The door opened onto a street in Paris that he didn’t recognize. There was an office building directly across; the cobbles were well worn, and the evening was that shade of Parisian blue that speckles the heart with romance.
He spotted a patisserie a few doors down on the same side of the street. He noticed for the first time that his clothes were paper thin, that his beard was so long that it impeded his ability to see his feet.
He sat at an outside table; the air was cool, and a little damp. He ordered a double espresso macchiato, which he sipped and let the waves of intense flavor-pleasure ripple down to his toes. I should see if they have any pastries left, he thought, but the blue was fading to black. It made him remember the sun, the awkward questions, and finally it was his crumbled reputation that pushed him up out of the iron chair, back along the street, and he tugged at the door.
This time it really was locked; he was stuck outside now, and he sat on the stoop of his prison of twenty years certain he’d erred in coming outside. He didn’t hear the barista hollering at him to pay his bill. She put her hands on her hips and stared at him, then gave him that dismissive wave that knowledgeable and sensitive service people give to clients who have fallen over the edge: a bit of pity, a large dose of having been there, and a little wish for better luck.
He didn’t cry; he’d already lost everything. How was he to know that getting it back was the worst that could happen?
The city’s lights became brighter around him; a single star visible between buildings suggested to him that reality was simply too beautiful for sadness to comprehend.