For ten days and nine nights we have wandered Paris streets, smelling cheese, pastries, piss, sausages, flowers, falafel; hearing French babies giggle with glee while their mothers wiped cream from their faces; scanning menus; stopping for wine while waiting for the rain to pass; searching out chocolate, and art, and music; drinking in afternoons and evenings and falling asleep on a bed squeezed tight to the window, so that as we slept, our feet pressed against the glass.
On this last night, a thunderstorm–lightning reflected in the glass of the building across the alley (built in 1760, when our backward country was just a theory). We watch the storm from our bed, drinking chardonnay that tastes just like honey, recommended by the sommelier down the street, who spoke the swiftest Franglish–swearing with every third word and making massive, comical gestures–a kiss from the mouth to the fingers, blessed into the air with open fingers as he rhapsodized on veal and creme fraiche.
It has been a long year. There were months when I couldn’t breathe, when we moved from place to place like some bourgeois nomads, when panic gripped me every night and sleep was like a memory. We moved, we wed, we lost a friend. We had never been so tired, and then suddenly, here we were: in Paris.
And we remembered ourselves. We strolled in lock step, holding each other tightly, down cobblestone roads. We stood in awe of the great French masters. We cried at Monet’s garden, spoke in reverent tones in Rodin’s. We walked, and walked, and walked, surprising ourselves by somehow getting where we meant to go, pulling French from our college and high school memories–always with s’il-vous-plait’s and merci’s abounding. We laughed, with faces turned to the heavens, losing track of steps and miles and hours.
We ate and we drank. The woman who owns the pastry shop on Rue de Bretagne (Bontemps–go there) came to know us, and wished us a safe journey home as she bagged up our fourth piece of addictively-sharp lemon cake. We licked our fingers of sugar, cream, artichoke puree, cheese. We snuck three bottles of wine into our suitcase and lamented the camembert we couldn’t take with us. We smiled, laughed, and constantly looked to the skies and said to ourselves, “This is the most wonderful thing in the world.” And it was.
We needed to be restored, and we were. We reached down deep in ourselves to find the things we had forgotten: the wonder and joy and passion, for food, for drink, for art, for the world, for each other. We never stop saying “I love you,” but here it was everything–the way we looked at each other and knew that everything was so perfect because it was us, because we are us, because we are together.
The worries of the world have not left us. The business of life will continue. We will return to work, to classes, to gigs, to groceries and bills and boredom. But just for now, as we wait in the waning light of a late Paris sunset, we are as whole as we have ever been.
Paris, je t’aime.