To celebrate spring I've decided to give you a taste of Paris... An excerpt of my story "Love Unlocked" from the multi-author anthology "That's Paris." (Now on sale for $0.99 on Amazon!) Happy reading!
Adria J. Cimino
My flyers littered the bridge that I only wanted to protect. I chased after them as they fluttered out of careless hands and danced with the wind. For the better part of a week, I had stood on the Pont des Arts in front of the massive load of padlocks weighing down its frail skeleton.
“Do you know that when you attach one of those locks to the bridge, you’re violating it? Read this, and you’ll understand.”
But not many people wanted to understand. They didn’t want to read my carefully prepared document detailing the structural and environmental damage caused by the locks. They were only interested in writing their names on locks and fastening them to the bridge’s railings to attach their love story to the story of Paris.
In the best scenario, my audience had ignored me. In the worst, they had doused me with water and told me to go fuck myself. My gentle tactics clearly hadn’t worked. So after days of putting up with verbal abuse, it was time to be bold. I returned to the bridge at dusk and attached myself to it with my bicycle chain. A few people giggled, and others looked shocked. But, in all the hours I had spent on that bridge, this was the first time no one dared to fasten a lock… or even approach the railing.
Except one person. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. By now, night had fallen and my tired eyes scanned the pages of a classic I promised myself I would read before classes started in the fall. He seemed to be looking for something amid the layers of locks, and he was so absorbed in his search that he stepped on my foot. My toe now seemed as bright as the chipped, red nail polish I should have removed days ago.
“Excuse me!” he exclaimed as I let out a cry. “I didn’t see you there.”
“Forget it. I’m fine. What are you doing anyway, fiddling around there over my head?”
“Looking for a lock.”
“Are you kidding? Do you actually think you’re going to find some old lock in that mess of metal?”
“I think I remember where we put it…”
I shook my head and gazed through the misty gas-lamp light illuminating the river. Upside-down images of buildings and trees cast dark spots along the edges. And then there were the locks. Dark chunks of ugly metal growing across the bridge like aggressive tumors.
“You’re a part of this, then,” I said.
He stopped and looked down at me. For the first time, I saw his face. Beautiful on one side, marred on the other by a jagged scar. Like the bridge. I lowered my gaze for an instant. Enough time to mask the surprise.
“It’s not like I put up every lock on this bridge!” he said. “You don’t have to be so accusatory. You make it sound as if I’m in a conspiracy against mankind or something!”
“Fuck you… and all of you who hide behind everyone else! It’s easy to say you weren’t the first and to follow the crowd. That way, no one takes responsibility. Instead, you get defensive and then yell at the person who says what you don’t want to hear. I know. I’ve seen that kind of shit all week.”
“You’ve been here all week?”
“Chained, no. Unchained, yes. Chained worked better than unchained.”
He lowered himself to the ground beside me, continuing his search and talking at the same time.
“How long are you going to stay here? Chained, I mean…”
“Well, I guess I’ll eventually have to pee or take a shower. I didn’t plan it out… I just needed to make this statement, to do something.”
“Found it.” His words were filled with both satisfaction and regret.
“OK, you found your lock. Now what? Are you going to, like, take a picture with it or kiss it? I discourage the kissing. Too many hands have touched those locks.”
He smirked, yet his eyes, now nearer to me, seemed sad. They looked almost golden in the dimness.
“I’m unlocking it.” He pulled a small key out of the pocket of his jeans, released the lock and tossed it into the trashcan a few feet away.
“Why did you do that?”
“Our story is over. We broke up today.”
“You only wanted to get rid of your lock because the relationship is over? Typical. You’re not doing this because you care about the bridge or our environment.”
“Typical of what? Of everyone except you? Of everyone who cares more about relationships and people than inanimate objects and vague ideas? You’re a strange girl… uh… I don’t know your name…”
I froze. I didn’t need to have my personal life dissected by some stranger. Did I really want to tell him that I was an ordinary girl who grew up in a farmhouse an hour from the city? Did I want to say that, there, watching my grandfather work, I learned to appreciate well-built structures and natural resources? And did I want him to know that in spite of the poor outcome of my recent dates, I cared about relationships probably as much as anyone else? No, no and no.
And then, before I could decide whether to snap back or not snap back, two sets of heavy black shoes settled nearly toe-to-toe with my flip flops. I looked up and straight into the faces of the police officers.
To read more of this story and many others about Paris, click here to check out "That's Paris" on Amazon! (It's on sale for $0.99 through April 13th!). Click here for the deal on Amazon in the U.K.