Purging (and Bingeing)

OK, I think I owe you an update... Remember a few weeks ago when I met Anna (the Columbian from America) and she gave me her email address? And then do you remember a couple of weeks ago when I actually emailed her and invited her to that one party?  Well I forgot to tell that a week ago she finally responded back with something like:

"im sorry. im sick. i've been throwing up :( ill text you as soon as i get better, xx"

So, as is my habit, I wrote back with something kind of inappropriate, slightly mean, and very funny:

"Sorry to hear that. Is it serious or is it just like a normal everyday bulimia sort of throwing up? Just kidding. Actually, are you bulimic? If so, I'll never offer to take you to dinner. That would be a waste... Anyway you didn't actually miss much, hope you feel better. oo"

Apparently she has a sense of humor because she emailed me back and said something like "haha, I'm better now, call me next time you go out" and gave me her phone number.

First of all I can't believe that email worked. I mean, there is always the possibility that she didn't actually know her phone number until I accused her of being bulimic. But most likely she knew the damn number but was not sure that she wanted to give it to me... until I accused her of being bulimic...

Secondly, notice how she never answered the question. Now, I'm not saying she is bulimic, but she's not saying that she is not... that's all I'm saying. Not that I would blame her though. I think that the desire to purge is natural. Not purge in the throw-up-all-the-food-you-just-ate sense of the word, but more like purge in the sense that one might want to cleanse and purify and empty oneself. For Example, my life has been plagued by sinus infections. Sometimes when it gets bad and I am really stuffed up, and I'm walking around with bags under my eyes, like the flesh is dropping off of my face or something, and a mouth that gapes wide open like I'm some sort of semi handicapped child, and I look (and feel) like a zombie, those are the times that I just want to stick a vacuum up my nose and suck all of the shit out. It wouldn't even matter if I sucked up my brains with it because I'm already a zombie, the important thing is just to clean everything out, to breathe freely again.

I feel the same way about myself sometimes. Like I wish I could just hang my soul up on a meat hook and strip off all of the calcified pockets of terrible that I have let myself become and just be clean again for a while...  I guess that's kind of what life is about isn't it? Doesn't the bible say something like God is a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purge us like gold and like silver? I still believe in God I guess, it's only that sometimes I'm worried that I'm not actually the gold or the silver... certainly there are times that I feel more like the dross.  Still, every now and then, I actually do go through some sort of "cleansing". I promise myself to make changes, to stop doing all of the things that I know I shouldn't... to start doing all of the things that I know I should. And I always tell myself that this time, it's for good. I say that this time the changes will last, like I actually believe it or something. Even though experience would suggest otherwise. But now I understand that nothing ever lasts. This is something that Paris has taught me. I'm not saying that people can't change, I sure hope they can... but maybe life is more about processes than it is about results.

This is a tangent, back to Anna. Using her newly obtained phone number, I invited her over to Nico's. She showed up late, mascara running like she had been crying about something. Nobody mentioned it. Anna is interesting. She is a Jewish Atheist from Columbia who went to high school in Tennessee but lives in Paris. Interesting. She is beautiful, but not as beautiful as I remembered her being three weeks earlier, maybe it's the lighting... or the running mascara. She is South American but looks European. Dark hair, blue eyes, fair skin (Hell, maybe that is what Columbians look like, I've never been to Columbia). She is twenty-one, which old enough, but still young. Some twenty-ones are younger than others. She is a young twenty-one. I got the impression that she didn't know what to say sometimes because she didn't know me well enough to know if I would agree... and hadn't yet decided if she cared. We watched some youtube videos. She didn't laugh much, didn't feel safe yet I guess. Apparently she has a boyfriend back in America... but that didn't keep her tongue out of my mouth when I walked her home that night.

We took the one to the Hotel de Ville and walked through the latin quarter. She was telling me that the reason she hadn't given me her phone number at first was that when she had met Drew and I we were dressed in shirt and ties and holding bibles, and she thought that we were missionaries. Then she stopped.

Anna: This is the Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche, do you know it?

Me: Fishing cat street?

Anna: Oh, so you can speak French?

I followed her down the road which was much more like an alley... a narrow alley.

Anna: This is the narrowest street in the city. It's not even six feet wide.

Me: Must be a popular place for muggings. Did you bring me down here so that you could rape me?

I stopped her and she turned around. I looked her in the eyes and she looked down.

Anna: I have a boyfriend.

I took a step toward her pinning her up against the wall.

Me: In America, or in Paris?

Anna: America.

And that's when I kissed her. She went right for the tongue. Interesting. I thought about feeling bad for kissing another man's girlfriend, but I couldn't quite bring myself around to it. Not with her tongue in my mouth, distracting me. And I've never had much respect for long distance. Relationships are meant to be experienced in proximity. And then I thought of you. But I didn't think about you too much. It wasn't more than a blip really. She started gnawing on my ear and it pulled me right back into the moment.

When I finally dropped her off and made my way back to Nico's, Drew and Nico were waiting for me. They wanted a full report which I gave. There was a mixed reaction. Nico was laughing and giving me high fives, Drew was shaking his head. I knew Drew was right. The girl had a boyfriend. I mean at very least I could have gotten to know her a little bit before turning her into a cheater. But the worst part was that I didn't even mean it. It was empty. I guess this is me bingeing. I spent last week crying and puking and bleeding and now I need something to fill the hole, so to speak. Like I said, nothing stays empty for long. And if you don't fill your holes with something they find a way to fill themselves.

I guess the real problem with bulimia isn't that people eat, and it's not even that they throw up afterwards. It's that they become addicted to the process. They eat because they like the way eating feels but they don't really mean it. They don't use any of the food that they put in their mouths, they just spew it up into toilets and trash cans, . Eventually they keep throwing up because they like the way that throwing up feels, whether or not there is anything inside of them to get rid of.

Kind of makes me wonder why I am sitting here spewing my heart and my soul and my self all over these letters. Am I just purging because I am addicted to the way it feels. Is it all just empty? Is it all just grey skies and bullshit and sadness? I guess I am writing to tell you how I am doing, but that doesn't really mean much if you are never going to read any of it. Maybe I am just becoming addicted to the process.

I thought that I had decided against sending them... but maybe once I figure out how I feel... I should let you know.




Martin and Martine are fighting again. They scream, yell, throw things. I think one day one of them will end up killing the other one. I am pretty annoyed by the whole situation. It's not the fighting that's bad, though I can hear every word in this apartment with paper thin walls. The bad part comes tonight. They have a fight like this about every three days and without fail they stop fighting and fuck all night long. Then they are even louder. I wish they would make up their minds, do they love each other or hate each other. Maybe neither. Probably a little of both.

I'm considering spending the night at Nico's again, but last time Drew wouldn't share the futon and I slept on the floor. ...Perhaps I should look for another place to live.

Maybe it's not so much the noise that keeps me up at night. Maybe it's knowing that even though these two people are going to kill each other one day tonight they have someone and I don't. I never fight, what's their to fight about? It's just not in my nature. Maybe I am missing something.


Their fighting and their fucking. Both are filled with violence. I'm not a violent person. Is that why I don't understand love? Is it a key ingredient? Like in a rock and roll love song?

A few hours later and as predicted all the screaming and banging is replaced with... well, screaming and banging.

I leave my house and I run down the alley looking for anything I can break, it's time to learn to be violent. I find a glass bottle and I throw it against a wall. The violence comes pretty easily. I watch the bottle shatter into a thousand pieces... and just below the violence is the hate. I'm not sure if the hate is a new thing, or if it's been hiding there all along, but either way it's there, and it's all puddled up waiting to be poured out over one very special person... you.

