Sandcastles by the Seine: A Fable of Love and Longing

France Marga Ortigas Prose

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This was supposed to be the beginning of the beginning.
But I don’t know where to start.
Ten years ago?                         London.
A dark dingy bar.
A grey December evening.

It was cold.

Or.  Paris.
Le Marais.  A bright summer’s day.
Colours.                Bursting     continuously              onto an already crowded canvas.
Loud.    Garish.                      Blindingly filled with joy.
The exuberance of living.

I looked away.  I shut my eyes.  I caught my breath.

Life burned still.

I am recalling things in snippets.

Ephemeral memories like dandelion seeds             on a breeze.

The full tapestry escapes me still.

Only snapshots.  Scenes.  In snapshots.

A fleeting feeling.  Emotions in grains of
Book-ended by rivers.
The Thames.  The Seine.

You were translucent with your flowing bronze hair and soft, dazzling smile.

Light flowed through the open windows of a Paris apartment.  Bathing images of solitude and silence in gold.
The textures of a soul.

The sounds of the boulevard below.

Tears streamed down my face.  And I didn’t look away.
(I always look away.)

This was supposed to be the beginning of the beginning.
But I stepped into a river mid-flow and I’m not sure where I’m at.

This morning.
I wandered around Covent Garden’s narrow streets and back alleys.
Filtering through the corridors of memory.  Playing hide-and-seek with the sun.
Behind familiar façades, new merchants.  So much has changed.  And yet, stayed the same.

When did Londoners become obsessed with Mexican food and hamburgers?

I find my coffee where it’s always been.  And my soul.

The air is crisp.  The sky is blue.  I am smiling.

I do not think of you.  But you are there all the same.
Like the scent of lavender and vanilla after a spring shower.
A caress.  A kiss.                       A whisper.
And then –        gone.

I would know you anywhere,” you said.
Words like feathers tattooed butterfly wings on my skin.

I would know you anywhere.



The lights were low on the barge along the Thames.  It was New Year’s Eve.
Faux New Year’s Eve.
A black night.
A celebration of the night-before the night before actually.

I was sleepwalking.  I was empty.

The music was loud but I didn’t hear it.  Only the heaving bodies on the dance floor gave away the beat.

The drinks were flowing                         rushing us all to oblivion.

You were beside me.       For a time.

You can’t fall for such a player,” well-intentioned friends warned.

Only pain can come from this, another one reminded me where no reminder was necessary.

But desperation and loneliness are troubadours.  And the heart is a willing audience.

I was someone else then.


Faux midnight chimed.  Big Ben carried downriver by the brittle winter evening.
The fictional start of another year.

We kissed then.  In the shadows.   Hidden from curious eyes.
We kissed.

I told myself it meant nothing.

When we’re married, can I get a dog?”
You asked as we sat on the banks of the Seine.

It was a crisp evening.

I had asked you to marry me without realising it.
The illusion just spilled out.

Just a small one, not a large ugly thing,” you continued.
I don’t want a large ugly thing.”

You accepted.
Sort of.

People danced the tango in front of us.  We built sandcastles in the air.

Would you meet my mother?” you asked.

The lights of the Ile Saint-Louis shimmered in the distance.

People were dancing the tango and I couldn’t hear the music.
Your eyes – the stars – shone louder than any melody.
The Latin rhythm drowned out by will o’ the wisp.

You can write while I paint,” you proposed.
We can create in a shared space…” 

You looked wistful.

…to think alongside each other… wouldn’t that be… nice?”

I had never written with a companion.

You switched on fairy lights.
(I had told you I liked fairy lights.)

Suddenly everything made sense.


I stepped into a river mid-flow.

I didn’t know where I was at.



Again now – silence.


Ten years.


Dance with me?”  you asked.

I don’t dance.  Not with anything other than illusions.  Of myself.
Ghosts.  Or shadows.
Not with anything other than shadows.

The river flowed beneath us.  The river flowed within.

A translucent moment.  Book-ended by rivers.
Is this what home is like?
I was held in place by your gaze.
I had no shadows.  No corners.  There was no hide-and-seek with the sun.

The evening glowed a crystal hue and your smile came from my heart.

Is this what eternity is like?

Ten years folded in on itself.  And time stood still.

We poured ourselves out in search of nothing.  Needing to be uncontained.

You held me.  You let me go.

We were.
We are.

In each moment – we are.

Big Ben.  A fake beginning.  A dream.

A bottle of rose.  A blanket.  Your hands.

I learned to dance on the banks of the Seine.  By the light of your soul.

This is not about you.  You – like all things magical – are intangible.

But me.      Me.

I am found in the reflections of light between words and space.  Doing the tango with dreams.

We are eternal.  Book-ended by rivers.

Dandelion seeds carried on a breeze.

Your hands are so small,”  you laughed.
You said the same thing ten years ago.

(I had forgotten.)

I entwined our fingers.  You led me home.

Nortre Dame Cathedral. Paris.

Marga Ortigas is a media strategist with more than 25 years of experience in international broadcast journalism.

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