Anti-walk: Nuit Blanche
Once a year in Paris, there is a night known as “Nuit Blanche.” Literally translated it means “white night,” but it is actually used to describe an all-nighter. On Nuit Blanche the city doesn’t sleep. Museums are open until dawn, there are interactive art exhibits in the streets, and the banks of the Seine are just one big party. The metro stays open all night.
It was on Nuit Blanche that I had my first date with the aforementioned Michael. We met at a church dance on my birthday (Saturday), went for crêpes and spent the afternoon in the park with friends on Sunday, stayed up until 3am messaging on Wednesday, and now it was Saturday again. The Facebook messages went something like this:
Me: So what are you doing for Nuit Blanche?
Michael: Well, my plans fell through. What about you?
Me: I have tentative plans to go dancing.
Michael: Have you eaten?
And just like that, my tentative plans to go dancing were foiled. We met at Place de la République, which was a madhouse. I couldn’t find Michael among all the people dancing in the interactive art piece, which was some sort of giant shower. I got Michael on the phone and he said, “I see you! Stay there, I’m coming. I have a mustache and I’m wearing a bow tie.” He’d had a beard a week ago.
Feeling slightly underdressed, I went to dinner with him. I taught him the word “sconce;” he taught me “beau gosse.” After dinner, we started walking and never stopped. We didn’t know where we were going– we just walked. We walked around outside the Pompidou Center then found our way to Hôtel de Ville, which was hopping. There we found a nice lady giving out booklets with information about all the events in the city that night. I may or may not have saved that booklet.
Later we ended up at la Bibliothèque Nationale, where we stopped to rest for a while. We sat overlooking the gardens and watched teenagers mess around on bikes. In that same neighborhood, we admired an old abandoned building that had become a sort of community collaboration of graffiti. That building is now torn down.
We consulted our booklet, and ended up in a free art exhibit. Michael and I sat on the floor and watched looped footage of people all over the world working– basket weaving, gutting fish, making fish nets. We talked about art and our dead grandparents.
Afterwards, we made our way to Oberkampf, one of my all-time favorite areas of Paris. By now it was getting late, probably about four in the morning, but Oberkampf was still hopping with youths. Half-drunks were befriending us at every turn, and they left as quickly as they came. We talked to a couple of Americans sitting on the curb of a yellow boulangerie. After fifteen minutes of chit-chat, one of them asked, “So, what are you guys?”
Michael and I looked at each other and shrugged. I said, “Actually, I think we’re on our first date right now.”
This was met with much excitement, and our new friends assured us that we were adorable. They sent us on our way and we bought crêpes from a little stand.
The night ended in Michael’s apartment passing a Nutella crêpe back and forth. It was five thirty in the morning, and we were both exhausted. I had tried to get on the metro home, but it turned out that only a few lines on the metro were running all night and mine was not one of them. We had half an hour to kill before my line started running again. Delirious, we both talked to keep the other awake.
At six o’clock, I gave Michael a hug goodbye and got on a metro packed with more-than-half-drunks similar to the ones we had befriended on the street. The buzzer rang and the doors closed on Michael promising we would see each other again soon.
My feelings on that metro ride home can be summed up in one simple letter:
To the city of Paris,
I had this crazy, juvenile idea that you would make all my dreams come true, and you did.