I hate you.

I hate you because I can't stop thinking about you. I can't just let it all go, can't just forget about the whole thing. You're just another girl. I know far cooler girls, far more attractive girls, girls with less issues, girls who are far less selfish, far more emotionally fulfilling. You weren't my dream girl by any means. So why is it so damn hard to move on? I wish I understood. We did fit like puzzle pieces intelectually. But why does that mean so much to me and so little to you. I guess that's not important right now. All that matters at the moment is that I hate you.

I hate you because I still love you. I hate you because you are far away, and all I have to hate is your memory...

And I hate everything else because I have no idea what any of that gibberish means. I need something to hit and something to hit it with.

There is a push broom leaning against a wall outside of the entrance to a tobacco shop. I pick it up and I swing it around. I want to break that window. I do it. The window shatters easily, it is no match for my broom and my hatred and I. The three of us patrol the night searching for victims. Another window shatters, and another. The fourth breaks the broom, I discard the remains of my weapon and I run. I flee the scene of my crime, around a corner, through an alley, down a hill. I gain speed as I charge downwards toward the city. Am I trying to build up the violence or release it? It's hard to tell, but for now, the violence has pushed away the loneliness and I run through the empty streets like a bolt of pure energy, a being made of hot breath and fear and power.

But I can't keep it up. I catch my leg as I am jumping the small gate leading into a poorly lit park. I fall. Lying on my face in the Square de Montholon, the violence dissipates and the emptiness returns. Apparently the hate was just a thin cover for the despair. I am bleeding.

I pull myself up and wander a few steps. Then I fall to my knees and I cry. There is no one around to hear me, but it wouldn't matter if I was in the middle of the Champs Elysées, I couldn't help myself. And I don't want to. I just want to get this all out, like maybe if I let your memory bleed out through my nose and my mouth and my eyes, and let every part of you just pour from my face with the rest of the mucus and saliva and saline, then I'll be free from you for good. And then I'll be whole again.

It works... kind of. After I am finished I rise to my feet, brush myself off and begin the long walk home. No one can keep crying forever. I am exhausted and I am cold, and for the moment I am free from all other concerns. But about halfway home I pass an advertisement for a Monet exhibition. It could have been any artist, but it happened to be Monet, and Monet always reminds me of you. Your weight fills my heart, which sinks to the bottom of my stomach. I forget how cold I am as I remember everything else. Nothing has changed, and I'm not any closer to understanding love. Or feeling it.

Violence is a dead end.



Currently watching:
Animal Kingdom

Party All the Time

I don't belong here. Which is why I am standing all the way over here by myself. Drew and Nico are playing at wingman and trying to pick up some of the girls that came here to drink things and to look pretty for all of the other girls that came here to drink things. (This is what "going out" boils down to for women, as far as I understand it) I don't know which of my friends is the wingman and which is the... lead pilot? Is there a term for that other guy, the one who uses the wingman? I don't know. And I don't think that Nico and Drew know either. I mean, I don't think that either of them know which is the wingman and which is the... notwingman. They'll know soon enough... those things have a way of sorting themselves out.

This whole night was Nico's idea. Drew has been staying at his apartment for the last few days. Partly because he had an open futon and Drew was getting tired of spooning with me every night, and partly because Martin and Martine had been fighting again, and it hasn't been pretty. Like, throwing wine glasses and cussing in Français and day-after bruises, not pretty. And it has been going all night for the last two days. Actually if nobody minds, I'll spend tonight spooning with Drew on the futon at Nico's place. That is, of course, unless their little game of wingman works out.

Which brings us back to the present. Nico suggested that we all come out to this event for international students. I thought it would be like an ERASMUS thing, so I was thrilled, because my last one had worked out so well (this is sarcasm). I actually love dancing, but I haven't been sleeping a lot in the last couple days thanks in part to the domestic violence in my apartment, and in part to... some other stuff, I guess. Anyway, I just didn't really feel like going out. Plus, I emailed Anna to see if she wanted to come with us. No response. I'm starting to wonder why she didn't just take my number and call it, that would have been an easy way to figure out her number. Point is that I don't have much to dance about. Which, works out I guess because as it turns out this is not an ERASMUS event, it's an alumni event for a private international business school, so it's a roomful of rich/drunk people from all over Europe (and guests). Apparently Nico's dad is pretty rich. That makes one of us.

So here I am, standing in the corner because I don't belong in the rest of the room. I think you would be uncomfortable here, too many people, not enough familiar faces. You would want to go somewhere else, somewhere more intimate. I stay. I stay standing in the corner. From my vantage point I can see the whole party, the whole, entire, pointless party. The rich European businessmen (and guests) are in constant motion, a swirling current of people sliding past one another, bumping shoulders, apologizing. The current swells and ebbs powered by the churning beat of some european electronica. The music isn't for dancing, it's for the mingling and mixing of opposing sexes. Is this Love? Is this how it begins for the rest of the world? Just a room full of foreigners that you can't understand moving towards and away from giant speakers with a drink in their hand, bumping into something that they can barely see or hear, and saying "good enough". From my corner, it's plain to see that this is how the species promulgates itself, this is how we get tricked into reproducing. We make it loud enough and dark enough and drunk enough and then we find the first person who's willing to go downstairs and hop in a taxi. But we need to act fast, attraction seems to dissipate as soon as we open our mouths and realize how much we all dislike each other.

But I guess these things are impossible to understand from the outside. And I don't drink. It's a religious thing. So I just turn around, look at the wall, and write this letter while the crowd continues swimming in their mixture of alcohol and music. Churning. Like a million sperm looking for an egg.

If my sperm are anything like me, I'm probably impotent. Not that I would know... Maybe if I drank alcohol, I wouldn't be a virgin. Seems to be how it works.


Willim Willson

P.S. Drew tells me you have been dating someone. I... um... Well I guess I don't really have anything to say about that.

An American in Paris

I can't tell you how great it's been having Drew here. The kid is fearless, so open to new experiences, so unconscious of unwritten social rules... in short he is very American and it's been refreshing. He managed to become best friends with Martin and Martine (Incidentally, Drew has informed me that Martine's name is actually Anne-Sophie... A fact of which I had been unaware because I had never bothered to ask [However I will continue to refer to her as Martine... because it is shorter.]).

I don't know how he did it, all I know is that when I woke up one morning earlier this week my bed mate was missing. I found him in the living room telling stories to Martin and Martine, who both seemed enthralled. And he doesn't speak French, can't even count to dix. He was speaking in English and Martine was translating. I toasted some bread but I didn't say anything, didn't want to interrupt. Then he started telling stories about me. Almost like a list of every good thing he could remember about me. How I had met this one famous person this one time, and how I had scored in the 99th percentile on some postgrad studies aptitude test, and how they needed to see me dance sometime because it was, in his words "out of this world". All those things that just didn't matter anymore but are nice to hear every now and then to remind you what you've been doing for the last 25 years... even if none of it ever amounted to anything.

The last few days we have spent just hanging out. I finally feel like a tourist. We have been sight seeing, talking loudly on the metro, eating in public places, and other American activities. The weather has been decent but maybe I'm just used to it because Drew has been freezing. We spent a day indoors at various museums. Drew somehow managed to meet a girl from Dubai and another from India... and another from Singapore. He has an uncanny ability to spot girls that speak English. We took the girl from Dubai, whose name escapes me, to get a kebab, which Drew has dubbed the European equivalent of the burrito, and Drew made plans to visit her after his stay in Europe.

