Yesterday we walked so far the bottom of my feet burned but it was fun, especially to see how Paris hasn’t changed in the time we’ve been gone. Bruno and Omar and the boys at Prune gave us kisses and Grég was playing Bombazine Black at Jeannette and Brain Tumour Man was still doing his daily walk up and down the Faubourg St Denis and it was a good day where the tumour was low in his forehead and not the usual elbow size. His songs are quieter when the tumour is low.
It’s fashion week so there are even more painfully stunning people than usual walking around in breathtaking model-just-off-runway casuals. They are curiosities the models, aliens, it’s nearly impossible to tear your eyes away from them. After hours of walking, I said to The Love on the Isle St Louis mid pear sorbet-lick, ‘If I see one more pair of legs in size 00 jeans I’m going to kill myself.’ And he was looking at something and I followed his gaze and it was another pair of size 00 legs in jeans talking intensely to a fashion man in a black jacket and I did think about kamikazeing myself into them and off the bridge but the sorbet was just too good.
The incessant contrast and contradiction of Paris has always struck me and it’s always even more present in Fashion Week. It’s insane. Ultra-rich, mega-poor. Brain tumour man, the wailing Indian madman on the canal with his permanent can of Desperados, the formaldahyde leg and arm stumps at stations mixed with the polished skin and studded handbags of the ultra-mega-perfumed-stilletoed-kill-us-all-now-hotel-lounging slinky pussycats. The studied, artful, ultra-wealthy hyper-chic. Worlds and worlds falling all over each other. Loftiness. Desperation. Caviar. Little pieces of cardboard with J’AI FAIM written in texta. Sex. Starvation. Cigarettes. Man sitting in own Shit at Metro Les Halles. Diamonds. Painted nails. Longing.
The models don’t look any happier than anyone else. Maybe they are doing cartwheels on the inside and have mastered a pained exterior. They make me happy, just looking at them, but maybe they are stuck in there, trying to feel something, trying to get the next Dior show, trying to understand themselves. The models never seem fulfilled - if I look really hard, they usually look quite sad. Which in an unfair swipe of irony, makes them all the more beautiful.
I think of the Penis of Melancholy. All those years ago in Paris, getting off the train at Opéra, the feeling that something was there next to me, in my shadow. In the crowd, walking, there is something next to me, a someone, a Penis. The Penis of Melancholy. The Penis was grey, tired, sad and old, the hand on it, also grey, trying, failing. The tired, sad, slapping, the trying, I didn’t dare look up at the face, but it was looking at me, trying so hard to feel something. I kept walking, I knew not to Acknowledge, and the Penis, unsuccessful, eventually went away, leaving me with such a sad feeling. Not because I couldn’t help it succeed, but because it seemed nothing could, it was hopeless, there was no more joy in it. The desperation of trying to feel that something and not achieving it was the worst part. If it had worked, maybe it wouldn’t have left me with such a hollow feeling, maybe it would have made me angry and I would have said something or squealed or run away, but the absolute hopelessness of it, the agonising limpness of it, was the worst thing of all.
I hope the models don’t feel the Penis of Melancholy. Because even though they’re insanely good looking I imagine there’s always someone just that bit better looking than them and just that bit richer with the shoes they wanted from the Dior show and who knows, maybe in their own way they are flogging their Penis of Melancholy, just trying to get some sort of buzz on, to feel alive. They look so often like zombies, dead inside, I see a similar look in their eyes to those in the desperately poor ones around the streets. They should be different, they’re all we want to be. But they feel all hollow. At least people stop and talk to the poor people on the street and give them money. Nobody would dare stop and talk to a poor, melancholy model.
I hope they are ok. And that brain tumour man and his friends are too. It’s good to see that after all these months he’s still walking the same catwalk, up and down, up and down, day after day after day.