Crouching with his back to the wall, the homeless man blows into his hands to warm them. Small white clouds float in the freezing air. His stomach is rumbling. His last meal was two or three days ago at Best Fried Chicken in Paris. There are better ones, but Mamadou is the only restaurant owner who allows this penniless man to eat without paying.

He is a street vendor and times are hard on him. The tourists are coming back, but not as many as before Covid. Business is going from bad to worse, due to the war in Ukraine. In summer, he sells bottled water. In autumn, he offers rain packs. But in all seasons, he supplies padlocks to lovers who come to seal their passion in the City of Light. Even if his customers believe in love, he does not. He is realistic, to please girls, a man must be handsome, intelligent, and rich. He has nothing.

That man doesn't believe in God either. In fact, he curses him. He doesn't understand why God, the all-powerful and infinitely good, snubs his prayers. Asking for a clean bed to sleep in is already too much, so wishing for a woman to love, he can forget it!

Slipping his hands into the pockets of his coat, oh surprise: they are not empty as usual! He pulls out a small padlock, a bit damaged, that nobody wants. This piece of scrap metal is his unique fortune in this life of misery. He is cold and hungry. That's when a honeyed voice from the depths of the water whispers in his ear:

Since nothing is holding you back, give yourself and your lock to the Seine.

The family-less man is spellbound. He gets up and walks onto the Pont des Arts. In the soft amber light reflected by the streetlamps, he sees a frail female figure leaning against the railing in the middle of the bridge. Her long black hair flutters in the wind, like the arms of shipwrecked men, raised to the sky, before being swallowed by the Mediterranean.

What is this woman doing here alone in the night?

The suicidal man moves towards her, then stops and accelerates his steps. That stranger is about to end her life.

Hello. You tourist? The seller flashes a catchy smile that only salesmen can do.

The suicidal woman turns around, her eyes flooded with tears. She shakes her head wearily and replies:

I live at the other end of the bridge.

He takes another step towards her.

I have one lock left; would you like to buy it? He pauses for a moment, then continues in an almost pleading tone.

Please, I'd like to close the shop and go home to sleep.

Taking her foot off the railing and placing it on the floor, she naively asks:

Where is your shop?

It's here!

He swings like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. Then he starts waltzing closer and closer to the young woman and tries to drag her into the dance. She resists, but finally releases her hands from the edge and puts them on her rider's shoulder. Moving up the chin, her slanted eyes meet those of her saviour. She smiles at him. The young man's heart skips a beat. A source of warmth runs through his body. It had been so long since anyone has smiled at him.

What's your name? he asks.


Seriously! he exclaims. My name is Christmas! Mary and Christmas! We are mean to meet!

They burst out laughing, then without a word, they embrace. The stateless man breathes in her perfume, a subtle mixture that reminds him of the smell of the hot African sun. Even if one day he loses his sense of smell, he would be able to recognise this scent.

Suddenly it is snowing. She takes his hand and leads him across the bridge to her apartment. When she left last night, she thought she would never return to this family nest, which has become a cemetery since the sudden mortal car accident of her parents.

The new lovers savour every snowflake that the wind deposits on their faces; some people feel the rain, others just get wet. They are soul mates who found each other after so many years of wandering. A little further on, the bells of Notre-Dame de Paris ring out the twelve strokes of midnight celebrating the birth of Christ.