I’ve procrastinated on writing this post for a solid week and half, unable to convince myself that somewhere inside me I have the words to write this last post on Paris. Because…it’s Paris. How in the world do I finish writing about a year like this one? It seems like an impossible task…or it’s at least impossible to do this year the justice it deserves, or to express the gratitude I have to the people who made it that way. But if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that the things that seem impossible are the things most worth accomplishing, so here I am, finally pulling it together, facing the facts and facing myself, too. Because in writing this post, I not only have a lot to get down and finalize, but I’m also putting the lid on a box that houses some of the most wonderful memories of my life…and that’s hard to do because I still can’t admit to myself that this year is over.
The last couple of days were a whirlwind - that’s the most accurate way to describe them. A whirlwind of activities, emotions, goodbyes, and, even in those last few days, new things I’d never done before.
But there’s a limit to the worth of writing about events or things I did, because Paris has been so much more.
The best I can do right now is remember, and see if that brings back a familiar taste in my mouth or a familiar feeling that floats over my arms like shiny blue air of Paris’s late evening…
Remember the first time I looked out from the rock next to the gazebo at Buttes and saw this unusual treetop view of Paris…purple trees, Sacré Coeur. The first time I spoke to Costanza, and I marveled at her head of curly hair. Jaime’s snapple earrings…my first conversation with Sofia on a bus and we were somehow unable to hold a conversation. Chantilly’s sizzling heat - poolside with macaroons and a garden exploration. Evan and Cindy’s raisins, and the first time we all gathered around in the armchairs of the hotel lobby and discussed the flaneur with Professor Hogan. There were fireworks that night…that night when everyone was a blur of names and faces, and I didn’t know which ones matched up. When we gathered in the sunny school courtyard and ate those fancy desserts…or the sandwiches we had in the park before the RAs took us to get cell phone contracts. Evan and his duck. The first meal out - a steak-frites at Chez Justine…the restaurant we’d return to for Sofia’s birthday many months later. Oberkampf. Its loudness from Jaime’s window when we tried to fall asleep before the 10k. Nouveau Casino with its bad music, but also where we watched Kina Grannis, and she signed my CD case upstairs. Brittany has the pictures from that…I need to get them from her. Dancing around Emma’s bedroom in between writing a Cultural paper. l’Autre’s giant coffee cups. Kooka Boora never seeming to have enough space to house everyone. Evan’s iTunes library. The way the Louvre looks at night. The wonderful museums Alison took us to, and the delicious boulangeries and chocolate shops Elizabeth took us to. Breezy’s bedazzled everything. The constant mess in Jaime’s room. Elodie’s narcolepsy. Plans that failed, but also, the things we did that didn’t need planning. Turning 19 in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Vanilla tea and christmas candles burning in my room. Staying up late with Jaime, dancing and singing and eating butter cookies that we bought on a 2 a.m. whim while watching Gilmore Girls, or getting my hair cut. Trips to Annecy and Norway and Dordogne. Baguettes. Crepes. Chocolate baguettes and movies like St. Ralph and that one about Steve Prefontaine. When Evan turned blue after the semi. The feeling of finishing another book for Social or Cultural. Caramel coffees and sitting cross-legged in Salle 6 as class starts. Only black ink pens. The walk from the metro to Mathilde’s house. Spoken Word. Belbows meetings. Coffee shops on rainy days. Bumping into friends on the metro. Accordion players. The fruit sellers and posters on metro walls. Bike rides home with Jaime under pink trees and in the cool night air. The Christmas markets - churros, candy floss, toffee apples, and hot wine. The sunset from Montmartre. Macaroons. Belbows runs every Saturday at 10:00. The feeling of coming home after being away for a while. Playing the grand piano at school…its colorful stained-glass windows. Eating lunch with Nadrah in the library kitchen. Lazy days spent eating blueberry muffins, our bikes lying next to us as we lay on the grass under the Eiffel Tower - Florie and me. Whales. When we all went for cupcakes along the canal. The Little Prince fireworks display at La Defense. Nutella. Jafias. Versailles. That time we went running on the canal after it had snowed, and everything was perfectly white. White, white, white.
…the list is endless. I could go on and on, but that’s okay. That’s the point. Paris wasn’t…isn’t…just something that happened. It wasn’t a one-time thing or a quick trip. It was my life for a good year. It is and always will be a part of me. Memories will spring to life and then get pushed to the back of my mind every now and then…but they’ll always be there…and so will Paris. We’ll always have Paris.
