From Paris to the Moon Posted by Hello
I met Henri at the little cafe, and we both had a glass of kir. We walked around a bit, hand in hand, in silence. We couldn't talk-talking for us required to many hand gestured and facial expression, so we simply walked. I was frustrated, not able to idly chat about going to Louvre, what I had seen, where I had been. He bought a baguette for dinner and we walked backed to his apartment, me feeling rather french and Henri probably feeling french without being aware of feeling french.
I sat on the sofa and he got us drinks and then went to make dinner. His friends were coming, explained, and so he put the tv on for me. It was CNN. Fairly interesting how one doesn't need to speak the language to understand CNN. There was coverage of the war, the french journalist who had just been taken hostage, an incident of anti semitism somewhere in Paris. At one point I went into the kitchen and there was Henri slicing up onions in a way that would have given my mother a grand mal seizure. Not only had he eschewed using a chopping board, but BUT he was cutting towards him. Dear lord, he could lose a finger. But he simply looked at me and smiled absently while continuing to cut. His fingers remained intact. I decided to leave the kitchen so that his limbs would remain safe.
After a bit, I heard people and went to meet Henri's friends, a lovely long haired girl named Gail, and two guys who said their names too quickly for me to catch. We sat smoking marlboro reds, drinking Coke, and chatting while Henri tended the sauteed onions. The friends, particularly Gail, smoke some english, and therefore the conversation was a little easier. Gail asked me if Americans drank Coke all the time and I assured we drank coke like the french drink wine. She asked if I saw celebrities every day-and I told her not EVERY day, but often enough-they wanted to know who and began a long list. Gail loves Mel Gibson and asked about him often, but I had to admit I hadn't seen him. They didn't seem to care about Woody Allen. They asked me about the french film actors I liked, I named a few Hollywood regulars and then threw in Belmondo which met with approval. They asked me where I had gone in Paris and I gave them a list. They were surprised I spent six hours in the Louvre. They asking me over and over Six hours? Six hours? Perhaps they thought I couldn't count in french so I held up my fingers. They asked me about Sept. 11th which involved some rather interesting play acting on my part. At one point I had to dip my fingers in the ash tray to explain how people were covered in ash. Gail asked me about the girl gangs in Harlem. I hadn't heard much-I was unsure what exactly she meant.
We had dinner-a simple meal of noodles with creme fraiche and onions and eggs. It was delicious. Eventually the friends trickled away. They gave me compliments. One of the men said "You don't speak a lot of french, but the french you speak is quality." Henri and I were left on the couch smoking and listening to the mopeds go by as it got dark. We went back to the bedroom with the fireplace and the iron work. We ended up with the mattress back on the floor, Henri asleep curled around me as I lay awake-not wanting to sleep lest I miss my shuttle to the airport or miss the experience of resting warm and relaxed and fed in Paris.
But I must have slept, I must have slept for a short while because when I opened my eyes it was 3:30 and I had to be back at my hotel by four so I could check out at five. I ran around dressing in the dark and then woke Henri. He stood up and hugged me-holding my head against him. And I? I hugged him back, but I didn't want to miss the shuttle. We exchanged phone numbers and writing addresses ( why phone numbers? what could I say to him?) and rushed down the small spiral staircase onto the street.
A Hero Returns
According to Joseph Campbell, all stories are composed of three essential parts: the road of trials, the apotheosis, and the return. At Charles de Gaulle, the check-in counter at Air France is the opposite of the one at Delta. If I started my trip with the foster children of satan, I ended it with the nephilim or descendents of the higher holy assembly. The man who checked me in spent fifteen minutes on the phone trying to get my boarding pass for my connecting flight without being asked. When he couldn't, he actually apologized with such sincerity, I thought I was going to weep.
I sat in Charles de Gaulle looking out at the full moon outside. I think I should write in my journal about my last night paris, but I just sit looking at the unusually large moon.
And just when I think I can relax, sit on a plane and let it take me back to a country where I can actually talk without thinking, THEN my flight out of Paris is delayed by an hour and half-making the two hour layover I had in Amsterdam into thirty minutes. The dash I made in 50 minutes when I came to Paris, I was going to have to make again, with a bag, in almost half the time.
As I sit on the plane contemplating the dash I think, "I went to all those shrines. Sacre Couer. Notre Dame. St Eustache. It has to count for something. I gave four euros to Saint Michel! C'mon Michel work with me, baby. Get me on that plane." At anxiety filled moments like this it is pleasant to forget how much fun I had on my own, and wish for a companion. The idea is that a companion in anxiety would help-if stoic, to serve as a good example to me-if hysterical, to distract from my own anxiety-if self assured, to assuage my fear by demonstrating things are under control.
And so after a one hour flight, I make the mad dash back across Schiphol airport. I take off at a mad pace, pulling my backpack with three bottles of wine, talking to myself-half coach, half faith healer, half schitzophrenic. "You can do it. I know you do it. You're are going to make this flight. C'mon. Keep going. Just a little faster."
