Select field communications and strategies of integration no. 22: quatre-vingt neuf

No matter how much it annoys me, I don't dare pick the seed pod out of this woman's hair. Maybe I'll change seats. Not worth it. My transfer is only two stops away. Maybe I could flick it, swipe it, blow it. It's clearly a wig. She won't feel it. It's. right. there. if. I. could. just…Ahhhhh, that was my stop!

For a long time, I'd considered the Paris metro to be amazing until my friend Sandra told me Switzerland's is better. I got to the metro station to find it closed, again, for some reason I'll never know. My usual 35-minute rail ride would have to be an hour-long bus crawl all the way to the southeast perimeter of the city. The scenery is usually better, but sometimes the ride is terribly bumpy and always slow. Looking out the window, I watched pedestrians swerve around the white covid testing tents that pimple every block. After three months, the tents have begun to look dingy. I'm sure someone will tag a dick on one soon.

I'm not looking for another job today. This makes me feel guilty, but I have to finish something I started. I only have

a short window to either get this done or jump out.

Now I'm walking in the direction of line #89. The bus stop timers are notoriously inaccurate. The #89 stop I passed five minutes ago displayed a wait of 12 minutes. The timer at the next stop says two minutes. Is the second stop in a backward dimension? If I turn around, will I find my future?

La Creperie sits empty just downhill from the Senate. Fat teddies slump where the lunch crowd used to gather. Walkers glance for signs of life in the patioed restaurant but it’s just the owner doing whatever owners do in these anxious days when deconfinement is so close but reconfinement broods over us like a gargoyle.

I jumped off #89 in front of Burger King. Cheap fuel for preparing to work paying job in wine someday. The climb towards the towers of Bibliotheque François Mitterrand is less than 800 stairs if you approach from the river side. 800 sounds like how it feels stepping up to an uneventful, 69-degree day when I'm wearing two layers too many in case the weather turns cold.

First stop after the revolving door is the ugly sanitizer stand that squirts sideways onto my shoes if I forget to cup my hands. How does a contraption like that look so nasty? Semi-dried ingredients crust around the spout like spit. Someone should tag a dick on that thing. Next, the coffee machine. Two glowing symbols of so much about life. One is perpetually empty despite its illuminated invitation to push a button. If that machine were my 7-year brother, it would laugh "Psych!". The other machine is rigged. Either that or I'm always too late. It also offers single euro espressos but only agrees to cappucinos and things that cost a lot more. I get my good coffee at home. I only want a quick buzz from these appliances. Not torture. Whatever. Buy the cappuccino.

Research and study. Language and Wine Theory. Without a caffeine jolt I’m only good for two hours. With a buzz, four. Last month, the library closed half its reading rooms in order to concentrate everyone to the five remaining rooms on the left wing. I love academic spaces. Today - unlike a year ago - social distancing standards space everyone three feet apart. Now, I can sprawl open books, lineup highlighters and lean into my studies like I’m paying rent for my seat except I didn't drop a dime. I put on a mask and took two buses to get here. Sunshine Follows the Rain by the Yoko Miwa Trio drives me. I always hit repeat when it pops up in my study music playlist. Countless daydreams have been scored by this instrumental. I typically snap out of it after about a four repeats then return to pushing pages. I stay longer on those days; pushing myself to find a way in.

My friend Ben once described me as an enologue to the couple that lives across from me by the courtyard. They have the nicest apartment on the block. It's got a freaking backyard! The guy who lives there finally tricked it out with matching patio furniture and string lights. There's a metal door that serves as a gate between his bamboo cloaked wire fence and the corner wall that marks the garden entry. When Ben introduced me to them, I was barely dressed. He'd raced up to my apartment to drag me down to meet the couple one Saturday night. Fortunately, I'd just showered but unfortunately that’s all I'd done. I threw on some jeans and did something presentable to my hair, then I reluctantly followed him to crash a soirée. "Enologue from America" he announced. I thought, 'Not quite but what's the damn word for it here?' I knew that wasn't the right word but didn't know a better one at the time. I even believed him for a while until the French association for enologues mailed my membership check back. That’s fair. I didn’t know how to define myself. Not an enologues was perfectly fair.

I shook the last drop of foam into my mouth before trashing the paper cup of two-euro liquid dessert. Jolted, I headed down the open wing to find a seat. As I strolled, my face dropped then crashed as I was caught off guard by white paper signs that read "salle saturée" (reading room saturated). Some are taped to metal stands positioned at the entry of each room. Some are just taped anywhere. It was the same for every room: salle E, F, G and down the line were all full. Dejected students and irritated researchers backed into the grand corridor then spun towards the next reading room in hopes of securing a seat. But there were none left. In the pre-pandemic days, I could camp on the floor of the lounge next to all the other turned-aways and grind out a few good hours before my butt and back stiffened too tightly to continue. Now those spaces are closed. Now I'm high for nothing.

I often do my best writing en route. Home has too many distractions. I've said it before and will say it again: Netflix is the devil. #89 takes exactly one hour to carry me back home. I already know the other libraries are either closed or have hours so erratic it's not worth consulting online to find alternatives. Besides, I favor Mitterrand. My daydreams blossom in the glow of its weird orange carpet. I'd like to thank the Francois Mitterrand Library and line #89 for their inspiration today. Home is one more stop away.