The day started with, continued to, and ended with rain. A single grey cloud hung over the Parisian expanse. You spent the morning hours on the sofa refreshing the Facebook feed, consuming stories of other people consuming the stories of others. You spent the afternoon scanning Netflix in search of it, too, but there was a new article YOU HAVE TO READ THIS on The Atlantic, Donald Trump was live-tweeting, and Frank Ocean had just broken his silence on Tumblr. Spotify beckoned you to discover, too, but you’d also promised to read one of your friend’s poetry books and it had been a year now and the email was still marked unread at the bottom of your inbox.
Sitting there in vacant boxers, staring at the empty space, you shifted your vision to the black hole of the television that you yourself had crucified on the far wall. You thought about turning on the console in search of it once again—perhaps you could find it while driving through the hills around Los Santos, or maybe while piloting a fighter plane above the Somme—but when you turned on the device you felt the rain drip into your stomach, and although the windows were weeping and the wind was shaking the foundations of your small apartment, you decided to put on your socks, finally, and do what you knew you had to do: get out. You slipped your legs into a pair of pants and put on your coat and leather boots. You descended the wooden stairwell with umbrella in hand and walked outside, where you would scour the sopping sidewalks and cobblestone alleyways in search of a Paris you hear about in songs.
It was a one-act in the Latin Quarter, which metro you can’t remember and how you arrived you can’t recall. But when you entered that theatre and sat down in front of the orchestra pit, surrounded by the melancholic echo of hushed voices, whispered tones and eager stares, the suppressed sniffles, the coughs, the wiping of noses, the clearing of throats, it was here whilst sitting in a repurposed church pew, your hair matted, your eyes tired, your cell phone dead, your soggy socks, it was here that you experienced it as the actors’ feet sank into the wooden floorboards, their opening sighs a wistful melody as when an old woman settles into a steaming bath. With the rain patter above providing its own kind of song, the cellos moaned and the violins searched for their pitch. Here you were in a small church without any friends to talk to, without any reception. And it was here that you experienced what you were looking for, the infinite solitude, where ovations will rise and inevitably fall, unyoked from the world outside, where busy, sodden streets will continue to show up in unseen pictures, where the world outside, you knew this now, would never stop careening, and where here in the theatre you could finally breathe because your pocket no longer buzzed. How often does this life feel so insectan, you thought … but you stopped yourself in the next instant. You let yourself breathe once again.
The music consumed you. You longed for a past you were now experiencing in the present—you found art. And when the curtains were drawn and the nostalgia left you, you in turn left the theatre and walked alone in the streets for some time. The rain had stopped. On a café terrace you watched the faces of stories happening all around you. To be cocooned by the warmth of an experience that cannot be shared. You took your time to relegate it to memory. Life always imitates art.