I make the flight six minutes before take off. For a disabled girl with a swollen ankle pulling a bag of booze, it wasn't bad. Not quite a Budweiser commercial, but not bad. As I get on the plane, they are giving the safety lecture. When the flight attendant who is about to close the door to the plane, holds it open for me, I reflexively say "Merci."
A Now For Something Completely Different: A Word About the In-Flight Movie-Hidalgo
Hidalgo, to me, seemed like the new myth of America-it's all about will. There is no destiny, no mitigating circumstance-if you have the will to win, truly, you will. Apparently the filmmakers bank on the audience not realizing that this line of reasoning is lifted pretty much directly from Nietsche ( the will to rule) and it essentially the same reasoning used by the character Kaiser Soze in the Usual Suspects.
In the middle of the movie, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to cry. I mean really sob. Put my hands over my face and just wail. Of course, I can't. As it is I am sure the other passangers why I got so emotional half way through a horse movie. But I was beset with this feeling of loss. Mind you going to Paris with no luggage, I didn't cry, but somehow losing Paris-Notre Dame, the Louvre, the D'orsay-even the aggressive artists, the flirting cab drivers, the oblivious tourists-it felt like a tremendous loss.
Threshold of Revelations
Part of going away is realizing how how many stupid ideas are rattling around in this noggin. I don't where this belief came from, but apparently I believed that the Seine had grassy banks. What makes this belief particularly inexplicable is that I have seen it in movies. Many times. But somehow I became convinced that the Seine has grassy banks. Totally untrue.
Also the Eiffel Tower is not visible from everywhere in Paris as I believed. (This is similar to the beliefs of my relatives that the Twin Towers were visible from EVERYWHERE in NYC) In fact, I barely saw the Eiffel Tower.
But when you go away, you also discover what you really missed about home, the things you didn't know you loved: my friends, a common language, an obvious set of social cues.
Welcome Back
Landing at JFK is far easier than the last time. No one checks my bags. I make my quickly to the taxi stand. I still have to get back to my apartment. Because Delta lost my bags, I have to pick up my keys from the cat sitter. My phone doesn't have reception at the airport so I wait until I get in a cab.
I meet my cat sitter outside of Rohr's. I haven't slept in two days, but I am glowing. I dying to talk and blather and kibbutz. In the cab ride I have called all my friends to tell them that I am back. Mostly I leave messages. I am just so happy to hear voice mail in English. I am filled with energy. I have made it. I have returned. I have gone to Paris and gotten back without being molested by french men or eaten by marauding wolves.
I begin to spill out my stories in a manic jumble and I am met with...seeming disinterest. So Slowly the stories trickle out. I thought the return to the US would be easier. Like falling back onto a feather bed. After dealing with the indifference of the cat sitter, I get my keys and put away my luggage. Understanding that I needed to sleep, I went to F's for a martini.
After my martini, I was exhausted. I made my way back to my apartment. Although it was undeniably my apartment, and looked better than when I left ( the cat sitter vacuumed), it didn't feel like mine. It felt alien and strange. I thought I missed my cat, but no. After she jumped on my head disturbing my sleep again and again I discovered that I had spent eight very lovely cat free days in Paris and I was longing to go back to the that cat-less life.
Although the loss of my luggage hadn't seemed so awful when I was in Paris, suddenly it loomed as a tragedy here. Every day I discovered something new I had lost, my light floral skirt, the black skirt from florida, my ann taylor black strappy heals, my black cocktail dress, my kate spade make up case. Every day the loss seemed more intense and severe.
I tried to remain upbeat. It was tax free week and so I spent the thursday after my return replacing make up and underwear as well shirts and skirts. After I spent the whole day shopping a friend of mine called to ask me out to dinner. We sat dressed in black, drinking red wine from large glasses. Half through dinner my phone rang, "Hello? This is Air France. We have your bag."
I almost wept.
The next day Air France delivered my bag. I was worried that things would be missing, stolen, but not a single item was missing. Not even my mother's digital camera. I never knew I would be so happy to see my own clothes again. Turns out my clothes never left JFK. They stayed at the luggage counter at Delta for nine days before someone sent them to Air France-at Air France they had the brilliant idea of calling the number on the ID tag on the bag. I tell you as an atheist I am loath to believe this, but angels walk among us and they all work at Air France.
"Because everything that was meant to happen happens...eventually"-American Beauty
For years I thought of every thing I lost when I lost Eric. A trip to Paris, a wedding, a child, a family, a life.All those things gone for good. But that night looking at my luggage, half a bottle of Cote du Rhone open in my kitchen, I wondered if I would change anything. My friends seemed so focus on how much fun I would have had if my luggage hadn't been lost. "Yes, but I DID have fun," I said to them. "Ah, but you would have had more fun," they retort. "Not necessarily so. If I had followed all the advice and all the guides, I would have never met Henri or discovered the Tiger or had any number of fun adventures. Maybe it would have been more fun, maybe not. But I did, in reality, have a great time."
Maybe I was never meant to go to Paris with Eric, or maybe I was meant to go to Paris a long time ago and destiny got hijacked somewhere. The point is I got there.
And now all I think about is going back.

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