I often write of Paris’ charm. It is an astonishing city. But within the incredibly beauty, there are dark corners. Dark parts that won’t be shown in the latest Hollywood film set here.
Today I walked from the Louvre to the Champs Elysees with a friend, discussing, amongst other things, the luxury cars that frequently passed us. Towards the setting sun we walked, myself taking photographs, him stopping to humour me.
A little tired, we descended into the circulatory system of Paris, the Metro, and went our separate ways. After countless escalators, I reached the depths of the RER platform. With camera in hand, I looked over my shoulder up the staircase, and my gaze fell on a figure sprawled across the stairs. Having taken the escalator, he had previously been out of sight. My heart beat raced as I took the stairs three at a time, reviewing first aid training in my head, and wondering whether I’d have signal at that depth to call an ambulance.
As I approached, the darkness lessened, and the figure became clearer: a man, old, reeking, swollen, asleep on the steps.
Poverty is not hidden in Paris; one often walks past beggars or is asked for ‘une petite piece, SVP’ riding the metro, but only in the darkest places is this greatest need found; those who aren’t faking it – those who have nowhere to lay their head.
I didn’t wake the man; I didn’t know what to do. How does one help? Walking down the stairs, I turned and shot two frames, and took the metro back home.