Steve Lacy sings “Bad Habit” to me as I wait at the Cesson bus stop to board my near-daily bus to the center of town.
My eyes dart from this page frequently, expecting the C6 Aeroport to be in view. I can’t tell if they are always late or all early, but the bus always exhales in labored exhaust, sometime between the time you waited for and the next. Either way, I board five past and make it to Republique anyways.
I don’t know how long I have kept to this habit of taking iced coffee at Mokka and observing everyone who passes on the ever-populated Rue de le Bastard.
What I have seen these past weeks comes in a few variations.
Overwhelmingly, black covers the shoulders of these Rennes walkers. All ages seem to have an attachment to this base, the young and feminine accentuating with perhaps a pop of color or contrast of pattern.
Among this swarm, new women dress in black tights, either end landing in boots or under dark skirts. These girls don oversized coats, two buttons unbuttoned as each side hangs open on their first layer. Their breaks in black often come in white or tan, basic color blocking for a population that keeps one toe in homogeny.
Cream-colored sneakers see the world from millennial feet as they walk into light creases against the uneven stone. These women wrap their necks in soft cotton scarves and top their heads with the ascribed bennie. Brown hair curls under and into their XXL button-up sweaters, warm and puffed like shag carpet.
I don’t hate it, though they drone on in the same colors, black, cream, tan, brown, and pink, barely distinguishable from white.
Naturally, within any herd of dressers, the brilliant and beautiful stick out, and Rennes’ diamonds are no exception.
For the older generation of women, most of whom are under the universal urge to chop their hair with the same sharp shortness, these feats of fashion come in coordinated color schemes and fabric attention. As they pass, there is a certainty that even their socks match and mirror what they wear on the surface.
In youth, colored fits find my focus and pull me in pinpointed directions to pink floral buzz cuts and wide-legged denim. Their identity hemorrhages from their patterned skirts and oversized sweaters. Legs slid between thin tights, torn and running, while their canvas-bagged shoulders rock back and forth. Earrings hang heavy from stretched lobes and chart empty spaces on their faces.
And then there are the leather ladies, and I do love them. 20, 30, 40-something girls creaking down the street with arms crossed over silver ornaments in black boots, invariably. Their hair is always pinned and pulled, cheekbones leading their walk.
Made in the USA
When she asks what I want,
I want to tell her
I love the way her nails,
dark green and noir,
match her drawn eyes.
I want to tell her
exactly how much I prepare
just to hear this question.
I want to say
the words I mean, effortlessly,
with the same loose twist of tongue
that comes after I’ve gotten my spirits up.
I want to hold on
to this moment before she knows
my whole truth.
And I can’t tell her,
not without stumbling,
words invariably slurred by my American mouth.
I try anyways,
but it is too early to tell
if she will let me finish.
At times, a young boy strolls by with a matching sweat set in tan, gray, or some other soft color. Most men, on the other hand, stick to their black scripts. They layer t-shirts and sweatshirts, pulling puffers over all of this and ending over black pants that brim their Nike choose-your-own-adventures.
Another look frequents this male population in tan pants and tucked t-shirt. Layered above is a blue or deep green button-up, and over that, a similarly dark sweater. The collar of their ironed blue peaks out from v-neck scoop.
Perhaps, though not necessarily, they don a comfortable jacket and scarf below the rim of their cotton caps. All this over business boots laced up and double tied with stiff hands living outside their week-day keyboard station.
Iced coffee and pen in hand, I turn my pinky to the sky in my version of Rennes’ fashion.
A black base, of course, is worn over my legs in faintly patterned tights and a clingy velvet skirt. I have an aversion to the feel of velvet against my fingers, so I try not to think too much while I snake the zipper over my hip and slip a black and white turtle neck over my head of loose hair. Next, I tie it all away from my face with an orange pop of color. The bright scarf is lined with white strokes that call to their counterparts on my chest.
Secured with four crossed bobby pins, I can fasten the four buttons that fall over my wrists. This final layer comes in a faint cream button-up dotted with a second dollop of cream in polka dots. And, since it is me, my fingers are crowned in gold and silver bands, a brick and a stone of purple, as gold joins the fabric on each wrist.
The remaining hair is tossed over my shoulder as I pull Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny dressed as pirates and vampires over each end of my tights, it is Halloweek after all. Finally, I stomp into my white platform docs and lace them around my South Park secret.
This is my Rennes, or as close to it as my wardrobe allows.
Are they supposed to see through my grin?
Past the stiff cock of my head to the side?
Or feelings I plaster across my face?
Does my one-handed San Pelligrino sell nativity
or betray my naivety?
I dress in color
because I live in color,
but I don’t have the key
to unlock the glass ceiling
that takes the context out of everything.
Either way, I can’t stop finding people
who want me,
want to strip my words away
see what body is my truth,
Am I paranoid to think that the table over is talking about me?
They must be,
either blase or smelling it on me,
before I can speak.
Once I open my mouth,
damp and almost alright.
I just don’t have the soap
to wash these abstractions away.