It was 1929 and the Seine was freezing cold. Shadows from stone gray buildings lurched over the river like a murder of crows. The sidewalks were empty save for the occasional street rat gnawing on the frigid corpse of his brother. Even the infamous Cafe Madame Blanche was shuttered—the icy winter wind had blown away one too many wicker chairs. The owners had learned their lesson.
Down a silent Rue de La Bucherie, one man walked, his solitude and shame cloaking him like a woolen poncho. From beneath a furry hat, three braids could be seen, one capped with a colorful bead, a silent homage to Rastafarianism. Or colorblocking. Or both.
i HAVE BeEN HAViNG SUCH A RuFF MONTH, he thought, palming one tattooed hand to his forehead as he walked. WHERE iS THeRE MEANING? i SiMPLY CANNOT FiND iT. WHO AM i?
He glanced toward the flowing river, whose weight looked surreal, present, complicated.
MAYBE iT iS TiME FOR ME TO MEET MY FATE. i HAVE SurFED MY PURPOSE ON THiS PLANET. The man, a solid 6 and a half feet tall, thin and sinewy, was adorned in vibrant colors that appeared to have come from the future, or a distant time, or an intergalactic colony. Something that only the PROFESSiONAL TiME TRAVELER would have been able to bring back. Visible through his purple leopard print coat, only the peaks of a letter T could be seen, emblazoned on his chest. DiD i WANT MUCH MORE THAN MY MTV?
FUCK DiS SNOOD, MAN. The figure tossed his lime-green garment straight into the water. AND FUCK DiS THUMB RING. His silver disc skipped six times on the placid Seine before falling. AND i DON'T EVEN CARE BOUT NO MORE FRANCS. THEY JUST REMiND ME OF THAT DUDE WHO TRiED TO BE ME. MR. 129 HOURS FANCYPANTS. He turned his pockets inside out, letting piles of bronze coins fall out to the city sidewalk. A lone orphan jumped out from under some urine-stained socialist literature to collect them at his toes.
“Monsieur, pourquoi êtes-vous si triste?”
“LiL STREET BEBE, LiFE AiN'T GOT NO MEANING, BRUV. JUST LEAVE ME BE.”
“Monsieur? Laquelle langue est-ce que vous parlez?”
“SCRAM, LiL SCRAPPER. i AiN'T GOT NO TiME TO EXPLAiN.” The street urchin disappeared down an alley, and the man turned to discover a shop window emanating a soft, warm light. He was drawn to it, as if it were the portal for an alien abduction, a place of uncertain futures, but he'd never seen it before (he'd seen Stargate the night before).
“YO, WHAT iS DiS?” He said out loud, looking around to see if anyone could aid him. “iS THiS A PLACE OF LEARNiNG?” He put his hands to the glass, carving out a space to peer in. Inside, piles of books were stacked, spilling over, and people—the first sight of communal life he'd seen in days—gathered, holding delicate flutes of champagne, smoking cigars, and speaking softly, seriously. The man entered, and a golden bell rang, stopping all conversation around him short.
“DiNG DiNG, DA NEON ALIEN HAS TOUCHED DOWN. WHAT'S THE HAPS, CATS?” The group of people, all dressed in tweed suitcoats and draped dresses, turned to face him. No one spoke.
“YO i, WAiT iS THiS A CULT BECAUSE SiGN ME UP, i'M iNTO DiS.” No one said a word, they just stared at him with calm perplexity. He grinned a toothy, gold-plated smile. “THiS iS SOME FREAKY SHiT, Y'ALL. i WANNA ROCK DiS.”
One man, in glasses and a worn chapeau, asked of his female companion, “Devrions-nous tuer?”
“Non, laissez-le lui enseigner.”
The man, stuffing pears and brie into his face in response to the uncomfortable silence, looked at the couple with compounded confusion. “ANYONE GOT ANY ROCK?”