INCIDENT NO. 4
Filled with a nervous energy, I felt compelled to walk briskly south. My conscious mind speculated where my desire might be pulling me – I suspected it would be in the area of Jardin du Luxembourg where an emotional incident had occurred years ago. I set off without a map, letting my impulses guide me.
I became caught in a sort of cultural/spiritual vortex around Pantheon and experienced strong emotions. A quick circuit around Pantheon placed me in front of l’Hôtel des Grands Hommes, where a plaque by the entrance indicated that Surrealism had been invented inside. I smiled inwardly and headed onto rue Clotaire, which led to a maze of narrow streets behind the hotel.
I sensed that I was very near to Luxembourg, but something was pulling me in another direction. When I looked at my route on the map afterward, I had been only a few blocks east of Luxembourg, where I thought my subconscious would take me. At one point I think I even glimpsed a tree-filled space ahead of me. But I had somehow turned south instead of west. Toward Place Monge, and then south of it, tracing a half circle around it a few blocks wider than the Place itself. It was at that point that I lost all sense of direction.
In one of the winding streets I was overcome by a foul odor. As I walked, it became stronger, almost unbearable. I rounded a corner and nearly stumbled over a homeless man lying asleep face up on the sidewalk, his bags arranged around him in a kind of ritualistic circular pattern. Shaken, I quickly crossed the street and turned sharply right, altering my route. Later, looking at the map, I see this unexpected detour had been a correction, and if I had continued in this direction I would have come to Jardin du Luxembourg. But instead (was I motivated by some kind of subconscious rebellion?) I turned left on Gay Lussac, unknowingly headed southward again.
At Boulevard de Port-Royal, the atmosphere changed, becoming perceptibly bleaker. I didn’t know it, but I was directly on the border between 5e and 13e. I headed for small streets, becoming lost in what felt like a meaningless complexity. I suddenly felt lonely and far from the center. I knew I was reaching some kind of endpoint.
When I emerged from the maze of streets onto Rue de la Glacière, I knew I had almost arrived. I somehow headed northward on Glacière only to head southward again on rue de la Santé. Unbeknownst to me, I was tracing the border between 13e and 14e. Across a vast intersection, I saw my destination – a well-proportioned, rather nondescript looking four-story building that had probably once been a private house. I can’t say what drew me to it – only that I felt a sense of recognition.
I crossed the Boulevard St.-Jacques and stood opposite the building. The address was 56 rue de la Santé. Looking at the map afterward, I saw that it sat just on the borderline between the two arrondissements. A dirty looking sandwich shop occupied the ground floor. The upper floors appeared to be apartments. I took a photo and turned back in the direction of the nearest metro station.