I Miss Paris


I miss Paris. I miss the sounds of the carts on the cobblestone streets of Montmartre, and the incoherent French being shouted down the sidewalks between shopkeepers. I miss the Mistral-like winds that whip through my hair while strolling along the Seine.

I am my happiest in Paris.

And I am happy now. But I am not, a warm vin chaud cuddled between my hands in the back of a crowded cafe, talking politics in broken French happy. I am not limping with a bloody toe because I have wandered in and out of the unknown, attempting to see all that is yet to be explored, willingly embracing my FOMO in the streets of Paris happy.

Everyone deserves to be that happy at least once in their lifetime. I have become greedy in my happiness. My first visit at age fifteen was not nearly enough. No, rather it was more of a first sip of a foreign substance, that is now a nutritional requirement. And when people ask, "Paris? Again?" I give the same smile that I always do, because they don't understand. Perhaps they haven't experienced the compulsion of desire- one that is similar to sitting down with one's favorite food; you don't need to be hungry to eat. You don't need to be famished to starve. It's a hunger that never leaves.

I once made reference to Paris as a lover; one who held me - then a frightened college student attempting to free oneself from the grips of depression- and who did not let go until morning. My reference hasn't changed. Only now I am a woman who, much like the weary traveler, is once again missing my lover in a culture of hookups. How often is it that a lover can restore innocence? To hold you close, and wrap you in his arms, nestled into the nook of his shoulder, and make you never want to leave? To feel his soft breath on your neck while he sleeps, and watch his eyelashes flutter as he dreams?      


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This year I get to experience Paris in a whole new way - Fashion Week in the fall. It's a dream that I hadn't ever dared to have. I have never seen the City of Lights in the Autumn, but I imagine the transition of seasons will make it even more magical: crisp mornings and days, fall layers of clothing, and the glitz and glamor that is Fashion Week.

I find myself wondering just how much of my 'lover' I will actually see; for while I certainly will be running to and fro between shows, I fear setting time aside, afraid to only to be set aside myself. I also live in constant fear of my lover tiring of me. Or, perhaps it is more honest to say, I live in constant fear of discovering I cannot be loved as I believe; I often demand to be loved from a safe distance, but perhaps not wholly.

There is a safety in falling in love with a city; it is always evolving, continuously changing, always has something new to be shared or discovered, but the familiar substructure always remains. There will never be the heart rendering experience of removing its name and number from the Emergency Contact form at work, or the wash and rinse cycles of mascara-stained cheeks and the attempted exorcism of tears and disappointment. There isn't any need or impulse to mold myself into the shape of another. I am myself in Paris.

Paris is my olive skinned, tattooed charmer who flashes his flecked eyes, his knuckles covered in ink and rings, and whom I only think I know. He cleans up for dinner dates that dazzle me with the soft violence of a vibrant sunset, and humbles me for ever thinking I had him understood. I have starved in Paris, as I often do when I fall hard; slipping away into a state of bliss where I feel everything but hunger. But I am fed; Paris is a moveable feast.

The city and I have not been without our quarrels; I have cried (edit: sobbed) myself to sleep in Haussmans on tree lined Boulevards, while suffering from heartbreak. I have been forcefully grabbed outside of the Sacre Couer and frightened, and I have had full blown panic attacks along the Seine while trapped in torrential winter rains. I have watched as my dreams of attending school in Paris slowly but surely, slipped away. All lovers disappoint us at times, leaving us unfulfilled and undernourished, frightened and alone, in our greatest hour of need.  

But, it is the bell tolls that ring through the city - sharp in the winter, and stifled in the humidity of the August summer days that make me smile. It is the teenagers with their cigarettes, and the women on the train who correct my French (voluntarily of course).

It is the shopkeepers who ignore me, and the men who compliment my silver sequined skirt and red lips, and who praise a good outfit. It is the man who held me and kissed my cheek in the rain. It is the nightly gatherings on the Pont des Arts and the guests who spin me around and around, and made me feel like Paris had always been my home.

It's the cat sleeping on the cafe table, and the dogs that shit. everywhere. It's the heat that makes you think you will faint if you have to stand in the crowded metro one minute longer, and Midnight in Montmartre, and the man working in the Louvre who is hammering away at the sandstone wall without an ounce of irony, and the tourists who are snapping photos because...why not? And I laugh because I am not one of them. I am not a resident either. I am something in between.

And, I am my happiest in Paris.




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