Note to self: Never try a mind-altering substance while boarding public transit.
Good advice, don’t you think?
I wrote that note to myself 26 years ago because I foolishly swallowed a bit of Ecstasy right before climbing on a crowded bus on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Paris.
I recently found it in the side pocket of an old handbag I was about to throw out. The note was slipped between a few used metro tickets and a business card from a restaurant. I’d forgotten about that afternoon until chancing upon this yellowed slip of paper.
I blame Alan for what happened. What good are ex-husbands if you can’t blame them for your follies? His Swiss friend supplied us with the chemically pure formulation. His knowledge of chemistry convinced me I wouldn’t hurt my mind or body with this pill.
We each popped one and then hopped onto the bus headed for Les Trois Quartiers, a chic department store surrounded by the best food shops in Paris; Hédiard, Fauchon, and Marquise de Sévigné. None of these were places Alan had ever visited. What better idea than to explore them on a sunny afternoon in September?
One flaw in this plan. We didn’t know what we were doing. Had no idea what was in store for us. Not until I stood up to work my way through the packed bus and climb down the steps to the crowded sidewalk did I know. Then I got my first inkling of the nature of the journey upon which I had embarked.
As I stood up, the drug surged through my body and up into my head. In the process of rising, the Ecstasy released gravity’s hold on me. I thought I was going to ascend right through the roof of the bus and off into the blue Paris sky.
My bewildered state must have been clear in my eyes, because Alan extended his hand and guided me cautiously down those steps.
Down into the throngs of people. Hundreds, no, make it thousands, of Parisians flowed along the boulevard, all heading for the Seine, catching us up in a river of people.
This was the first weekend of the wrapping of the Pont Neuf. The artist, Christo, had gotten permission to wrap Paris’ oldest standing bridge. In two weeks, three million people visited the site. I swear half of them were with us that Saturday.
As we got closer to the bridge, I started noticing the vendors selling posters, postcards, slides, t shirts, all emblazoned with drawings of the wrapped Pont Neuf.
I said, “Alan, I can’t believe all this merchandising of art!”
He heard an odd note of stress in my voice and answered diplomatically, “I suppose this is how Christo supports his work.”
“But Alan, he’s going to make millions from this stupid project. It’s just canvas wrapped around a bridge!”
Listening to the hysteria lurking under my words, he again said soothingly, “Bet it cost millions to sew all that canvas, ship it and get it in place.”
“But Alan, think of the artists we know, doing good work, who can barely support themselves. And this guy is getting rich from schlock!”
My angst was all out of proportion to the situation. I stopped, looked at Alan, then grabbed his arm as a wave of nausea gathered in my stomach and said, “You’ve got to change the subject, quick! Or else I’m going to throw up!”
That’s Ecstasy. It exaggerates what you’re feeling. Brings it out into the open. Which makes it a good therapeutic tool under the right circumstances. These were not the right circumstances.
“Hey, Georgia, how about if you take some great photos of this. Capture the moment to share with our friends. We’re here in the middle of a great happening.”
That’s what I did. Calmed down, took photos, had a lovely afternoon strolling in the sun.
We ended the afternoon in my favorite chocolate boutique, Marquise de Sévigné, sipping hot chocolate and talking about how much we cared for each other, how great our friends were, how lucky we were to live in the best of all possible worlds. For three hours we spewed forth this drug-induced marathon of love. The waitress gave up asking us if we wanted anything else. In fact, she avoided our table. Our smiles of bliss were more than she could deal with.
That rapture was lovely. I didn’t want it to end, and felt sorry when I felt gravity start regaining its hold on my body.
But you know what, everything we said to each other that day was true.