samedi 10 mai 2008

un jour férié

The French have 11 national holidays. And 5 weeks vacation time compared to the U.S.'s 14. Awesome. As a result, I did not have class this past Thursday. I made a lunch date with Lucia, and we also planned to see "Iron Man" after. I was dying to see this film after reading a post from the Sickness (see the sidebar for the link to his blog).

Woke up, sun streaming into the room. Lovely day. Jeans, tee, sandals, and my bag slung over my shoulder. Walked towards Notre Dame, to my favorite touristy cafe. It's around 10H30. Lucia said she'll be late, coming around 12H. No worries.

Sat on a comfy leather chair facing the street. I love how the walls of cafes can sometimes open out like sliding doors. I didn't want my feet trampled on by tourists outside, so I sat semi-inside outside. Waiter was so cute with his crisp, white shirt rolled up to the elbow. He was young, maybe 18. I order a café crème.

Boys on scooters and bikes pass on rue Lagrange, the street I'm facing, coming towards the Seine and Notre Dame and turning left. Then a family on bikes. My coffee comes on a mismatched saucer that makes me smile.

I like the way tourists look and see things for the first time. The look in their eyes is money. Pure gold. It's like the moment before the tears of joy and happiness. Without the tears. They snap a photo, and it's theirs. A flock of nuns pass by. "Flock" because they looked like geese with white fabric draped over their heads and under straw hats. I quickly draw a picture with my fountain pen.
I can't get over how happy I am. And yet I hate myself for thinking, for even having the feeling that if I had a reason to stay, I would. I hate myself for lying to people and telling them that I miss my family when they ask because that's a normal, appropriate response. And I want to seem normal, I don't want people to be put off ease by me. I'm already weird to begin with. I love my family; they're with me always. So what is there to miss? Fred talked about this at the Peace Corps talks. He has no problem missing things. We're alike that way.

I thought about my friends. How I severed most connection from them because that's what I wanted. I sent postcards and received Facebook responses. I wondered if they'd still like me, the new me, or if I had to start over again. I got that feeling after one friend's visit, the one that called me "mean". I told my Paris friends about what had happened, and one of them said that "that should be a compliment". That made me feel good. If I lost all my friends back home, if they didn't like me anymore, then at least I had my expatriates.

An hour passed and I drank my coffee, and I thought about how long it took for me to get here, and how hard and painful it was in the beginning, but I made it and all that was worth it and it all led to me sitting at this perfect cafe at this moment now. The waiter continually drops change and it makes me laugh. I put my money out, and he comes towards me. He fumbles with the change, but doesn't drop any. We smile at each other and bid goodbye.