I admit it's been quiet on the blog this year. The reason is that I have been hunkering down on projects, submitting essays, and considering some new opportunities. This has meant spending my days confined to my desk-slash-dining room table with my thinking beret on, fashionably wearing my blue Sports Authority sweatpants, with my short hair pulled back into a wee ponytail. Hardly a riveting blog post. Aside from being called a deaf girl who doesn't speak French by a toddler (they're still failing to understand that I'm not allowed to speak French to them!), life for this américaine in Paris has been less action-packed than it normally is.
With hints of an early spring season charming the city, and a special meeting with blogger-turned-friend Sara Louise to commemorate her last day in France before moving back to the States, it was time to get l'enfer out of the house!
Meeting at Bar au Central for an early evening glass of wine, Sara Louise regaled Kristen and me with her jaw-dropping French stories as she reflected back on her ten years in Europe. (Girlfriend needs to write a book!)
On my walk home to the metro, I passed the iconic Parc du Champs Mars, and couldn't help but recall my own journey. To bring my sense memory to life, I reached out to my former roommate Charles-Henri to see if he wanted to meet up with me before I jumped back on the 6 to go home.
My first year as an ex-pat was not exactly typical, but really whose first year is? Because finding an apartment in Paris is pretty much a nightmare, not to mention, that my status was not attractive to French landlords, for the sake of cheap rent and to actualize this dream of living in Paris, I shared a one bedroom apartment (READ: one bed) with a guy I barely knew. As you could imagine this set-up triggered a host of "situations" where I still cringe when I look back at some of the discussions I forced upon poor Charles-Henri.
Luckily he didn't hold the 2009 me against the 2014 me, and agreed to meet with me for an impromptu dinner at the apartment on La Motte-Picquet.
It's funny how our memory gets distorted over time; the spiral staircase leading up to the apartment was slimmer than I remembered and, the smell that I had grown so familiar with had evolved into a different odor that I no longer recognized.
I rang the doorbell that had a higher pitch and some man, who was not Charles-Henri, answered the door. Apparently, I even forgot what floor I used to live on.
"Oh my god, you look like a wife!" Charles-Henri proclaimed after opening the correct door and giving me the once-over.
"Why? Because my hair is short?"
"No, because you're wearing a wedding ring, cocotte."
I helped myself to my former bathroom and through the faintly frosted window saw that the same neighbor still lived across the way. Well yeah, of course he did. This was the neighbor who had told me five years ago, that he and his daughter could see me sitting on the pot and performing other bathroom activities when they ate dinner at night.
"What happened to the blinds we put up in here?" I screamed through the walls, yanking my tights up.
"Oh, they fell down a few months ago."
That's it. They just fell down. No further explanation, which I recall being a typical Charles-Henri response: so direct and assured. He knew exactly what I was suggesting but he didn't care, and I suspect the neighbors also know that he doesn't care since they have never approached him about it. Only I got to enjoy the privilege of that conversation.
Sitting in "our same seats", over pinot noir, poulet rôti and steamed brocoli, we dished about the present while entertaining ourselves with tales of the past. He is the only person I am still in touch with who witnessed the insanity of my first two years here and met the oddball characters that, even then, he vehemently disapproved of.
Extending my visit to the last drop of wine, it was time for me to say goodbye to 2009 and go back home to 2014.
"You really did it," he said as I was putting my coat on. "You came to Paris to learn French, to make a life, and to get back to writing, and voilà, tu l'as fait."
"I do forget that I was hanging by a thread for a long time," I acknowledged, "And it's nice to be reminded sometimes that life has a way of working itself out."
"We learn and grow more from our failures than our successes." he said, never ceasing to impress me with his English and his astute outlook.
"I wasn't sure what I was doing with myself in those days," I mused, "For a while I felt like a loser, but I was secure in the decision to come here. I'm glad it wasn't all for nothing."
"It never is, cocotte."
A brief visit with my past was just the refresher I needed to continue on with my future. And what better time to look forward in Paris? I hear it's lovely in the springtime.