Most every morning at nine, the emergency responders assigned to the Seine pull on their wet suits and swim around the Île de la Cité. In the course of their circuit around this teardrop-shaped island in the middle of the river in the middle of Paris, the firemen-divers scour the bottom, retrieving bikes, cutlery (which they clean and use in the nearby houseboat where they live), cell phones, old coins, crucifixes, guns, and once, a museum-grade Roman clasp.
By the Pont des Arts, where lovers affix brass locks inscribed with their names (“Steve + Linda Pour la Vie”), they retrieve keys tossed in the water by couples hoping to affirm the eternal nature of their padlocked love. One bridge upriver, at the Pont Neuf, near the Palace of Justice law courts where divorces are decreed, they find wedding bands, discarded when eternal love turns out to be ephemeral.
As the central artery of Paris, the Seine naturally accrues the detritus of human civilization and relationships. Through centuries it has served as highway, moat, water tap, sewer, and washtub. Its scimitar arc slices the city, dividing it into Left and Right Banks. Historically, Left was bohemian, Right, aristocratic, but distinctions have blurred over time.