A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was warm enough to wear the pretty party dress my sister gave me for my birthday.
I arranged an evening to go with my outfit.
LSB put on a shirt and tie. I squirted on some perfume and off we went.
We chased each other down the street. We got ice-cream that came in giant cones. We went to see a movie.
Afterwards I told LSB I was taking him to a bar in the east of the city called Madame Claude.
I didn’t tell him about Madame Claude’s alluring gimmick : the furniture there hangs upside down, fixed to the ceiling.
I’d seen pictures on the Internet and it made me think of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party or of the scene in Mary Poppins where everyone laughs so much they float up to the ceiling.
On our way up to the station platform, we passed a big, dirty man in a wheelchair with his trousers down, defecating.
I caught his smell. We went on up the stairs.
When we got to the top, we took a glance back down.
The man’s wheelchair had overturned.
It was a busy night. Some people were rushing for the train. The man lay on his side, his trousers still down.
LSB and I pushed back against the stream of people going the other way.
I moved towards to the man and said stupidly, “Are you okay?”
Another lady stopped.
She had round eyes and her lips were pursed.
She tugged the man on the arm and tried to haul him up. Then another man came along. He was a friend of the man on the ground. He had a grey beard and dark eyes.
The lady held the wheelchair steady while the man’s companion hoisted him back into his seat.
He landed in a lump. His friend bowed his head in thanks and ushered us away with a few polite waves of his hand.
He didn’t want our help.
On our way back up the stairs, I asked the lady if we should have called an ambulance.
She looked tired, her face was full of resignation. “No,” she said. “Not against his will.”
LSB and I went to the upside-down bar. A French band was performing an intimate gig in a dimly-lit basement back-room. They played long, instrumental songs that sounded like beautiful, sad landscapes. In between, they spoke to the little crowd in formal, polite English. After the show I bought their CD.
LSB and I got a drink. Above our heads, tables, chairs, vases, and a pair of slippers were glued firmly to the ceiling.
It was a novelty.
But if our perspective did shift that night, it was down to a big and dirty man, his proud friend and the still image of a wheelchair turned on its side.