On Traveling - Marseille
Marseille is a port town on the south of France, and there is some sort of parting energy here, always moving from shore to lanes to people. We stay on a main road in a hotel outside of what sounds like a busy freeway at all hours of the night. There are hundreds and hundreds of boats in the port, sitting, waiting, pointing up like reeds to the sky, arms up, praying. I am inhaling. If this is the end, then I will stay here in the pleasant sun and sea and mediterranean coast filled with pleasure.
There are parts of the city that are not so pleasant to gaze at, parts lined with graffiti, with thick steel bars etched nicely over their windows, parts with their metal shadows drawn down. No one lives here, perhaps. No one lives here now in the off season. No one wants to get robbed, my love tells me. There are people who are suspicious but I don’t notice these people. My traveling partner does. It is usually the opposite, I am the worrier but I am also the naive one. He is savvier in any new surroundings. While I daydream, Marc is busy looking out for me.
On our first day we walk over thirty minutes through the long and winding side streets, up towards the hilly parts where the Basilica rises. It is their Eiffel Tower, a large and beautiful domed church on the highest point of the city, the holiest place to be closest to the sky where heaven may be seen and felt. I am very thirsty. I cannot walk on without something to drink. I am wearing boots with heels not made for walking up a hill. I am growing tired quickly. I must have water on me at all times in case of the end of the world. I must have everything on me at all times traveling to feel safe and comforted. With the largest hill in front of us, the hill with the Basilica, I must stop for thirst.
“I need something to drink,” I say. I turn away from Marc and walk towards a fruit stand, no bigger than a garage or a bedroom. One man is working the stand, cutting a large fruit into pieces. It is orange and fleshy at it sides and looks large as a pumpkin. He doesn’t speak English. I pick out a small bottle of juice. One Euro. He has no change. He goes back to his safe and my love immediately turns to me.
“Never walk away from me again,” he says.
I am confused. This is a dire need I must fulfill and I am anxious to walk up the hill. Not only am I slightly afraid of heights, but I’m definitely not going to keep walking up a steep hill feeling thirsty. There are hundreds of steps left. We take our juice and our change and we leave.
“He could have robbed us,” he says with such might that I almost believe him for a moment. The safe tucked in the back of the store gave him a moment to arm up. The empty street around us made us vulnerable. One man speaking another language. Us looking so much like American tourists in a foreign place, my bags, my confusion and exhaustion. Our intention to purchase a drink, but my purse out with me.
“He was nice,” I said. “And besides he had a large knife out the whole time anyways, cutting the fruit. Remember? If he wanted to do anything he would have.”
We continue walking up the hill and when we get to the top we can see the whole port town around us, a blur of sky and sea and sand colored houses in the hills. The mediterranean. The juice in my hand. Perfect. No need to come back down to to the bottom of the hill. I’d prefer this unknown world first, fear and hunger and thirst for it all.