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Rachel Chambers: The Silhouette Artist

Rachel Chambers: The Silhouette Artist

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Rachel Chambers on a haunting presence in Paris @ Literary Bohemian.

Throughout my time in Paris, he shadowed me. He was the pool of darkness beyond a street lamp, the oil slick on a puddle, the smudged mascara that branded the prostitutes’ cheeks as they trudged back and forth, back and forth beneath my window. I tried to catch him out, but he was always too deft, slipping from the corner of my eye before I had a chance to pin him down. In my scarlet duffel coat, I was easy enough to find, but he could have been anybody, anywhere. I sought his presence amidst the grim-faced morning commuters and searched for him in The Louvre, beneath ruddy, muscular seraphs and soft-eyed virgins. Come evening, I fully expected to find him swigging carafes of cheap red wine and flirting with Toulouse-Lautrec demoiselles. But he was not in any of his customary haunts. Everywhere I went, his absence accosted me: a lack of being so tangible that after a while I began to accept and even welcome the dragging, invisible pursuit through streets deprived of romance.

On my last day in Paris, I wandered through Père Lachaise Cemetery, with the vague intention of visiting Oscar Wilde’s grave. Without a map, the place confounded me. I paced the labyrinth corridors for hours, passing tombs bigger than my hotel room, and more impressively furnished. I read somewhere that the cemetery, challenged by limited space, has started issuing leases on grave sites.The living clamour; the dead are forced to relinquish their peace. As I sat in the misty graveyard, it struck me as almost unbearably sad.


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