Wandering the cobbled courtyard of the Louvre, I start to feel my body tingle in wonderment. After all, what other monument can compare to the Louvre — a treasure trove of art and history for the modern world?
Awestruck, I hear the buzz of excitement in my bones.
Oh wait, it’s just my phone. An unfamiliar number pops up on the screen, accompanied by an even stranger message with three creepy words: “I see you”.
And no, it’s not from the Mona Lisa.
At some point in their lives, everyone experiences homesickness. Whether it’s that bowl of prawn noodles, your favourite cup of teh tarik or your cosy bed back home, travelling brings with it an inevitable longing for the familiar, which may in turn result in the occasional meltdown.
The first few days in Paris had been relatively easy, save for the occasional craving for Singaporean hawker food (the struggle is real). But then came the curveball. Because let me tell you: there is nothing more disconcerting, while in a foreign country, than receiving a text from a random number, with its sender purporting to know you and your whereabouts.
Here’s how it happened.
My first stop on arrival was the river Seine. While soaking up its historic curves, I ran into a young man who asked if I knew where the best spot was to look out to the water. Before I had time to think, he yanked me towards a little island facing the Seine — Ile de la Cité — and exclaimed, “Isn’t this romantic?!”
“Could what they say about Paris being the City of Romance be true?” I mused to myself. Usually the meet-cute scenes weren’t quite so… unsettling, though.
With a furtive look in his eyes, the strange man asked if I would like to visit Montmarte with him. Thinking better of it, I turned him down and motioned to take my leave.
Exiting stage left was no walk in the Tuileries, though. I only managed to break free after he hassled me into exchanging numbers. While this encounter seemed straight out of an Eric Rohmer film (French director, famed for his sensuous flicks — check him out), I was uneasy. It all seemed too corny — and frenetic — to be a stroke of serendipity. Still, it’s not like I had to see him again.
Or so I thought.
Showdown at the Louvre
A few days later, I found myself happily exploring the grand courtyard of the Louvre with my friend. And it was there, while innocently admiring the architecture, that I received the strange text message.
As I look around for the sender, the stranger from the Seine leapt into sight, flanked by two thuggish companions. I ran towards my friend, hurriedly recounting the previous day’s encounter.
“Your friend here owes me some money,” muttered the man urgently, as the trio approached us. “I brought her around the Seine and she owes me some money.”
At this point my companion, all of five feet tall, dragged him to the pyramid entrance of the Louvre, all the while screaming like a banshee. “If you ever call or text her again, I’ll call the cops on you thieves! Tu comprends?”
The vagabonds nervously backed away, realising the futility of their attempted daylight robbery. It helped that my pint-sized friend’s howls were gaining us an audience.
But as the scene unfolded before me, I couldn’t help but mourn what had happened. A place that once promised romance and magic would now forever be burnt in my memory as an education in caution. Paris, je t’aime — but maybe next time, no stalkers?