No Refuge

By Jackie Parsons

Our bags are packed with
New clothes, shoes, cheese and wine
Tomorrow morning we fly home
But right now we’re walking
down to the river and the Ile de la Cite
And Notre Dame looms in front of us
‘Let’s go up’
‘You don’t like heights’, my husband says
I assure him it’ll be ok and we join a short queue
Our turn comes and we start our ascent
Soon I can see the tops of roofs through the windows

I try to ignore it and keep climbing
The spiral staircase comes to an end.
The door to the outside is in front of me and I’ve stopped moving
People are trying to push past
My husband goes out on to the balcony
Hoping I’ll follow him
I don’t know how long it takes because I’ve lost all sense of time.
Eventually I take a step forward and stand outside with my back against the wall.
I know he’s trying to appear understanding
I also know he’s very angry.
People are staring at us and I’m acting like a lunatic.

I want to go back the way I came.
‘You can’t go back the way you came you. The only way to get down is to cross
the roof to the other tower. I hear the words he’s saying but
I’m not really understanding
Because in front of me the massive white construction Sacre Coeur
Six kilometres away in Montmartre
Is moving towards me at an impossible speed.
I don’t know what’s happening.
I’m stuck on the top of a cathedral
And all the laws of gravity, whatever they are, are not working.
Below my feet is a place of refuge
But to reach it I have to cross the rooftop walkway

I am being greatly tested and so is my husband
And I have no idea who will crack first.

Jackie Parsons September 2023

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