Another day was dedicated to thrift store shopping in the Marais. Drew bought an old Swiss military coat at Free'p'star, a thrift store on Rue Ste Croix la Bretonnerie. The fact that it was literally a Swiss Army coat was a major selling point for him. Then we went and got falafels at l'As du Fallafel on the Rue des Rosiers. Behind us in line was Ethan Hawk. Yeah... pretty crazy right? Well, we're pretty sure it was him, it could have been Mark McGrath but he was pushing a stroller with a kid in it. It also could have just been some guy that looked exactly like Ethan Hawke/Mark McGrath but wasn't even famous at all. We never found out for sure because I talked Drew out of approaching him, I'm sure Mr. Hawke didn't come all the way to Paris so that more Americans could ask him for Mark McGrath's autograph. Just let the guy buy a falafel is what I always say.

Today was Sunday. Drew wanted to go to church again but told me I didn't have to come if I didn't want to. Of course, in practice, he can't really find his way around the city... so for the second Sunday in a row I found myself dressed in a shirt and tie, falling asleep in the back of a small chapel in the 4th Arrondissement. After church, Nico, the Finnish/Spanish kid invited us to a gathering for the church singles at his apartment that night. He speaks English perfectly... with a rather interesting accent. As he and Drew were exchanging information, I was finding a reason to start attending church again.

Me: Who is that?

Nico: Amazing isn't she? That's my girlfriend.

Kyle: Really?

Nico: No. That's Aurelie. She is really cool but... she's French and she's a model. And she knows it, you know?

Me: She knows she's French, or she knows she's a model?

Kyle: Is she pretty stuck up?

Nico: I don't know man. She is nice. You just have to talk to her yourself... If you ever get a chance.

We never got the chance. By the time we had finished discussing her she had completely disappeared.

Nico's apartment is on the Rue St. Antoine between the metro stops Bastille and St. Paul. When we arrived later that night we couldn't get a hold of Nico. He hadn't bothered to give us the door code so we had nothing to do other than to wait for him to call us back. Across the street from Nico's place is a small square with a park called the Place de Vosges, it's where Victor Hugo lived... when he was alive. We thought we would go check it out while we waited.

It was locked.

Drew was hungry so we decided to try Nico's again. But at that momen, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life (today) crossed the street directly in front of us with two other women. She was holding a baguette. I could hear them speaking English but couldn't make out what they were talking about.

Me: Oh dear, the women in this city...

Drew: Right now I'm more interested in where she got that baguette.

Me: Just ask her, she speaks English.

      At that moment she stopped. And turned. And...

The most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life (today): What?

Me: Oh um... Nothing... My friend was just wondering where you got your baguette.

The most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life (today): It's from a boulangerie just up here around the corner. But I think they are closed now.

Me: You're American?

The most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life (today): Colombian... But I live in Nashville. Well, I live in Paris, but my family lives in Nashville.

After that was all cleared up, we introduced ourselves. Her name is Anna and she is doing a year of her college in Paris. We also met her sister and her mom... who's names escape me. They were each dragging large zebra pattern suitcases behind them. They had been on their way out of town when a volcano erupted in Iceland and grounded flights across all of western Europe. The skies are clear here in Paris but I guess the airlines are just playing it safe. Better to inconvenience someone than to kill them. So now Anna's family is stuck here sans hotel, draging their zebra print luggage across the city to Anna's tiny apartment where they will wait for the ash to settle. Anna offered to show us where the boulangerie was and we walked with them for a couple blocks. Drew spoke to her mom in Spanish and Anna spoke to me in French. Well, partly in French. She asked me if I lived in the banlieue and I asked her what that word meant. 

After that was all cleared up she asked me what had brought me to the city.

Me: I have no idea. It changes daily.

Anna: Well, at least you're honest. The boulangerie is there just down that street, it might still be open.

Me: Thanks...

Anna: Are we going to see each other again?

Me: Probably not. But it was nice meeting you.

I gave her a bisous and we parted ways. The boulangerie was closed and Drew immediately started complaining about his hunger. I called Nico again, still no answer. Not being used to close encounters with beautiful women, I was still shaking from my moment with Anna. As I replayed it in my mind it occurred to me that maybe she was trying to give me with an opportunity. Maybe "Are we going to see each other again" hadn't merely been a matter of fact question requiring a matter of fact response. Maybe she was getting at something... Maybe, she had actually wanted to see me again.

Me: I should have gotten her number?

Drew: You didn't? What were you doing up there the whole time? What kind of vibe was she putting out?

Me: She asked if we were going to see each other again...

Drew: And then you didn't say "Yes, what is your number"? Yeah, you blew it.


Drew: Well, we should probably chase after her.

Me: I don't think that's the best idea.

Drew: Willim, this is Paris.

And with that he took off running. I followed. At the next cross street we turned and saw zebra print in the distance. Drew bolted across the intersection like a lion, he ran after the zebra print shouting "Senioritas". I followed behind like a much, much slower lion. When I finally caught up with Drew he was speaking with Anna, her sister, and her mother in Spanish. One of the zebras was on the ground with it's insides spilled all over the sidewalk. I thought Drew had been taking my lion metaphor a bit too far but apparently they were just searching for a pen. Once the pen had been located, Anna needed something to write on. I offered my metro map.

Anna: I'm going to give you my email.

Me: I am kind of embarrassed right now.

Anna: Don't be. It's hilarious. Like An American in Paris.

Me: Is that a book or something?

Anna: Movie.

Me: Haven't seen it.

My phone rang. It was Nico. I answered and told him we were just down the street and we'd be there in a second. Anna returned my metro map. I told her I would email her. Her mother suggested that we all go to dinner while they were in town. We parted ways for a second time. I was high on adrenaline as we made our way back to Nico's. Anna, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life (today) gave me her email address. I am going to see her again... if it's a legitimate email address...

I can't help but wonder where this might lead. It's like they say, the gate of history turns on small hinges.



Running faster than I have strentgth.

You'll be happy to know that I went to church today. I haven't been since I came to Paris. Drew and I used to go to the same church in America and I didn't want to explain to him that I don't really go anymore so I got up early and I took a shower and I put on a tie. At least I looked the part... I grabbed my old travel bible and we went to church. The church was across the street from the Centre George Pompidou on the Rue Sainte Maire. Drew and I were running late already when we ran into a little roadblock at the Hotel de Ville. When I say roadblock, what I mean to say is that the Rue de Rivoli was actually blocked. It was the Paris marathon and the street was filled with a river of bodies, moving and bouncing and sweating.

Drew: What do we do now? Do you think if I just step out in the middle and hold my hand up they'll stop for us?

Me: I have an idea. Follow me.

I did have an idea. Looking back, it wasn't the simplest solution. That would have been to take the underground passage for the Metro stop at the Hotel de Ville, the one that exited on the other side. But in the moment I was pretty focused on crossing the street. I started running and Drew followed. I ran with the marathon for about half a block drifting through the ranks of runners until I reached the other side. Drew was having a harder time navigating the human river and didn't make it across the street for another block. It took some searching to reconnect but before too long we had found each other and it was off to the church house. I had to wonder why all those people were paying to be there if you can just show up and start running for free like I did. Maybe they enjoy feeling like they are part of something, like they belong there... or maybe they are just in it for the t-shirt.

