To Give The Impression
"We'll meet you at the post office" they say and I exit through the alleyway.
I wish I could tell you about the layers of Fontainebleau, France, but that would give the impression that Fontainebleau is something I understand.
I can barely manage a bonjour without choking, so how am I to talk about the dark shade of yellow that follows all of Fontainebleau? The color in the women's scarves and the honey candy they carry, the color in the carousel at town centre and the castle gleaming or glaring over it. The color of the mustard fields that guard the towns edges and the meridians filled with daffodils. The color of a town in transition—of warnings about the future: 'deviation' and 'piétons,' and reminders of the past: 'palais' and 'rue de la.'
I cannot direct you around the town's streets, because they stutter and slur and are for the most part incomprehensible. Communication with the town happens only through alleyways.
In the alleyways are stories of cracked shutters planted into brick walls with paint chips that flutter down on gusty days. Today is still, instead of paint chips I get watered by a woman two floors up wetting her windowsill plants.
I can tell you about a coffee shop on Rue De La Bouchers that on the internet shows up as Paul & Paulette and on the inside is lined by a logo that reads: Caffé Vergnano 1882. Paulette, whose name is actually Miriam, walks in thin and straight lines trained by cobblestone streets. Each movement seems justified by the action it carries—setting a coffee filter, cutting a piece of cake, taking money. No excess. No smile, no bonjour; no need for it with chocolate cake so good and a shift so long.
When Paulette takes her lunch break she sits in the very back of the café next to an airbrushed painting of an octopus on the wall. The octopus is too stern and holding bad tempered vegetables—tomatoes and leeks—and a stack of wobbling teacups.
Paul is rounder. He has a circular face and small circular spectacles and he eats his lunch at the front of the café facing the door. Though he doesn't look up once as customers come and go. No smile, no bonjour; no desire for it with pasta so good and a lunch break so short.
I can also tell you how to get to the post office. All of the streets seem to be directed toward it. There is a 12th century palace adjacent to the post office where for centuries the kings of France took their ease, which may actually be what the roads are pointed at.
The post office, though, is a stunning all-brick building with an arching entrance and a dark, pointed roof. In a cement strip above the archway is a decorative art nouveau font that reads: Postes et Telegraphes. Underneath it, on a sliding glass door is a very systematic and modern 'La Poste' logo. It faces the town carousel which stands still and empty for most of the day and cranks up for a couple of rounds at unpredictable hours. It is surrounded by planters filled with daffodils.