9:15 on a winter Monday morning. I wonder what the Parisians are doing right now. I'm sure the city is mostly desolate, as many of its inhabitants have headed to the mountains for their winter ski trips. But I'm sure the natural sparkle of the city goes on. Family-owned shops are still opened, and sidewalks must be swept up so that les propriétaires des brasseries can begin a new week. And while the weather may be drastically different from the 95 degree sweltering heat I grew accustomed to, and while the clouds may never part during a winters' day, I'm sure that the radiance of the city's wonder will shine on nonetheless.
Madame Dru must still be sleeping, or either sitting in her kitchen smoking while enjoying a cup of steaming hot black English tea. A piece of toast will suffice until she heads off to work, grabbing a bit of quiche or salade on her way. I wonder what free-spirited ring she has selected for herself today. Perhaps the clear ring with all the rhinestones to compliment her black sarong, or maybe a swirled design to jazz up her simple yet purposeful Birkenstock sandals.
«Les Bagues des Rêves», Chez Rosine, 2010
Then again, this is Rosine we're talking about. Two days after Christmas, she probably hasn't seen her children much this fall, and she doesn't really enjoy working. So she's probably traveling, or sleeping in late-- enjoying a good existential piece of literature, sipping tea and/or Diet Coke.
And here I am, restless and neurotic in my home-home, at 2:15 in the morning. My mind wanders from street to street, trying to relive all the life-changing moments of my Parisian escapades. As frustrating and confusing the city was on a day-to-day basis, I couldn't help but fall in love with the wave of emotions. For such a seemingly reserved culture, French folks really wear their emotions on their sleeve. When they're mad, they show you...in hand gestures, in words, and in eyebrow scrunching. And when they're happy, they attempt to smile and usually kiss your cheeks like they've just seen a long-lost friend. But one thing you can count on with any strong emotion is the repetitiveness of their words. Usually in threesomes.
Très très trèèèès bien.
But why do these peculiar details intrigue me so? Why do I weep for the strange friends I made on the streets, in cafés, in dark bars and late-night streets? Why do I crave the scent of foreign second-hand smoke wafting through the streets accompanied by the distinct scent of freshly baked croissants and quiches? And why is it that I'd rather sit on a dirty metro for 30 minutes than in my own air-conditioned car during a traffic jam?
I of course have an answer for all of these questions, but am not brave enough to face it. So I lay awake sometimes for hours each night, thinking about my life in Paris this past summer, the friends I made out of complete strangers, and the odd sense of welcome I felt each night at la fontaine Saint Michel. And despite the fountain being a tourist hot-spot, I never felt like a tourist. I always received a warm greeting from the performers who recognized me, who understood that I could not pay them each night I watched their routines, but saw how much I valued their passion and talent.
So I lie here awake, feeling guilty for wishing to go back so soon in life. Guilty for not wishing to visit my own country in greater depth, fearing that if I don't go back now, I never will. Or worse, my friends and French family will have forgotten me by the time I manage to "get my act together" and return.
But somehow, the mere image of crowded outdoor cafés steaming with guests and their daily gossip brings me right back into the wave of French culture I dreamed about before even embarking on my adventure. My heart aches for so many things. And right now it aches most for my humble yet dark and twisty hippie of a host mother, the reassuring feeling of solitude, Centre Pompidou, a quietly messy salon, the shuffle of the metro, and a 4 euro bottle of Champagne to be shared among friends at sunrise for no particular reason other than the sheer factor of being young.
My heart aches, and it's an ache that hasn't faded. An ache that won't fade.
«The Best Chicken on a Stick Ever», Chez Rosine, 2010