At the Portuguese butcher a stuffed badger is perched in the window display, frozen in soundless, perpetual attack. I look into its glass eyes and sympathize with the strange mixture of terror and defeat that they seem to project before thinking: Surely, if I were Portuguese, I wouldn’t advertise the fact that I butcher and eat badgers.

5. Flute sounds from the plaza: the music here is fast, lively. A group of people is grilling, drinking, and at the center there is line of dancing women. One hand raised, shuffling across the expanse, hips swaying, counting time: “Uno, dos, tres, quatro…” Ah, they are speaking Spanish. Maybe they are Colombians, I think, as if I could tell.

6. Next morning, Sunday, the bells ring for a near quarter of an hour. A long, doleful resonance. Listening I feel pulled, stomach first, back in time several centuries. I can see the church from my balcony, a pastor stands on the steps. No one goes in.


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