le 25 décembre
Me voici. A double espresso noisette to use the free wifi at MacDo in the airport, it’s the same routine every time. Let me count. This visit makes nine. I wasn’t excited. I thought, in fact, that I had become bored of this place, lazy for having gone and booked this two week stay, almost automatically. But after only minutes here, I remember how happy Paris makes me.
I’ve rented an apartment to myself for the first time. I am tired of staying with friends or renting shared accommodations so that I may speak more French. I am old, I want my space, I will always have imperfect French, I accept this. The flat is near Parc Bercy, my favourite park in Paris. I didn’t bring running gear. I brought my laptop and my ukulele. It is warm, ten degrees. I have a cold, the skies are overcast, it is four minutes before noon.
I am seated at the café called “Au Rendezvous des Artistes” in the ninth. It is half five. First I rode around on a Vélibre. I went to my old haunt, the alley of graffiti beside La Seine, near la gare d’Austerlitz. It’s depressing. It used to be completely vandalized with all kinds of authentic graffiti, groove, it smelled of urine and was inhabited by the homeless, there was even one glorious regarde le ciel. Now it reminds me of a contrived Kensington Market with walkways and people with cameras, safe, frequented, large commissioned murals dotted with makeshift bars and booths. I hate it. Paris, I have come to say goodbye.
I dropped my bicycle in the fifth, they call it the Latin Quarter. B——- lives here, but he is in Portugal. My favourite bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, is closed. It’s Christmas. Merry Christmas. I try my luck reusing the metro ticket I used to get from the airport to Dugommier where my flat is. It worked. I tried it again to take the funiculaire up the 250 steps to Montmartre. It worked again. That is simply delicious, a free ride, two, though lazy.
I go to La Pétaudière. He is the first person I see when I walk in. “C——–!” I have a salad aux fruits de mer and a glass of red. He has a break. We go for a coffee. He asks about my vie amoureuse. I tell him I have a boyfriend, that we are close, that I am happy. He asks if he will see me again. I ask him if he wants to, he says it doesn’t bother him that I have a boyfriend. I give him a strange look. He laughs. He asks if it bothers me. I tell him we can be friends. He says: “amis proches.” No. How can I be friends at all with someone so lacking in depth, integrity, honesty? I shan’t. Paris, I have come to say goodbye.
When I first began coming here, to Paris, I wanted to meet everyone and go to all the parties. I did it. I prided myself on having a life here, my own circle of friends. I am so thankful for ageing and wisdom and clarity, even with its price tag of spotlight and late nights and beauty and some of the people. Many of the people. Thank goodness I learned about intermittency, the ebb and flow of life, of all relationships. Paris, I have come to say goodbye.
It is only six o’clock and already the sun has set. Yesterday was the winter solstice. Every minute counts. It is so wonderful and so strange to be here. It is home. Despite the cliché. I am loving the goodbye-ing and the newness, the pureness, that ensues. I forgot how happy Paris makes me. It had become so crowded, you see.