“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it.” - Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast
…that’s just it. Paris will change, I know that. Paris will never be what it was this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It lives on as the city itself, but the wonder I experienced from it settles like stardust all over me. The memory of Paris will forever be on my mind - its presence on my fingertips. Life will go on, but for the rest of my life, I will have lived in Paris…and I will have learned from it. In Paris, I learned to live alone, to marvel at languages, to overcome fears, to run half marathons, to embrace passion, to be grateful that this world is filled with wonderful people, and to learn that this world is bigger than the path I’ve set for myself. Paris was a change of plan, originally. It was a stop-over on the way to New York. That’s what I used to think.
What I used to think before those hot days in Chantilly. Before the weekly Belbows runs, internet crises, days spent in coffee shops, halloweens with moldy pumpkins…before the good days, the bad days, the days that filled me up with so much wonder - like when we stormed Bastille.
Now, as I begin to unpack suitcases of clothes that were folded up in Paris, I know it’s time to shake the stardust…but I’ll do so with no sense of closure. Because that’s just it. Paris doesn’t end. Paris just…is.
I can’t fully form sentences right now, so here’s the best I can do to summarize:
Climbed into a bike bag in Evan’s room. Youth Lagoon. Grace made us coffee. People just kept coming in and out, and that was the beginning of the goodbyes.
Last moments on Oberkampf. The promise of the morning, the promise of the night. Crepes for the last time. Surrounded by the best; my friends.
Back in my messy room that is still in the process of being packed, Nadrah and Sika lay down on the bed - a pile of laughter. Later, of tears. We stood in the hallway and we said goodbye, and it took us all of half an hour, because letting go takes time.
…and it’s not like we won’t see each other. We will, in New York. But this is the end of THIS. These people, in this space, with this dynamic…and we were all finally feeling that. It’s a heavy feeling…it weighs on your stomach.
I stayed up all night packing, and the sun came up while I was still awake. I knew that somewhere in the building, Jaime was heading out with Costanza, and then Sofia was leaving, too. I started to feel sick as the final things made it into my suitcase. I had to leave a few things behind - old jackets and hairdryers and odds and ends….left them in the hallway. I finally got in an hour or so of sleep.
I woke up shaking. Not sure if it was from lack of sleep or from the overwhelming emotion of this whole situation. I found Evan, and I began to bring him things…tiny cheese graters. The continuation of the bike packing would have to happen after 11, when the bike store would open. Paris isn’t a morning city.
In between, I kept running things between Evan and Alison’s room. I gave Alison all my tea, and even though I was just dumping stuff on her, she was loving me for it. Can’t say Evan was loving me for what I was leaving him with (reminder: tiny cheese grater).
I took Evan’s Velib pass to get a clé à pédale. I rode through the streets, feeling that wonderful feeling of being on a bike in Paris once again. Past the flower shop, the coffee shops, the purple boulange that sells chocolate baguettes. Past it all.
Took ages getting the Velib back in, running like a mad thing from the Velib station to the bike store, waited ages for some woman and her bicycle wheel to finish up, before I was next in line. Then, it was a mad rush back to Evan’s, and on the way back, of course, the pedal fell of the Velib. Oh, the irony. Oh, Velibs. It never ends.
I had to explain the story to Evan, and though I was in such a state, he just laughed and started taking the pedals off my bike. Before I knew it, Melodie was all packed up, and my room was entirely clear. I went to say one last goodbye to Alison, trying and failing to express to her how awesome she’s been. Then, I lugged my suitcases out, and I said goodbye to my room for the last time…just a brief pause in the doorway to give it one last look. I closed the door, locked it, and brought the keys to Evan. Elodie and I were officially SDFs, so we stayed in Evan’s room till our rides pulled up outside, since our flights left at approximately the same time. Eddie was supposed to be getting a ride with me, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found, so I kept having to ring his doorbell, hoping he’d appear, in between taking my suitcases to the shuttle downstairs. I eventually waved goodbye to Elodie, told her I’d see her at the airport, then ran up to Evan and told him that that I had to go without Eddie. So Evan gave me a hug, and we said goodbye, and I didn’t even have time to think about the fact that this was the last time I was running down the stairs of Residence Republique, saying goodbye to everything. To everything.
