It was October in Paris, and he asked me if I wanted to take a walk. It is a question that he has asked me many times in the past, and it is one that I never tire of answering. With an enthusiastic yes, I grabbed all necessities – including camera – and stepped out onto the street with him. It was cold and raining, but right away, I knew that I was on another lifetime adventure. We had no map and no agenda. We were just out . . . in the city . . . walking . . . to anywhere.
From early morning to late evening, we walked throughout the city – browsing, touring, chatting, pondering, eating, and drinking. We saw both the glorious and the ordinary – with both sides of that spectrum equally as interesting. Our feet led us through the inside of famous and not-so-famous museums, through elaborate and not-so elaborate churches, down prominent and nondescript boulevards, and towards both landmarks and unknown hidden gems.
Heading for home at the end of the day, we took a right turn and found ourselves in what can only be described as a park of plenty. I saw remarkable gardens and teenagers – dressed in preppy school uniforms – playing pick-up games of basketball. At the edge of a large fountain, which state side we would call a pond, I saw a line of children using sticks to push small sailboats across the water while their parents relaxed nearby reading books.
In the middle of the park I witnessed two men, both dressed in “Jimmy Fallon – I love my tight” pants, playing tennis as if their lives depended on the outcome. Fifty yards away, I saw an additional ten men, pairing off for friendly yet seemingly fierce chess matches. And fifty yards from that point, I saw an endless stream of mothers with strollers, infants, and toddlers playing on some of the most extraordinary playground equipment I have ever seen.
But what caught our attention – as if gardens, tennis, chess, basketball, sailing, reading, and the merry-go-round wasn’t enough – was actually tucked away near the edge of the park. Initially, we were drawn to a bench – more importantly a vacant bench. We had journeyed for several hours, several miles – all by foot, and as we closed in on the bench, the idea of sitting became more and more appealing.
Had we not sat down, we would not have noticed the rest of the story.
For directly in front of us were two of the most interesting teams of people, playing one of the most interesting games, for what looked like was an interesting mix of both pride as well as a few, no doubt lucrative, side bets. All of the members on both teams were seemingly old enough to be my parents, with only one of the approximately twenty team members being female.
In the middle of Luxembourg Gardens, these two teams were sparing and jarring over a very competitive game of Boules. They would toss balls, run to the side of the court, measure the proximity of balls thrown to the stationary ring, and shout out words in their language that needed no translation to be understood in mine.
There were players with their own polishing rags and players wearing specialized shoes and players using pocket play-books to strategize with each other. The most interesting feature, however, was something that I just had never seen in a park – or anywhere outdoors for that matter. It made me chuckle; it still makes me chuckle. For sitting just outside the rectangular, rocky playing field was a sturdy, silver, shiny coatrack.
A coatrack. A coatrack.
The day was chilly and wet, but no one was wearing a coat. They were all carefully hanging from the court-side coatrack. Crazy-funny at its best.
Moments – or an eternity later – we continued our walk.
Like many moments over the past 39 years, neither one of us said a word about what we had just witnessed. In a relationship, there are many times when words are really pointless. A look, a smile, a frown, a glance, a wink can convey an entire conversation. Words just lack the power, the ability, the nuances.
I am not sure when we learned the art of not speaking. I am quite sure it wasn’t in our first decade. I do know that as our early years passed, our security in our ability to speak without words has grown.
And in that moment in the park, as we watched twenty people shout and skirmish over a game played by grown-ups tossing balls on a pebble-laden court, with a random coatrack in the background, i knew that I was experiencing a day for the ages. It is a memory that needs no words, that is memorable, in fact, because of the lack of language – which to me – is nothing shy of awesome.
Soon thereafter, we walked in silence for quite awhile – beyond the Boules courts, the tennis courts, and the chess courts. I snapped a few more photos, we laughed at the young boy who accidentally fell into the pond chasing his boat, and noticed that the boys in the school uniforms had left for greener pastures.
We, too, did the same, with the silent hope that we will experience more such moments.