[tgv train to paris]
stranger, the new father type, with his wife and little bébé across me, asks: visitez paris?
oui, pour visiter mes amis.
it’s been some hours, maybe two days, since i’ve flown out of new york, out of its sticky weekday mid-afternoon traffic mess, out of its rain and heavier skies, landed alone in stuttgart. my friends are in paris – only one of the two of them knows to expect me. all tickets to paris are sold out; buses, second-class trains, hitchiking services – i lugged my suitcase in the cold, wifi-less, German-less, across some streets and some buildings and some friendly strangers; stayed in a run-down motel with one lightbulb hanging over the receptionist, and this morning wake up at 5am to make this train ride, and now i’m finally going, i’m going to paris!
[nymphenburg palace – munich]
the surprise is over, new year’s is over, the streets of paris are empty; the only sign of life being the occasional homeless person and the occasional pool of vomit from last night’s celebration – my friends walk me in the quiet chilly morning to the shuttle bus to the airport and i say goodbye again, and three hours later, in a different country, i say hello to another friend.
[alpsee lake – fussen]
breathtaking is a word. surreal is just another. i have once tasted the wonder of an enchanted land surrounded by snowy mountains and the neuschwanstein castle, and now i touch it. i am touching it, the snow, the cold, the wonder, it’s all real here in the storybook dusk by the alpsee lake. for the length of the cold sun traversing slowly behind the mountains, time and the entire world stretches out with the expanse of the lake – only the half moon remains with us in the silence.
springtime was returning to a new york covered in snow, completely surreal and quietly beautiful, to chase who found me shivering and baffled in the corner of 8th st, baffled as to how to navigate all my luggage across all that slush and ice that was so foreign and curious to me, to several days of brutally cold weather and trudging through assignments and essays, oh and nights and nights of ideological conversations while walking the cold streets before spring crept in; winter broke like a bubble and then it was warm again.
summertime came suddenly, like everything else that followed: moving out of the NYU dorm and into a tiny East Village four-storey walk-up, making pasta every meal of the day. summertime was two jobs, trying to make rent, taking up graphic design and photography assignments on the side, sitting on the doorstep on 7th St writing loneliness in my journal, wondering why the heck I had stayed when it was a financially disastrous choice, and hours of FaceTime with Ashley after long grimy days at work. full-day shifts were making me even more restless and fearless, and then i was meeting new people and making unexpected friends, dipping my toes in the pool of ratchet stuff because summer so far hasn’t been ratchet enough, and then moving back to NYU summer housing and almost crying with relief at the sight of a table and a chair in the room, finding a friend in my roommate. here was the rest of summer: outdoor film screenings, going to the movies, museums, arts festivals, Central Park, and walks in the rain. and lots of doughnuts.
my last weekend there, summer break finally began for me, and i realize, after ‘i will miss you”s from people i’ve never known before summer, i realize, during my plane ride home, when i felt a strange pang in my heart close to heartbrokenness and longing, that i’m in love with this place.