I see wisteria and budding trees and moldering dead stone landscaping. This neighborhood is a mosaic of turn-of-the-century brick villas, so lovely, and mid-century apartment buildings with no sense of which way the sun shines. We can see the most beautiful sunsets from our bathroom but only if we stand on the toilet and look out the one little window that faces the prettiest direction. At dusk our bathroom glows in a romantic pink light, picking up the rosy shades of our four rolls of toilet paper and casting an amorous blush on our toothbrushes.
I have become particularly covetous of the gardens, courtyards, even the overgrown parking areas behind buildings where weedy trees grow. The footpath along the Canal du Midi is closed, the Jardin des Plantes all locked up and every green space is forbidden. The big allée where the boules players used to congregate cannot be closed and I circle the flower beds over and over. I live near the Allée des Demoiselles, the street of the young ladies. And by young ladies they mean feminists. Ha! No, of course not. My French friend tells me that the street is named for prostitutes. So everyday I run down a street named for a group of sex workers from long ago.
I looked it up and the historical site said that the canal workers were lonely for love and so this was Pont de las Pute in occitan. En mal d’amour. Lonely for love after all that digging to make the canal. The only other streets I can find named after women are saint streets – Catherine, Philomena. Do you know the story of Saint Philomena? She died a consecrated virgin at age 13. She is a saint because she held onto her virginity at AGE THIRTEEN. And then she was killed by a Roman emperor. This street runs parallèle to the aforementioned Sex Worker Street.
All of the rest of the streets are named after men. I look them up when I come home from my wanders: a mathematician, a university rector, many Resistance fighters, a museum director, an explorer and even a botanist. Men, men, men. Penis homage on sign after sign. So I grumble at the patriarchy and I wish for more gardens.
The other end of my neighborhood is capped by a large war memorial. I read somewhere that the military men were unhappy at how fat the naked lady sculptures are on top of the arch. I like seeing their big thighs, warrior women.
There aren’t really bars in my neighborhood but in the round park there is a huge gazebo where I could dance tango if we were still allowed to touch each other. There are two museums nearby, a beautiful Asian museum and the museum of the Resistance.
According to my son’s math I have an area of 3141.59 square meters to explore. I have to stick to the streets and the sidewalks but I am sure there is more to be seen out there. Today I shall look through another lens.