I have loved you hopelessly for many years. It was Valentine’s Day 1985 when I first fell to your moody charms. We met on a rainy afternoon, but that is so like you, to look even lovelier with tears streaking your white marble face, then pouring into the Seine, that broad swath of watery silk that drapes across you, a scarf worn just-so.
Oh Paris, what can I say? I feel even guiltier for the fact that she is your hipper, sexier, bohemian sister. That she wears clashing skirts of green and salmon, stained yellow and brown.And because I have loved you with such ardor (did I say loved? I still love you, always will) it is only fair to tell you I have been unfaithful. Her name is Prague. She resembles you in many ways. I’ve heard countless comparisons, but I have refused to believe them, until now that I’ve experienced her for myself.
Atop it all, wavy red tiles tumble over her shoulders like hair that cannot be tamed. She is unabashedly bawdy, self-confident without being haughty.
And while that is something that has always beguiled me about you, Paris, your haughtiness, truthfully, it’s been getting on my nerves lately. Why must you always strong-arm me, indeed all of us who adore you, with your impeccable style, your artistic perfection? Why must you be both less accessible and more refined?
You assume such an untouchable brand of superiority that I finally must admit it exhausts me. Whereas Prague, well, despite her marvelous castle, she is, at heart, a refreshingly down-to-earth girl.
Or even that I find her ubiquitous old-world crystal slightly garish and very last-century. She is other things that you are not. But above all else, she is emotionally available to me.There I go again. I whisper her name and in my mind I am wandering through her enchanting maze of alleys, memorizing with eyes and hands her unexpected charms. And, believe me, there are many. It does not matter that she is a mediocre cook and that the Vltava is thick and sluggish.
Heavens. I never meant to be so blunt here. But I want you to understand. I want you to learn something from Prague. I mean you have a great deal in common — two beautiful old souls who were spared the worst of recent wars because of that beauty.
And yet you have led a certain charmed life that Prague has never known. Though you were both dominated by Nazis, she was also brutally raped by the Soviets. She is a free spirit who was held against her will, like a kept woman, for more decades than you can count on your pretty little bridges.
And now that she is free, does she hold it against anyone? Does she cower in self-protectiveness? No, she does not. She has her vulnerable spots, for sure, but mostly she is as open and welcoming as anybody who has not been violated so. Unlike you, Paris, Prague is forgiving.
And speaking of forgiving, I hope you will forgive me my change of heart. You may call it a mid-life crisis, but I’m not ready to dismiss it so easily. I mean our relationship has been a sweet blessing in my life, and I regret not one moment spent drinking coffee in your smoky cafes and glorious nights learning your alabaster curves. Notre Dame in the first light of day. Boulevard St. Germain in the last.
You are a wonder, Paris. But I know you so well now, and maybe that’s the problem. You have become predictable to me, monochromatic, and I require something more colorful. Prague, she is a devilish one who makes me young again. I am left with no choice but to pursue her.
So, I guess this is au revoir. Thank you for the years you have let me love you. And while I don’t expect it, if you choose to respond, you may find me, not sipping a velvety Bordeaux in the Marais, but rather, fresh with a new lover’s sweat, drinking a pilsner in Wenceslas Square.I rest assured that you will always have worshippers. You will never want for uninitiated American youth on their junior year abroad or honeymoon couples ready to hand you their hearts. But I am done trying. I have to stop pretending that you ever cared for me the way I did for you.