We were both impressed by the diversity at church, being from suburban areas of America that were largely populated by white people we were both used to spending our Sunday mornings with a chapel full of WASPs. By contrast this congregation was nearly one third African. There were a number of older French people, some other Americans, a handful of French singles between the ages of 20 and 35, a few Latinos, a brother and sister from Iran who had recently converted to Christianity, and Nico, a Finnish kid from Spain in his second year at university in England who was doing an internship in Paris.

The services were in French and I found it difficult to pay attention. That is until Drew, who couldn't understand a word, asked me to translate. With great difficulty I was able to give him a rough idea of the subject of the sermon. It was something like a metaphor comparing Christianity to a great boat, kind of like the ark of Noah I guess. The point was that there is room on the boat for all types of people, from all sorts of lifestyles and cultural backgrounds and political systems, and that all we have to do is stay in the boat and have faith that God will lead us to the promised land. 

I thought that was bull-shit.

I would have preferred a more active metaphor. Rather than everyone just sitting around in a boat waiting for God to do all the work, I believe that if there is a God then he is going to show us the path but make us walk it on our own. In that sense maybe Christianity is more like running a marathon. The path is clearly marked, we just have to keep running until we reach the finish line. This doesn't bode well for me. My experience with Marathons is that I only run far enough to get where I am going and then I leave the other runners behind. And the truth is that while I may find this a more appropriate metaphor, if the speaker would have used it instead I would have gagged myself at the cliché.

Truthfully, I am in no position to criticize sermons... but that doesn't keep me from doing it. And it's not a new thing, I've always spent my time at church criticizing the speakers, thinking about what the sermon should say instead of listening for what I should hear. Maybe that's why I jumped ship. One benefit of church is that it does seem to make me more self reflective... now if it could only make me reflect on someone else I might start getting somewhere. But I guess these things need to be taken one step at a time.




Drew is here. He had borrowed someone's phone to call me when he got off of the train but I was in my French class so I didn't answer. He left a message to the effect of "I have no idea where I am... come and find me." After class I called the number back but I didn't understand the lady that answered (Drew told me later she was from Spain, apparently drew speaks Spanish). In a city like Paris where would you even begin to look for someone? I wandered around Gare du Nord and made my way down to Gare de l'Est but eventually I realized that I was never going to just find him and I just went home.

I got to my apartment around eleven o'clock and found this email from him:

I found an internet café. Right now it is a quarter to ten. If you receive this email meet me in one hour in front of the Notre Dame.


By the time I made it to the Notre Dame it was 11:30. I wandered around for another twenty minutes wondering if he had already left. But where would he go? Finally I found him standing on the Petit Pont wearing a t-shirt and holding two large duffel bags. It was now almost midnight and it was cold. Spring has been here officially for a few weeks, but minus some splendid sunny days, it has been a cold spring. Especially at night.

Despite being ill prepared for the weather Drew was in relatively good spirits.

Drew: What took you so long?

Me: Good to see you too.

Drew: Man I am freezing out here. But first off I need something to eat.

Me: I didn't get your email until about an hour ago.

Drew: You live an hour from here?

Me: No, I've been here for like 40 minutes looking for you.

Drew: When I wrote that email I was all the way over by the Eiffel Tower, it only took me fifteen minutes to get here. I'm starting to think I know this city better than you do. However I don't know what I can eat in this city that is cheep and good. I haven't found any Mexican restaurants. What's that about?

I took him across the bridge to the Latin quarter and introduced him to the sandwich grec. Five euros later he was full of cheap good food and we began the journey back to my apartment. Luckily, when we arrived Martin and Martine were hiding away in their bedroom having another mild argument as is their custom on days of the week ending in -day. Drew will be here for 3 days and if possible I'm going to avoid telling them I have a guest.

And now Drew is on my bed sleeping like a baby. A large, bald baby. We'll be sharing a twin matress for the next couple of days, which frankly doesn't bother either of us. Necessity is the mother of compliance.

My first thoughts when I saw Drew on the bridge earlier were these two questions:

     1. How long has he been standing out in the cold?
     2. When was the last time that he talked to you?

...I never bothered to find out either.
It's strange having him here. It's like I was expecting it to be weird to see someone from home, but it it isn't. It's just normal, like it has always been. And that's what is so weird.

Makes me wonder what it would be like to see you again. Would it be normal? What is normal for us? Would I crumble under the weight of rejection, coming face to face with someone that didn't want me? Would I pretend like we had always just been good friends in some misguided attempt to salvage some sort of non-existent "pride".
Or would it just be nice to see your smile again...

Maybe one day we'll find out.



Currently watching:

A Single Girl

La Fille Seule


You'll never believe what happened. OK realistically, you would probably have no problem believing this. Perhaps I should say "You'll never care what happened". But while that's much more accurate it just doesn't incite the same level of interest or excitement or mystery.

...Plus it's depressing.

On to my news. First of all, this morning as I sat in our living room eating a giant bowl of Chocapic (French version of coco puffs) like a good little bachelor, Martine walked in wearing nothing but her underwear. OK to be fair this isn't exceptional, she stays here a couple times a week and kind of just walks around like she lives here, the surprising part is still to come. She asked if I wanted coffee, I declined, telling her that I don't drink coffee. Then she sat at the other end of the couch to eat her petit dejeuner. When possible I snuck glances of her mostly naked body... like a good little bachelor. I found myself rather attracted to Martine at this moment. I got up to pour myself a second bowl of cereal, I wasn't really hungry... to be honest, I just wanted to stay in the living room as long as she was going to be there. It's pathetic how many of my decisions are based on what opportunities I have to look at women. When I returned to the couch she was lighting up a cigarette.

Martine: Il fait beau non?

Me: Oui. Oui, il fait trés beau.

Martine: T'as le loyer d'avril?

Me: Um... Comment?

Martine: Zhe money... for zhe rent.

Oh my, her accent was amazing. Now if you had told me five years ago that one day I would have a French woman sitting on my couch in her underwear, smoking a cigarette, and asking for money in her French accent... well, I wouldn't have pictured this exact situation but that's because I can be sick minded sometimes.

Anyway, she told me in her broken English (and here's the interesting part) that she actually lives here now and that she had payed the rent this month so I needed to give her the money for my portion (which providentially was now divided by three) sometime in the next few days. Her English was actually worse than my French, or so I'd like to believe, but I was enjoying her accent.

Me: I didn't know you spoke English.

Martine: I learn a little bit in school. If I speak English wizh you, it is because we are alone. If Martin is here... he is... make fun of me because I do not speak so good.

Me: Don't worry your English is much better than his is.

Martine: ...I do not understand.

Me: Your English is good.

Martine: Ah, c'est gentil. Euh.... Zhis is very nice of you to say. But wizh Martin it is not important. He is... euh... he is...

She couldn't think of the word. She smiled and shrugged and slammed her cigarette into the ash tray before retreating to the bedroom. Her bedroom. For the first time in my life I live with a woman that is not related to me. Considering the fact that Martin and Martine were staging Armageddon in the living room it's needles to say that I was... surprised.

My second surprise of the day came this evening. I checked my email and found a message from my friend Drew. Of course you know Drew. He was there the night that we met. I remember wanting to talk to you more but you two got into some thick discussion so I backed off. He managed to become your friend in a way I never could... The email he wrote me went something like this:

"Ok listen up and listen closely. I am coming to Paris very soon. I am not sure if it is cool if I stayed with you but could you let me know if it's possible. If you don't want me to stay just say that it's not cool and that will be fine. It will probably be this weekend! I am planning on arriving in Paris on April 9th at 1:30 PM. I would like to stay there from the 9th through the 12th and then maybe I will come back through town after touring Europe with some buddies. For sure the 9th through the 12th though. Do you think this is possible? If it's too much to ask then no worries.  Let me know asap! This trip could change all lives."

