Aïe. I don’t even know how to start this.
It’s time to say goodbye. Au revoir — and not à bientôt. While in no way is this goodbye definitive…it’s a firm closing of a chapter. There are no plans to move back in the near future. Goodbye.
Since I am unable to put together a coherent thought about what Paris has taught me, I will start with the things I will miss.
Hearing the church bells ring on the hour.
Sunset strolls on the Seine when the sky is PINK.
Midnight walks through Saint Germain des Près, streets bathed in an orange glow that brings out the mystery.
The explosion and abundance of a Paris spring.
Rue Cardinal Lemoine; rue Saint Placide; rue Saint Dominque; rue Le Regrattier.
Leaning my head out the window to unexpectedly see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.
Walking to my corner boulangerie to greet the bakers and say OUI when they ask, pain au chocolat?
Skipping through the Palais Royal, Jardin des Plantes, and Parc de Bagatelle.
Sitting in the hard, green park chairs in the Jardin du Luxembourg. This is the first place I came to when I arrived in the dead of winter. To leave it at the height of summer is…sweet.
The way that people really value the concept of the “daily bread.” I think the bakery lines at 19h attest to this.
Great public transportation.
Walking through a museum every day. Although…there are drawbacks, too.
Trekking to the film shop to stock up and spy on “Morose Minion.”
The dairy options. I want to be overwhelmed with choices in yoghurt, cheese, and cream wherever I go.
Markets. The way that they are woven into the fabric of the city and the culture. It’s not a fancy place where fancy people shop. The best markets are often found in the quartiers populaires. There is a high value on that which is local and organic.
Speaking French. (duh)
Florists on every corner and the way that flowers are included as a necessity in the trip to the market.
The hangers are askew, their residents now piled in some order on my bed. The coats are still there, though, and their fate remains uncertain. There is no way I am wearing a winter coat in the middle of July. A large pale lavender reusable shopping bag sits brimming with clothes, victims of the wardrobe clean-out. I’ll be hauling them to the thrift store tomorrow.
A Spotify ad plays, but I’m not mad. I can understand it perfectly. Just a little testament to the accomplished goal of being fluent in French.
The last wisps of sunlight are fading and the sky is still pink as clouds roll in. Beethoven’s playing now, in the orange glow of the lamp.
I’ve been looking at the calendar for a while, saying I’m coming back in July. The diminishing weeks were not sufficient testament to my imminent departure…but my belongings strewn like alphabet soup in this tiny room have clarified the only thing I can know for certain right now. I am leaving.
I dumped the clothes over the weekend. At a Goodwill-like store in the suburbs on a sunny Saturday, Madeleine and I hauled the 50-pound bag out of Sarah’s car (which I had already hauled across town on the metro) towards the depot, only to be told they were not accepting donations until July. Awkwardly luging the bag with us back towards the car, Sarah met us in the road.
“Let’s just ask if we can drop it and pick it up when we leave,” she said. However, our coming back was taken as the persistence we actually weren’t trying to show, and the man kindly but begrudgingly accepted it for drop-off. It felt purifying to see them go…but also a little empty. I haven’t really changed my wardrobe since high school.
Having a departure date crystallises everything, and time seems to be rushing by, but the days also slow. This morning, Sarah and I went down the rabbit hole in a quest for the legendary Super 8 video film. Have you ever seen Paris by car? The proper question is probably, have you experienced Paris by car? Exhilarating as you roll by the Opera; terrifying as angry scooters swerve around you. Braking suddenly to admire the hollyhocks; re-starting the engine because you killed it by letting up too quickly on the clutch.
Haydn’s piano sonata no. 13 is tinkling from Sarah’s computer. I am sitting on her bed next to a pile of folded laundry, while my minion suitcase and moving box invade her living room. We just got back from Provence yesterday, and I am in the flurry of packing the odds and ends and just enough clothes to get me to July 14.
Bert the Bullet rolls up into a parking spot just outside the terminal. I had no idea you could park at CDG. The only place I’ve ever parked was the Huntsville airport in Alabama.
We squeeze our way out of the car, three men obliviously and blithely huddled next to theirs in the adjacent spot. My heart was pitter-pattering, just a bit. The deniers pas.
I run to find a trolley and to my delight, they are FREE. They make you pay for these things in America.
Bags loaded, there’s nothing left but to stand around. It’s not an awkward waffle, but rather a way to wish time away. Another friend comes through the doors to greet us.
Madeleine’s Polaroid flashes. The number of hugs exchanged will never account for the distance deficit that will now stand. An ocean…and a continent.
Ever the pragmatic, I look, regretfully, at the time, and say, “Ok, friends. I should go check my suitcases.”
C walks with me (she goes through the airport to catch her train) and I hold my breath, slightly, as I leave them. C and I, too, part ways, as the terminal separates us with electronic gates, demanding boarding passes, and customs, making sure we go where we belong.
I wave to her on the escalator ride down, looking back as long as it is possible, until she disappears, and I am left to make the journey, alone.