by CBallinger


Photograph by Joseph Kelly Jones


We’re accelerating. Something bigger awaits. Sites. Holy stories. Sacré-Cœur Basilica proving a white-domed distraction. Pascal’s grinning face; the model’s frontage. Lost in the tiny details. A lightness to my attention. Wild digressions.

‘He deserved it.’ Blotter paper with tweezers.

‘Just for wearing those hot pants.’

Squares on our tongues like communion wafers.

‘He shouldn’t have touched you. There’s no excuse.’

Continue to gaze and shuffle. Hitting a girl. All that commotion over observations of musical tastes.

‘He was being a dick; it was universally accepted.’

Fear the boys and girls! See us, our bulging eyes and persuasions. Faces twisted. No introductions – could be tedious bull.

We need to get away from these Americans. Twists, bumps and turns.

I’m not even hungry. The streets of laughter descend. Oh, Montmartre, packed with tourists taking pictures of postcards. We snake through the crowd following the most recognisable head or hood or hat. Gift shops, cafes, narrow streets, the mass of people.

It’s all down hill from here.

Playtime, times without thinking. My feet feel quenched. Play with each other in the wilderness of a city centre. A balancing act – piss stop – on a kerb’s edge. Subtly outlandish.

‘How long would it take to get there?’

Shop windows are winter afternoon television screens dragged eagerly into our minds. A toy shop presents colours and magic. Giggling steps. Parisian default action; sprawl into everything. The worth-seeing. We’re tumbling, standing. Gathering Inventory. White light. Fridge flavours. High pressure grins through the glass.



‘Chupa Chups.’


Still we walk. Some have failed.

‘I love cola.’

‘I think cream.’

It seems we’ve chosen a direction. Everyone has showboating skills. I catch confused, small glances over shoulders. Furrowed brows. Are we going the right way?

Swarming tourists. They laugh in winter coats like gifts that they’ve already forgotten. We’re living life with a round of applause for everything. Flourishes. Public threat. Entertainment is inside, stay inside. Outside will only add colour to your problems. There are people around. What must they think of our excitement?

I watch as entertainment is found in mosaics and fountains. Confused gardens. I see it’s gone too far. Passers-by like characters in a film. Daring myself to touch them. I like to think my head still tells the fantastic difference between the touch and the don’t touch.

Rapturous entertainment in nothing. My head is a musical tree. Smile and concentrate. Pointing is plentiful. Emerge? Someone else will figure it out. I sit on things. Discussions ensue.

‘We’re going the wrong way.’ He was needed. Some deliberation – it turns out that that slice of flan entered the car park.

Wrecked minds know to follow Pascal. A vague conversation about nothing. Directions. Time is passing. Incessant giggling soundtracks the darkness. I long for more lights like a missing person. String lights on trees mark the Champs Elysees; we’re a magnet for sparkly things.

The Parisian treadmill keeps running. Lasting worlds. Hunger ushered in the New Year. An evening of varied adventure. We celebarated strong. Shared desire with the crowd at Notre Dame.

‘Bonne Année! Bonne Année!’

Do these people want some playtime? The media runs daily:


Magic, what I expected. The search is on, always a tourist, for playtime. Oh, some people. Worship at your local facilities! CCTV smiles at us. Low ceilings and shiny cars. Chuckleheads talking loose.

‘The stone animals are asserting their power.’

‘He’s next to be calling for help with that bull.’

‘The guy on the railings.’

Pascal steps gently.

‘Places could end up smouldering remains at any time.’

Pascal And The Fresh Fruit: the sex channel you need. An Underground Digression 3: Nothing Sexual. In the true sense of the word, the streets keep coming. Buildings stand and glisten. I feel no awe. I simply mean ‘good’. Many an elderly wizard wishes the beautiful English language were possible to reclaim.

The excellent and the brilliant and the good. The group is walking towards another church. We’re going in. Leaving our cans. Out of respect. Heads bowed with devotion. Tourists whispering in the warmth. Unknown tongues. Candles burning for lost loves.

A security man tells us: ‘no photographs’. Such mixed feelings all round. The front few rows are filled. I really don’t think that now is time to consider religion in any depth. The organ starts.

I look to my bewildered friends; they’ve lost money, time and belief to creating something real. Shit. The group having stumbled into something that is very specific. Don’t panic. I see a girl in robes carrying a candle. It’s hard to imagine that kind of commitment.

Appear back on the street. I feel refreshed or altered. I have to leave. The day is still half-bright. ‘Emergency evacuation’ is clearly written. I scan around the church. My eyes and head adjust gradually. Abject awkwardness gives way to lightness.

It’s easy to forget there’s a world. And laughter. We all stand and stare at the exit. I focus on different things. We have no destination. I can feel the group being pulled by people inside.

Pascal has drifted off to retrieve the stash. A brief discussion reveals everything is fleeting. The magic seen at the Eiffel Tower. Those of us kids. Nothing sexual. When familiar with our surroundings, it pours out – a colourful dust like a galaxy of stars.

A clearing on the easel of an infant. Where we can see the most sweet regression. Never go too far. The group moves – always a pain when mealtimes come around. Pascal returns with the joint and I’m urged to suckle. Tongues play – re-lit.

Jovially we pass mashed, the world found a ‘fuck it’ switch. Encouragement in bottles. The street opens to cars and lights. I take my last toke. My eyes are dragged upwards a generation. The – inhale – lost generation. I exhale our own dark sky.

I don’t want to leave. Our path is across light and place. Horizon, the only place we can think to go. The tower still stands. Swimming into the traffic doesn’t seem a good idea. I’m knee deep. It’s decided before I can think of consequence. Metal, light, speed.

Stories require faith. We are truly fucked. We find no answers, only more possibilities. We dancers. In some centre stage street.