The ninth is two days from now. I'm a little worried about what Martin will say but I already responded and told Drew that he can stay... though we'll be sharing a bed. Bed sharing or not, I'm excited for him to get here. I'm excited to have news of all the people and places that I've cut myself off from.



Lunch date

I wanted to tell you about my, I don't know, lunch date, if you can call it that. I went to lunch today with Sara (Italy). We talked Friday night after class and I asked her if she wanted to go to lunch. She seemed surprised and hesitant as if she thought it was a trick. She wanted to know why I asked her, and I explained it was because she was one of only two people in the class who didn't speak English (the other one being the Chinese girl) and I wanted to be forced to speak French. So this afternoon we met at Saint-Lazare and took a walk looking for a restaurant. We found something reasonable not too far from the station. I ordered a croque monsieur because it was cheap. Communicating was difficult. Neither of us were confident of our French but it was the only language we had in common. I thought often how this scene might have looked for the Parisiens, two foreigners struggling to communicate in a foreign language. We talked about class, we talked about our homes and families, and then we talked our past relationships. Sara had a boyfriend once for a couple of years. But not anymore. I asked her if she was in love with him. She thought that she was, but couldn't sure. I don't know why she thought that. Maybe if I understood Italian she could have explained it to me. I didn't say much about my self... I didn't have much to say I guess. Or maybe it was more that I got the feeling Sara couldn't understand me. Either that or she wasn't really interested in hearing about my ex girlfriends.

We finished eating and asked for the check. Sara wouldn't let me pay for her which I found weird because I had invited her. I really don't know how that works in Italy... or in France for that matter. After leaving the restaurant we walked along the rue Saint Lazare and she brought up relationships again, by asking me if I was the type that always had lots of girlfriends. I think our whole class had the wrong idea about me. I told her that actually I hadn't had many girlfriends. One or two in the past five years... but I guess you could bump that number as high as five if you count the ambiguous or equivocal or otherwise vague. And none of them lasted longer than a few months except for that one. The one that went off and on... and off for a year. She asked if I was looking for a girlfriend in Paris. I told her the truth, I hadn't really thought about it, but that it wasn't really the reason that I came to France. She didn't believe me.

Sara: Moi, je vois beaucoup. Tu pense que je ne te vois pas, mais... je vois beaucoup.

Me: Et quand tu me regarde... qu'est-ce que tu vois?

Sara: Je vois comment tu regarde les filles.

Me: Je ne regarde pas les filles.

Sara: Si si si! Je vois comment tu regarde Sara.

Me: Toi?

Sara: Non, l'autre Sara.

Moi: Hmmm. Je pense que tu pense tu vois quelquechose mais umm.... c'est pas vrai. Pas de tout.

Sara: Je vois beaucoup Willim. Je vois beaucoup.

She was talking crazy of course. The other Sara? Sara Venezuella is the only other Sara we knew.  There is absolutely no time when I would have "looked at" Sara Venazeula in any sort of way that would have justified Sara Italy's remark. I shook my head. She laughed. I assured her that I was not interested in making Sara Venezuala my girlfriend, then I gave her a bisous and bid her aurevoir. Overall it was a frustrating experience. I had been glad for the chance to only speak French, but it was somewhat discouraging that we couldn't really understand each other or express ourselves fully. I don't think I'll ask Sara to lunch again. Not any time soon, anyhow. Maybe when I speak a little better...

I thought today as I listened to Sara that maybe it would have been easier to understand a native born French speaker. But then after lunch I came home to a domestic disturbance erupting between Martin and Martine. They are still fighting an hour later as I write you this letter and though I can hear every word through my paper thin walls, I don't understand most of it. It's weird being in another country, I suddenly become so much more aware of verbal communication. I listen to every word and try to understand every word, where as in English I don't even pay attention. It's like maybe I was so confident that I always understood everyone and everything that I didn't think I needed to really listen... and so I didn't. I'd like to change that if I could. I'm not sure what that would entail really, but I feel I should be putting in the same amount of effort and attention to really understanding what someone is trying to say, regardless of the language they are speaking.

...Maybe it's time I stopped hearing only what I want to hear.



April fools

It's a new month. That makes three since I came to Paris. It's difficult to describe how I feel about the passage of time. It's better when people are around. With Becca going back to America I find I have more time on my hands and less interesting ways to spend it. I think I may be stuck somewhere outside of your standard temporal dimension... like maybe I am existing in a single horrible moment, endless and eternal and dull. Often I find myself watching the time wishing it would move more quickly, as if I am living for... searching for some unknown future when I will have something to do or somewhere to be or some overall purpose. As if I am waiting for real life to begin. When I have a thought like that the motivational poster area of my brain (the part that reminds me that "who I can be is up to me", and to "never, never, never give up") always has something catchy to say like "Life begins when you begin living" and then I kind of freak out because frankly, I have no idea where/when/how to "begin" but I am terrified of missing it. So I stay here in my moment completely unable to perceive the passage of time, anesthetized by anxiety, fearing, first of all, that my biological clock will run out before I ever figure out who set it... and why, and secondly that if I stay in this moment outside-of-time for too long I may just stop existing.

And then the future never comes.

But somehow, today I look at the calender and here I am... the future. Except it's not the future... not the one I've been living for. This future is exactly the same as the past. And looking back at the previous three months, it's as if they never really existed.

This probably doesn't make any more sense to read than it does to feel... but a lot of my life feels like this... as though I am only catching glimpses. One might say that I've been alive for a grand total of five minutes. A minute when I was ten awaking from a bizarre dream about the end of the end of the world to a horrifying feeling of self awareness, then I teleported to the junior high lunch line in ninth grade minutes after being dumped by my "girlfriend" in the hallway, then I was going for a walk in a snowstorm at three in the morning my senior year of high school, and then I'm pouring my heart out to a bathroom wall in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. That brings me here. Paris, France April first 2010. Emerging from outside-of-time for another brief moment of consciousness. Over twenty-five years and I've produced nothing of value to anyone.

April fools, your life is meaningless... It's the joke that I've played on myself.

Quick somebody stick a fish on my back. That's the thing to do in France I guess. Martine did it to Martin earlier today and they explained that the traditional joke is to take a paper fish and try to stick it on someone's back without them noticing. As a side note, Martin also mentioned that one of the neighbors was interested in me, wondering if I gave courses in English, so this could be a possible solution to the job problem. Three months of no work, it's no wonder I feel like my life has evaporated. But I haven't been encouraged to look for work because I still have issues with my French. It's true that it has improved and I feel like I have learned so much in the last three months, but I still need to be spoken to like an infant to understand anything.

They speak too fast in Paris. I only catch glimpses... every fifth word. That's another interesting feeling, that so much is happening all around you, but you can't help but feel that you are missing most of it. I guess I can either just start ignoring it all or keep trying to understand. A lot of my life boils down to that... either give up or keep trying. For now I'll keep trying. I'll continue the struggle. I'll keep my head up and my eyes open and try to piece together what I can. But the days pass, and the weeks and months fly by, and years later I don't feel any progress. What language am I supposed to be learning again? Sometimes I just want to lock myself away in my room until I have everything figured out. But I've been trying that already for so long... life just doesn't work that way. A language is learned in the speaking of it.