Shuttle to airport, driving back the way I’d driven in in August. Everything still so up in the air that nothing really hit me till I was through passport control and the security checkpoint.
Then, Eddie shows up.
Elodie a little later.
Sandwiches, pringles, gummy bears. These are the airport moments that seem to repeat themselves. I have to get on a plane soon. I’m leaving Paris. I’m leaving Paris. I still can’t understand this…
I finished my last social paper sitting next to Costanza at Chez Justine, rushing towards the end, so that when Iszy gave me a piece of chocolate I felt like I barely acknowledged her, and later, ended up sending her a message to say thank you, because my brain was in such a state. Costanza kept on reminding me, “You’re okay. You’re okay”.
When the paper was finally sent in, Costanza and I went back to the residence, and we joined Sofia and Stephanie in the lobby for French-English conversation and coffee from the vending machine. We stayed up until three in the morning, reminiscing and talking, talking, talking. Steph would be leaving the next day to go on a trip with her boyfriend who is also prince. So here we were, Steph in her pajamas while loads of other NYU students who were going out walked by us all dressed up. Brianna was in her heels, which is never a good thing for regular sized people, because she just gets taller. I stand next to her and I feel like a warthog. We finally decided we’d better get some sleep, so we said our goodbyes to Stephanie, thanking her for the French lessons and the get togethers over coffee. The next morning, while I was still asleep, she would have left for the train station.
On Friday, it was hard for me to fathom that it was my last full day in Paris.
Without internet in the residence still, Costanza came up to my room to find me in the morning so that we could head to school together. On the way out, we knocked on Jaime’s door and she told us she’d meet us there. We took that metro for the last time, as much as I’d wanted to ride Melodie, because I had to pick up my bike bag, which would be impossible to carry home on a bike, and there were signs of rain. It always seems to rain on days like these.
At school, Costanza and Jaime disappeared somewhere - a lunch, or something…there weren’t many people at school…I saw Audrey and Kami but that was about it. It was eerily quiet without the bustle of everyone around. I stayed in the library getting things done, and Alison came in to join me. We just sat there, laptops open, tapping away at the keys.
When Costanza and Jaime were back, I went to Cindy to see her and say goodbye. She gave me a piece of paper with the goals I’d written for myself all those months ago in Chantilly. Reading them now, it looks like someone else wrote them. Even the handwriting looks foreign.
Then, I went back to the yellow boulangerie, walking down rue de Passy by myself for the last time, past the window-shopping grandmas and their little dogs, along the street where I rode my bike so many times, ready to free-wheel down the long hill that leads to Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower. I turned into the boulangerie with a quick glance at good old Passy Plaza then turned to the familiar faces of the women who work at the boulange. Une demi-baguette et un éclair pistache. My two favorites…and I sneakily at them in the library. I came back to discover, also, that Jaime had somehow got hold of my camera and had taken a thousand goofy-faced pictures of herself standing in various spots all over the library. Good to know that some things never change.
We only left when we really had to - Costanza, Jaime, me, and my bike bag that I’d picked up from the student life office (which was absolutely humungous, so I looked a bit ridiculous walking down the street with it in my arms…especially when I had to walk to the SNCF building with Costanza and Jaime so they could secure their train tickets for their upcoming WWOOFing expedition).
Back to the metro with Jaime. As Costanza was crossing the street to go back to school for a little while, Jaime and I called out our goodbyes to our school, looking at its little blue dragons and wide blue doors for the last time.
Metro ride home. Jaime fell asleep on my bike bag.
The next few hours of my life were oddly surreal. I finally began to pull posters off my wall, saying goodbye to the organized clutter that was already on them…stripping my room back to the way it was that first day when Evan showed it to me for the first time…when Paris was just an idea, and that idea had a different feeling about it. I started putting things in suitcases. As for the things I’ve collected - letters, receipts, business cards from our favorite restaurants…those were all put into folders and sealed away. It was strange, packing things up…kind of like watching my life come apart and get folded away.
I’m trying, right now, to just remember the feeling of the air. The air and the music I’m playing mixed in with it…and scent of honey candles blended in there too. It’s very easy to write about things that happened, but this kind of feeling…I don’t want to forget this either.
tout le monde!
some of my favorite upperclassies
l’Autre study sesh..