St. Etienne in technicolor--memoirish

Once in Paris, a felicitous encounter that since serves as prototype for letting myself be unexpectedly taken by chance.

Several of us are walking home from a bar in the 5th, in the night that Paris allows. It's darker than one might imagine, the city of light, especially in the medieval offshoots of tourist districts. The darkness forms a cocoon of sound as our drunken footsteps echo through the muffled decorum. (There is a way in which drunken students too in love with literature inhabit the landscape of Paris--being there is a comfort and a shock to the system, through which one discovers a new way of being intoxicated.) On this occasion, the city itself seems buttressed by our gleeful gloom. There is no need to invent love in Paris, nor history, nor life. Glum little pupils of the night, we know this, and feel the hearty pulse of our uselessness to be both sobering and comical. The result is a dour gaity as we flit through the night scene like shadows on some black-and-white street-scene Paris photo that at least one of us had hanging on a dorm room wall somewhere.

But walking through the night, we also feel it walking through us, like some derisive yet nonchalant prostitute of the ages. "Like Baudelaire's cats," Renee (the future suicide) proclaims, and our gloom settles in with a decidely decadent twist, the insistent sound of our footsteps still sparking in all directions. Climbing a little hill, we cross towards the Pantheon, solemnly raucous, retracing steps laid down and effaced long ago in the grayblack stones, retraced so often by other students of other times, other cats of the night--by us, even--morning and night. Around the corner ahead should loom out of the darkness St-Etienne-du-mont. Just to the left it should appear, humming the stone-laden latin of the ages, monkish murmurings to join in with our procession. Instead, rounding the corner I see a trance of color throbbing through the night: garish, unexpectedly bright, there stands the church shrouded in technicolor brilliance like a sea of ravers with neon sticks twirling to no music.

A few seconds' time and the whole trick is understood, the device a projection of colors on the ornate but blank surface of the facade, all the little saints clothed as in disco attire and the windows like big pinwheels. An enterprising art project makes St-Etienne scream in color, every detail lit up, intensified, like ecstasy on the outside. A small group of artists near the projector are the only other witnesses to this collision. I am transfixed by this unexpected nightwash, transformed by this temporary illumination. It accompanies me home and preoccupies me such that I no longer see the stones under my feet as I walk on; I don't hear the echo of sparks tracing the glorious gloom of poetry and drunkenness, the various tombs of the night sought by those enthralled with their own youth.