...you know, there was a time when I felt that my life was about to begin. That the things I had been waiting for all of my life were finally here. And then... they weren't. And then I moved to France.



Currently watching:

Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil

Un Deux Trois Soleil

Essay #2 - Renovations

It's been warming up this past week. I haven't been this excited about something in a long time. It's amazing how a little sunlight can make everything better. I can see why so many cultures throughout human history have worshiped the Sun. I mean I won't be performing any ritual sacrifices but I sure am grateful to that great mass of gravity and thermonuclear reaction that allows life on the planet, and today is bringing some sort of relief into mine.

...Overall the Parisiens seem indifferent.

I took a walk along the Seine to benefit from the weather. And it was there, standing in front of what Becca called "The Ugliest thing in Paris" that I realized something. It was the kind of realization that threatens to change everything, a brand new thought that blurred... or perhaps focused all my other thoughts, that changed their color and composition. I stood on the bank of the river watching all the pretty photons bouncing off the surface and in that moment I became aware of the fact that love is not permanent.

Depending on your particular level of adherence to the cult of romanticism you probably either think this statement is obvious, or that it couldn't possibly be true. Knowing you, you'll probably tell yourself that in the case of our love (yours and mine) of course it didn't last forever... and it's about time I realized that... but then you'll say that Love, in the overall sense of the word does last forever in some cases. But you're wrong. It doesn't. Not naturally. And this is the thought that changed everything, nothing naturally lasts forever and love is no exception. Perhaps you'll allow me to explain.

"The ugliest thing in Paris" is actually a giant temporary wall covered with larger than life pictures of police men and firefighters. It's designed to disguise the work-in-progress renovation of the police precinct. All of Paris (if I can speak for all of Paris) is waiting patiently for the construction to be finished so that they can take it down. To be honest, as ridiculous as the giant civil servants are, it probably is much nicer to look at than a giant scaffold. Even the construction in Paris has certain aesthetic standards. But today when I looked up at it I thought of New York City.

I love New York City. I've only been twice, for a total of a couple weeks, but I love New York City. There is an energy there... the whole city is just crawling with life. So much happening in so little area. It's like no place else that I have ever been. Both times I was there I noticed a large amount of construction. It seemed like it was everywhere. I remember mentioning this to Chris, a friend of mine who lived in New York. I think I said something like...

Me: It's a shame that there is all this construction, I'd like to see the city without all of these scaffolds.

Chris: There's always construction. In a city this big there are a lot of things to keep up.

When I first moved to Paris I noticed the same thing. Like New York, the construction is everywhere. Paris' metro system is fantastic but it seems like there is always something shut down, right now it's the line 1, every night after 10 PM. In addition barricades and other construction materials are scattered throughout the city, sometimes randomly it seems (side note: I once saw a woman duck behind one such abandoned construction barricade and turn it into a make shift toilet). Earlier this week I was down by the Porte Dorée off of the line 8. There was some major construction going on on a long stretch of the Boulevard Poniatowski. I watched them tear up the road for a while before they all went home for the night. Then today standing across the river from the police precinct renovation it occurred to me that Paris is always under construction.

This might seem evident, but let me finish. When I say always, I mean always. My realization was that in the last five hundred years or more there probably hasn't been a single day that something in the city didn't need to be built or fixed. This led me deeper to the realization that all cities are like this, all institutions are like this, all people are like this... all relationships are like this.

Everything is in a state of constant flux. Everything needs to be built, rebuilt, or maintained. All the time.

But people don't think like this. As I person, I can tell you that we live in an illusionary world of permanence. We think things will last. We use "long lasting" as an effective marketing slogan and we see change as a negative characteristic. When we buy a car we are always shocked when it needs repairs. When we come home from vacation we are always surprised at how fast the time went. And when our love is dried up... we cry and moan and wail. But the fact remains that no matter how long things last, nothing ever does. And no matter how long things take to change, everything will.

Our relationships are no exception. Consider this: all dating relationships end. 99% end when the people stop dating and the other 1% end in marriage. All of my dating relationships have ended. But you might say that in those other 1% of cases, love did last... and though half of those marriages end in divorce, in the other half won't their love last forever? No, it doesn't.  ...but maybe it can.

Diamond rings were chosen as symbols of a marriage possibly because a diamond lasts. Because of it's hardness it will endure daily wear and tear and stay brilliant. But this was a mistake. Marriages aren't like diamonds. Love is not like a diamond. The epiphany that I had was that all things naturally decay and change and fade. And love is no different. Love doesn't resist daily wear and tear. Love isn't permanent. Love is more like a city. Like a house. Like your bedroom. Like your car. Like everything else in the world that falls apart if we let it. And most of the time it just won't last unless we make special effort to take care of it. Love itself is not immune to the degeneration and decay, even if it's the love between two people that manage to stay married. Love must be constantly bolstered, strengthened, reinforced, invested in, if we want it to last. And it takes both sides. The man and the woman have to both agree that the love is worth preserving and then both put in the construction and renovation work necessary to maintain it.

But there is another problem here.

Take me for example. Because I always assume erroneously that everything will be around forever, it seems that I never really realize how much I really love something until it's gone. I never take the time to care for and appreciate something until I am threatened with loss (Take my teeth for example... or better yet... you). So most couples out there are taking each other for granted assuming that the other will always be around... assuming that their love is permanent. Most of them have never even asked themselves if their love is worth preserving... let alone put in the effort necessary to maintain it. And then they are always surprised when it doesn't work out. In essence they find out too late that something needed to be fixed, and then it's easier to move on than to fix it.

What I'm proposing is that we look at relationships differently. Instead of spending our lives searching for some imaginary love that is going to last forever, we can look at each of our relationships, our friendships, our marriages as a work in progress. More specifically I propose that we treat our relationships as if we are building a sand castle. Bear with me here, each relationship is a chance to create a beautiful and magical and temporary castle with someone else, made with sand and sweat and love. We know that it won't last. Even if we decide to build a wall around it or dig a channel to protect it from the sea, we still know at the end of the day that it won't be there tomorrow. So we do our best to create something beautiful, stopping often to admire our work and to plan the next phase. After we are done we take a moment to adore it, if it was particularly wonderful we take a picture, and then we move on. We know it can't last but we do it because we like the work. Of course as our castles are beaten down by the ocean there are many that we will just let go and others that we will want to rebuild. The difference comes from knowing from the beginning that we are building something temporary.

In rare cases we create something so fantastic that we both agree it's worth preserving. So we expand the walls and raise the roof and we move in. But channeling the tide and rebuilding protective walls is daily work that will never end. Because sandcastles are like everything else in life, they aren't designed to last forever. But like Paris and New York, if we invest enough effort, if we work on them long enough, we'll create something wonderful. In that sense a marriage is a life's work, and it's truly a masterpiece.

I wish I was on the beach now... But I'll settle for the bank of the Seine. Like I said before I'm just grateful that it's sunny today. Our sandcastle (yours and mine) was completely buried in the high tide. It's been utterly demolished. I haven't seen a trace of it in months. But I keep writing these letters hoping that maybe one day it can be rebuilt... in some form or another.

If there is a part of our relationships that lasts forever it's the part that we take with us out into the darkness... But a memory, as vividly as we might feel it, is not a relationship. 



