‘Because our heart has so many keys, we never need to replace the locks.’
– Anthony T. Hincks
It’s called the City of Light and, today, I can see why. The June sunlight is streaming through the trees and dancing on the water, creating a sparkling magic that satisfies all the cliches I know about Paris.
I hold his hand as we walk along the banks of the Seine and across Pont des Arts, weighted with thousands of padlocks left by thousands of lovers. I wonder if their love has lasted as long as the metallic lock they chose to symbolise it. Does the rust decorating the older locks hint at corrosion and damage, or does it bind them together, mutual experiences now rendering them impossible to separate?
We’ve brought a padlock ourselves. Made of brass and silver, it makes a satisfying click when it’s closed but is otherwise wholly unremarkable. Bringing it was a whim and felt almost too much, too sickly-pink-heart-romantic. This anonymous token is not a public declaration and says nothing about what I feel for the man walking with me. It’s the ultimate cliche, like carving our initials in a tree, but less personal. It’s not even forever; we won’t revisit it in our twilight years and reminisce about this first fresh flood of love – the weight of the locks causes such damage to the bridge that they are regularly cleared, cut down and thrown aside. Is that a symbol I want to join?
But now that we are here and I am clutching the small lock in my hand, it feels important. Necessary even! Each individual padlock is a declaration of love, however anonymous and trivial. No padlock is the same, no exact sentiment shared, but the sum of these small diverse and unique loves has a physical presence. It has gravity, drawing in more and more lovers until it collapses under its own weight like a giant star and is reborn again by the next wave of sentiment. It’s silly and it’s cliched but it is real, and I do want us to be part of it. I want our love to have that weight and presence. I want our love to be part of this mass, to be part of this whole.
We walk up, hand in hand, and clip on our padlock. It is instantly lost in the generic sea of other locks but I know which is ours. Will we recognise it in a year? Will we even recognise it tomorrow? Probably not but it doesn’t matter; the communal anonymity is what we wanted.
We walk on, a small brass key in my pocket as a token of the token of our love. Unique and individual, and now part of a growing and weighty symbol of love.
This week’s Friday Flash image at the top reminded me of the padlocks on Pont des Arts in Paris, which I photographed on my last trip in 2017. Maybe one day I’ll put a padlock on there myself…
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