In today’s “WTF, No Way” news: it was one year ago today that I embarked on my two month solo journey to Paris. I recognize the cliché inherent in saying, “It couldn’t have been a full year already,” and, “It feels like it’s maybe been a few months, at most,” but in this case those empty platitudes are so appropriate. How has it been a full year? How could 365 days have passed, when I can still feel the bite of the early morning cold on my cheeks as I made my way down Rue Blanche to the city center, when I can still hear the repetitive rumble of children’s scooters on the cobblestone street out of my apartment windows, can still smell the dusty, closed-in stairwell, as if these memories were from just last week. How? I remember things about those days more vividly than what I wore to work yesterday or ate for dinner on Monday, can recall the specific sound the thick white butcher paper made as the girl at the fromagerie folded it around my order every few days, can still conjure the scent of the wet concrete in the late-afternoon rain showers, am still comforted by the dizzy, exultant feeling I got from seeing the Eiffel Tower pop up around corners, above buildings, always asserting herself in my periphery, how it never got old being surprised by it. How can I still feel so close to those eight weeks, when they started a year ago today? It’s almost as if I absorbed them into my being, took them with me in my suitcases, wrapped the sounds and the smells and light into my clothes and brought it all home.
I remember oddly not crying on my last day, not feeling immediately nostalgic and wistful, but understanding in a truer sense than I was capable of before, that it wasn’t really goodbye.
I remember that, one year ago today, I was sitting in the airport, alone, and I’d called my brother to say goodbye, and I remember how soft his voice was when he said to me, “Pop would have been so proud of you,” and I remember the tightening in my throat, the pressure at the corners of my eyes.
I can’t pinpoint when my obsession with Paris started, but I know it was fed and stoked by my father’s death, as a way to keep him alive, to cling to something he loved. Did I make him proud by going? I’ll never know, but if my own sense of (surely vaulted and perhaps undeserved) self-pride is any indication, then I like to think that it would have. My fixation on Paris is genetic, unshakeable, and maybe that’s why I’ve kept those two months so vividly in the forefront of my mind.
Those sixty-one days were some of the most transformative, beautiful days of my entire life to date. I’m grateful for them beyond words, grateful for the opportunity to spend every day writing, grateful for being able to soak up as much inspiration and magic as the city could offer. I’m grateful I’m going back in a few weeks. And in many ways, I haven’t had any closure on that time, haven’t been able to move on from it, because I don’t want to. (Can you blame me?) I still have countless (hundreds) of photos I haven’t edited or shared with anyone yet. These are just a few.
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”