Currently Listening:


U.S. Royalty - Equestrian

Une classe des filles

Have I told you much about my class? The first and most important thing is that I am the only male. And next is that I am the only American. The class' gender may lack diversity but the different nationalities make up for it, there is a Canadian, an Australian, two New Zealanders, a Venezuelian, a German, a Czech, two Italians, a Chinese, and an Hungarian... and me. That makes it twelve to one if you count the professor (in gender and in nationality). However, it's not like we have nothing in common, nearly everyone in the class speaks English except for Sara, one of the Italians, and the girl from China... whose name escapes me. I haven't quite got all of their names down yet.

OK, I couldn't tell you any of their names except for Sara. And I only know Sara's because there are two, the Italian one and a Venazuelan one. Well, more likely the reason that I know the Saras is that the three of us went to lunch this afternoon. Apparently the Saras are best friends, or good friends... or at the least friends, it seems like the extent of their bond is that they share the same name. But they are both foreigners in a big city and anything in common, even a first name, could be enough. Besides, all Italians claim that they can understand Spanish. This is all conjecture though because we didn't talk much about their friendship. To be honest, Sara Italy and I didn't talk much about anything. Sara Venizuela  did all the talking. She's what one might call "sassy"... it must be the Latin blood. It was her idea to get together in the first place because apparently she wanted to ask my opinion on her idea for an bar/art gallery that she was thinking about opening in Veneseula.

Sara Venezuala: My daddy asked me what do I want, and I said: A bar. I want a bar but I want it to be very funky you know? Very cool, with art on all of the walls and I want it to be somewhere where people want to just hang out and talk and be very low key. I thought before about an art gallery but then I thought it would be more fun if it was a bar. So I will make it both you know? What do you think? What would you do to design a bar like this?

As someone who has never drank alcohol I was in no position to give her any advice, but I began to think that this was less about her getting my opinion and more about me understanding that she is wealthy. She also mentioned something about having her own house in Venezuelia and a couple of cars... and I think at one point she actually said something like "my daddy gives me whatever I want". I'm not sure why she wanted me to know all of this, is it a Latin thing? I have little or no experience with Latin America so I have no idea. I tried briefly to both change the subject and include Sara Italy. I addressed her in French and I asked if she was able to understand what we were talking about and if she preferred that we speak French. It was difficult to understand her Italian accent, but the other Sara translated for me... well maybe it was a translation, maybe it was an interruption, I can't be sure.

Sara Venezuella: She's fine, it's good for her to hear us in English, she needs to learn English. So what are your thinking of my idea?

I discussed briefly the layout of different bars and clubs that I had seen in movies, because none of the bars or clubs that I had ever visited personally were very hip or modern or expensive. Then Sara changed the topic and talked about her fiance (or should I say ex-fiance) for the rest of lunch. We exchanged a bisous and parted ways.

I think the problem is that being the only male in the class, some of the girls have begun to take a... personal interest in me. I got the feeling that both of the Sara's were in that boat. Right now, as I sit in class Sara Italy keeps smiling at me. And Sara Veniswhalea is always so tactile (Or touchy? How do you say that in English?). I guess it's nice to have some interaction with some other cultures, cultures that aren't cold and closed and distrustful of strangers. But to be perfectly honest none of the girls in my class... one of the New Zealanders isn't bad and I love her accent when she says "backpack", but overall there is very little draw romantically to these girls.

At the moment we are learning l'imparfait versus passé composé. They are the two most basic past-tense tenses of French. If I'm understanding all of this correctly l'imparfait is reserved for descriptions of the setting or of a person, or for actions of continuous duration in a story (like if one said I was waiting for you to call). Passé composé is for any sequences of action in the past, or for any action that has terminated in the past like the simple past in English (for example I went to the boulangerie for breakfast and I ate two pain au chocolats... and a brioche au pepites de chocolat).

Teacher: Maintenant on va parler de l'enfance. Il faut finir le phrase: Quand j'étais petit... Comme quand j'étais petit j'ai sucé mon pouce. Ou quand j'était petit j'ai joué à princesses... Pour Willim on dirait plutôt Pirates. Mais bon, Willim tu commence.

Me: Moi?

Teacher: Non, l'autre Willim.

Me: Ummm... Quand j'étais petit, j'ai... pleuré beaucoup.

Teacher: Tu as pleuré beaucoup? Mais pourquoi?

Me: Je ne sais pas. Je suis... umm.. j'était triste comme enfant.

It's true. I did cry a lot as a kid. I was sad. I remember fantasizing about terrible sad stories, always with me as the protagonist, typically they were of the "then they'll be sorry" genre, but sometimes they were even worse... the "they won't even notice... nobody even cares..." kind. I don't know where I got the idea, but I seemed to be under the impression that in life, whoever has the saddest story wins. Anyway, back to French class.

Teacher: Ahh, je vois bien ce que tu fait là Willim. Lui, Il sais bien qu'on est une classe des filles, donc il a dit ça pour nous faire dire awwwwe. Je te comprends Willim, je te comprend. Faire attention les filles, on a un petit draguer là.

Sara Italy smiles at me. Sara Venezuela laughs and touches my arm. This is great...

Me, I'm thinking about how I don't cry as often anymore. I am thinking of the last time I cried... I am thinking about you.



Currently watching:

Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales - (The Criterion Collection)
L'amour l'après midi

Saying goodbye

Today is Becca's last day in Paris. Her internship is over and she is out of money so she is going back to America. She says she'll be back in a couple of months but she hasn't bought her ticket yet. I know how those things can go so I'm saying my goodbyes now.

I thought about making her dinner since neither of us can really afford to eat out. But Martin and Martine usually occupy our kitchen and coffee table (which is the only thing in our apartment that could be considered a legitimate eating surface... except possibly the desk in Martin's room). I asked Becca if we could do something at her place and she told me about her roommate. She lives with a woman in her forties, apparently she is not allowed to have guests, and one time she came home and there was a naked man on her table... then her roommate showed up, also naked. I was grateful that Martin and Martine never made love on our coffee table (which is the only thing in our apartment that could be considered a legitimate eating surface) but at the same time I was kind of jealous of her crazy roommate/stories.

Anyway, that's how we ended up at the Hotel du Nord. It's a restaurant/bar somewhat close to my school, it's on the Canal Saint-martin. Becca had been there once before, searching for live guitar music inspired by Django Reinhardt that she never found.
There wasn't any music the night that we were there either. But there was a group of well dressed, soft looking girls sharing a bottle of wine at the table next to us. And a ruggedly handsome bar tender that looked like he walked right out of a adventure romance novel. Becca was enthralled by the bartender and even a fully heterosexual man like myself had to admit that he was nice to look at. But I was much more interested in the girls.

At one point in the evening I turned my head, pretending to look for the waiter, but in reality discreetly checking out the table next door. There was a variety. One cute, petite, bright blue eyes, black and white horizontal stripes (so French). One exotic, dark hair, dark complexion, dark eyes. One high class, little black dress, black nylons, red lips. And then there was one seated directly on my right wearing a jeans/sweater/jacket combo that looked like the "girl next door", blond hair, fair skin, warm smile. She was the one that caught me. When I had turned my head, she had turned hers as well. We made eye contact... she didn't look away... I blinked... she was still there, still looking at me. Her eyebrows raised.

Girl next door: Yes?

I just shrugged and shook my head as if I had no idea what she was talking about.

Girl next door: Oh... I thought you were going to ask me a question.

Me: No. I wasn't. Unless you want me to... Do you want me to ask you a question?

This time she did the shrugging and head shaking.

Me: Well, how about this. If I think of something I want to know I'll get back to you.

