I arrive in Belleville, a quartier full of evening a diverse crowd of revellers, to perform at an underground performance night.
I am invited by Ruth, an acquaintance become friend, whom I met at the 18th birthday of my friend Liv, all the way back in 2013, a period where my life had begun to change dramatically, but was still trapped in the quagmire of an unideal situation.
A serendipitous chat over an iced coffee in a charming cafe in the international Brooklyn hipster style. I tell her our this whole moment was initiated by my feverish searching through my Facebook for people who live in the Paris area a week before, which leads her to invite me to perform at her flatmate’s evening.
For me, the networking/working never stops, and this is of course a fabulous opportunity to test one of my new passions, poetry.
As mentioned, having never seen Ruth before or after our mutual friend’s birthday, it’s always a strange moment to greet a person warmly before asking where the hell we actually met.
She explains and it all becomes clear.
Oxfam obviously holds some sway in the universe of fateful meetings!
Ruth shows me Rue de Verrerie, a street plein de fripperie, shops I thank God for everyday for keeping me so fabulously dressed. We potter about the Marais district before parting ways at Hôtel de Ville.
Days later, I have absorbed Paris in its entirety, and march confidently into the apartment where I am immediately greeted by Ruth and a few other friendly performers.
Later in the evening Ruth points out her parents, born and raised on the Wirral, and the bizarre surreality of standing in a Parisian apartment, surrounded by French speakers, and discussing a topic as banal and provincial as what has happened to a drab pub in Bidston becomes a reality.
Forever the butterfly, in both style and social contexts, I bid them adieu and take my seat to the right of the sectioned-off stage, lying back into the couch as I listen to two people chat animatedly in Italian.
The night hath commenced!
Two performers stand out, their professionalism and confidence, achieved through evidently thorough practice, their poems wrought with passion and emotion.
We break for round two, at which point I realise I am yet to sign up!
I hunt down the gentleman responsible, and ask to be put first, as I am desperate to arrive chez moi before my bedtime.
I am introduced by the animateur as Gavino di Vino, a chap even more dandier than he, a very flattering way to be introduced indeed.
All the nerves that were non-existent all night come bubbling right up, and I take the mic, looking to my expectant audience.
I turn my back and pop open my fan, purring the names of luxury labels Chanel, Dior and Hermes, describing their other-worldly quality when they appear in films and TV series in the living rooms of provincial homes. I tell the audience my poems are an exploration of this concept of luxury, which in my earlier life had me asking the question, “Why isn’t my life like that?”
My first poem is La Flamme d’Amitie, my first poem in French, followed by Riding in a Little Red Lotus and To Continue the Legacy, all exploring my relationship with an exciting fantasy life, one in which I am admired for my style, creativity, intelligence and charisma, just like the grands personnages who are created for us, the audience to adore.
I give an imperfect performance, but once the clapping commences, I am filled with the joy that the impossibly glamorous lives of the international glitterati, a crowd for which switching from language to language in country to country is as natural as breathing, started at the age of sixteen in my provincial living room in Wigan.
Six years of preparation, an emotional typhoon created by breaking away from conformity, my family and society’s expectations of what a disadvantaged, ‘young black male’ can achieve in this life all comes to a head at this moment.
My sixteen year old dream has already been attained. Now, I see, my challenge is to achieve the same mammoth successes as the past six years, but with my new-found maturity and direction, become something greater than I could possibly imagine at twenty eight.