I remember it as if it were yesterday. Such an old saying yet no truer words have ever been spoken. Unless they were all lies. In this case the memories are fragments, growing shorter and shorter as years pass, but the happiness even in the crustiest corners of my mind remains true.
It was an unseasonably warm day in Paris as I stepped out of a building that looked like it belonged in a far off land where dreams are made. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I meandered the city streets on that quaint afternoon, stopping at a favorite boulangerie for nourishment as I walked along. Soon my time would be up. In a few short weeks I would be on a plane home. Home. I wasn’t even sure what that meant anymore. Certainly a mere four walls could in no way define such an exasperating word.
The past ten months I had grown and stretched, laughed and cried and fell in love with Paris in ways I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words. Paris the city of light, love, lust, wonder; a city of tragedy and perseverance. It all past by in a flash and I desperately ached to hold onto it a little longer. I had found my place and I was so utterly content. The thought of returning “home” didn’t seem right. That day would be spent in the park with friends drinking wine while we talked of life in all it’s cliche forms. I recall it vividly and yet much like a puzzle I put together the pieces each time I recall it. There, where I am no longer. A dream and a story that are mine and a gift. Walking those cobbled steps in the wake of Hemingway and Miller I can’t fathom the thought of another time or place. I can’t help but think of Henry’s words, underlined and worn:
“It [is] his Paris. A man does not need to be rich, nor even a citizen, to feel this way about Paris. Paris is filled with poor people – the proudest and filthiest lot of beggars that ever walked the earth… And yet they give the illusion of being at home. It is that which distinguishes the Parisian from all other metropolitan souls.”
The day I arrived in Paris there was no fear, only a feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I adapted to life easily never discouraged by miscommunication or the loneliness that can come living in a city much less abroad. The characters, the people I met intricately woven into a tale I had yet to know the significance of. Even now years later I still pull from that time, lessons that will remain with me always.
As the plane hovered over the Atlantic I cried tears of sorrow bidding adieu to my beloved metropolis. It is only in hindsight that they were just as well tears of joy. The gratitude I feel for having the chance to study and live in Paris is immense and unquestionable. It’s been said how often we take things for granted, privilege can blind us from the simple beauty life has to offer. The experience may have been priceless but there was a cost and it was gifted to me.
Paris is layers upon layers of history and culture. Mystery and adventure can await round any corner. Filled with some of the most iconic monuments in the world Paris can be an enviable destination and tourist trap. The Eiffel Tower can certainly lose her majesty in the wake of an elevator filled to the brim with people simply wanting the picture rather than the experience. But then you find yourself quietly sitting on the six line late one evening and just as you make out the tower it lights up, awake and alive and it simply takes your breath away. Paris like any city can be daunting and robust. Too many cafes to count until you stumble upon the most perfect crepe and the world makes sense again. Versailles in all it’s opulence is a sight for sore eyes. It’s easy to see how one might not get along with such a city but like any new place it’s a matter of finding balance between the beauty and the beast.
Paris can feel incredibly harsh until it is holding you in it’s warm embrace. My time there is one I reflect upon not just for the lessons it taught me, but for the humbleness it instilled within. For the splendor and knowledge of travel and worlds unknown. Now, even with an ocean between us I take comfort in the memories tucked away, the memories of home.
About the Author: Jessica Ann is a wannabe writer and a wandering soul. When she isn’t frolicking around one destination or another she is most likely figuring out life with the Golden Girls as her guide, which basically means she’s watching TV. Oh and more on her blog.