We had met through mutual friends. She asked me to show him around, that he had just gotten here. We walked around the Latin Quarter, saw Shakespeare and Company and he bought a chwarma sandwich near Notre Dame. By the St. Michel Fountain, the young philosopher got deep.
“I’m an American in exile,” he says to me.
“Who kicked you out?” I ask.
“Everyone, man. That whole country is just backwards.”
“California is still on the west coast, right?”
“Naw man. I’m talking about the people. No one talks anymore. There’s no discussion. There’s just the arguing and the defending of some idealistic vision of the world.”
“Do you ask questions?”
“I’ve given up, man. But this is it. This is Paris! You know? The river, the lights, this place moves. People embrace life. It isn’t like that in the States.”
“So you’ve given up and exiled yourself?”
“The way I see it, there is a difference between a traveler and a tourist,” he says to me. “A tourist has an agenda. I am not tourist.”
And he goes on, telling me his woes, of his one-way ticket, the Russians in the hostel. He stares out over the river and tells me about Notre Dame at night. “It’s just so amazing,” he says. It is then that I notice a dog shivering on the corner of the bridge, no one near him. The dog looks up at passersby, almost looking for eye contact with each, and each walks past the dog, as if the dog were… human, I think to myself, until finally, a teenager stops, looks at the dog, and sits next to the dog, their bodies touching. He smiles down and the dog looks up. He lays a hand on the dog and then slowly, the shivering stops.
“People in America just don’t take time to look anymore,” he says to me. ”You know?”