It's my final night in Paris and my restlessness is almost overwhelming. I've spied on Van Gogh and Artaud, meditated through an incomprehensible Mass at Notre Dame, and chased Hemingway's ghost from the corner of Harry's New York Bar to the darkened bar of Hotel Costes. If I go to sleep now, I'll get two hours' sleep before it's time to shower and chase a plane.
My restlessness is almost overwhelming, but I'm not without recourse. I slip out of the apartment and strike off in the general direction of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. Crowning Montmartre, the church is asleep but still visible even without its bright lights. It's a kilometer away up zig-zagging, winding roads, but soon enough I'm at the base of its hill.
I can't stop myself from jogging up the stairs, taking them two at a time despite the late hour and dim light. It isn't long until I'm at the top, and then I'm still two flights of stairs away. There are revelers in cars playing music loud enough to chase away their own ghosts, a smaller group of friends with bottles of wine and music playing from a boom box, and a couple of guys sitting at the top of the next flight of stairs talking about life, love, and loss.
I make my way up the remaining stairs to the closed gates and stare up at the church to settle my heart after the climb.
I turn around and sit atop the stairs to watch the sleeping city and settle my soul. It's French to my right, English to my left, and a drumming bass from below. The sound of music I understand the easiest. I sit alone until the first light starts to show over the dome of the basilica and join the English conversation for a few minutes before wending my way back to the apartment.
I can take a shower, take a train, and fly two planes back to my home in a half a day - but the half day before ensured I won't make it home in one piece.