Turning back to my dinner I found Becca grinning.

Becca: I have a question for her. Ask her where she got that jacket she's wearing.

She was serious. But there was no way I was going to lean over and ask this girl where she purchased an article of clothing. Then, partly because she thought it was funny and partly because she really wanted to more about the jacket, Becca pulled the "It's my last day in Paris" card. What could I do.

Me: Excuse me, yeah actually I did think of something... we've been admiring your jacket and I wanted to know where you got it.

This lead to a long conversation that I didn't understand, even if it was in English. Becca took over for me after the initial question and they talked about shoes and handbags and designer labels. I hung in there though, and when appropriate I gleaned what useful information I could. The girls were from Switzerland... mostly. They were good friends in an international high school (which meant that they were young and rich and Anglophones) but had graduated two years before and gone to different universities across Europe.  The girl next door was Christine from Zurich, the exotic one was Aya from Cairo, the high class one was Claire also from Zurich, and the little french looking one was Anne-Sophie from Lausanne. After fashion the subject of the boys came up... to my understanding this is the regular order of topical progression observed in most girl on girl conversations.

Becca: How do you find the men in Paris?

Christine: Personally I don't think they are anything special.

Becca: Really? I've been here for a while now and I still fall in love daily.

Me: The bartender's quite handsome.

The bartender. The whole table had definitely noticed the bartender. Encouraged by a couple glasses of wine the girls began to come up with a plan to take his photo. But I was sober... and heterosexual, so I was far less interested. Eventually the girls decided that I would tell the bartender I was a photographer and that his look "inspired" me and ask him if I could take his picture. I agreed to ask him for a photo and they insisted again that I tell him he "inspired" me. Little details like that are important to a group of twenty year old girls.
But I didn't say anything like that, I just told him I was a photographer and I asked if I could take his photo.He was nice enough, his name was Laurent Jumeaucourt, which I thought a fitting name for the French Casanova I assumed him to be. He told me how he had done some modeling and acting and was just being a bartender to pay the bills he gave me his email and told me to keep him in mind if I ever needed a model.

I returned to the girls to find Becca and Christine in the middle of an intense conversation about outdoor markets in Paris. Christine offered to email her directions to the Marché au Puces at Porte de Clignancourt. I interrupted with the bartender's picture and offered his email address to anyone who was interested.

Aya: I knew it. He's gay.

Claire: He's probably bi.

Me: He isn't gay, he's just networking.

Christine: He's networking with you because he thinks your gay.

Me: Why would he think I was gay?


Becca: We all thought you were gay... Well not me, because I know you. But they did.

They thought I was gay. This is why you don't ask girls about their clothes or make comments on the appearance of other men. No wonder they insisted I tell him he "inspired" me. I assured them that I was not gay, and they apologized for using me to test the bartenders sexuality and offered to buy me a drink... but I don't drink. This launched Aya into a long discourse about the pointlessness of life and the need to do all you can to enjoy it before you just stop existing. She told me that 99% of the time she is an Atheist, but every now and then she doubts whether or not she actually knows that there is no God. I didn't really want to talk about this with someone who was so young and rich and tipsy. Besides it was a topic that I haven't been terribly interested in discussing lately. But Aya was getting talkative the way that drunk girls do so she continued, and I continued pretending to listen.. I was keeping an eye on Christine as she continued her female bonding with Becca.

The night marched on. We moved to the bar. The girls drank another round. And another. Becca said she needed to leave. She still had to pack but she said that I should should stay, that the girls thought I was cute and I should see if I could do something about that. It's Paris after all, she told me. We exchanged a bisou and said good bye.

Goodbye only friend I have in this city.

Hello, hot and young and rich girls from Switzerland... OK, hot, young, rich and drunk. Anne-Sophie was really drunk. She had obviously had too many for such a petite girl. She disappeared into the bathroom and didn't return for half an hour. Never having drank alcohol I can't really imagine what the draw is. Girls, especially young girls, are naturally self conscious so you'd think they would avoid something that made them look... well let's just say there is a reason they call it getting shitfaced. But maybe that's exactly why they do it, the judgment impairing side-effects allow them to escape the constant self doubt and self criticism. Regardless, Anne-Sophie returned from the bathroom looking like she was ready to pass out. I suggested that we get her a taxi. Christine said she was ready to head home as well, but Claire was now convinced that not only was the bartender heterosexual he was also interested in her. She asked Aya to stay out a bit longer and they ordered another drink while Christine and I escorted Anne-Sophie to the street where I hailed a taxi.

Despite Anne-Sophie's constant insisting that she was about to throw up, the taxi ride passed without incident. The girls were staying in a hotel near Bastille. Christine paid the taxi and I helped Anne-Sophie walk into the hotel. She finally passed out in the elevator. I carried her to the room and at Christine's suggestion dumped her in the armchair. I turned around, coming face to face with Christine. The hotel room was small and dark and clean. She touched my arm.
Chrstine: Thank you so much! This is really great of you.

Me: Well... yeah... no problem...

Twenty minutes later we were in her bed. She was unconscious... I had been crying. I cried because I had just been kissing one of the most beautiful girls I had ever touched... of course we didn't get very far before she essentially fell asleep on top of me... but I cried because the whole time all I could think of was you. Your body, your hair, your lips. I loved those lips. I cried because this was the first time since you... Like the official seal on our goodbye. We see other people now you know... in other countries. Finding myself in bed with another woman makes me wonder where you are... where you have been for the last 6 months. Where have you been finding yourself lately? What encounters have you had out there in the darkness?

...Have they been as meaningless as this one?

I sat up. Christine was face down on the bed next to me, breathing rhythmically. Anne-Sophie was sitting in the armchair at the foot of the bed, still asleep, I put her to bed and I left. I will never see them again I told myself as I stepped out of the hotel... into the night. I had no idea where I was, all I knew was that it was late and the metro was closed and I would have to go on foot. I wandered a couple of blocks before I found a familiar landmark. The Colone de Juillet.

Once again I found myself  walking along the Canal St. Martin... now on the other end of the canal near where it meets with the Seinne. I headed towards the colone, or in English column. The large pillar in the center of the Place de la Bastille commemorating the three days of revolution in July of 1830. The column was not intended to commemorate the actual storming of the Bastille in 1789, but because of it's location that's what it has become for most of the tourists and Parisiens alike. But with a history of revolution as complicated as France's there is bound to be some confusion. People are the same way. We collect so many scars over a lifetime that sometimes it can be hard to trace a specific scar to a specific wound... to a specific when and where... and who.

As I reached the Place de la Bastille it began to rain. Hard. I thought briefly about taking a taxi but I'm not really a taxi kind of person, socioeconomically speaking. Instead I stood under the Opera Bastille and watched the rain. Standing there watching the water throw itself against the pavement my thoughts turned back to you... to how I hate you. I hate you because you didn't stay and I hate you because your ghost never left.

After about fifteen minutes the rain died down... and then it was back into the night. I have already come a long way, but I have much, much further to go.



Currently listening:

Nelly Furtado - Say It Right

Dental hygeine

You know what, I have pretty damn good dental hygiene. It's not much but it's something positive to hold on to as I floss my teeth in my tiny bathroom in front of my broken mirror. It's still cold in here. A whole building full of cold rooms stacked neatly one on top of the other, like my own private section of an ice cube tray. It's cold and small and lonely. But I haven't had a cavity in years. It's something. And I'm not overly obsessive about it either. I don't carry a tooth brush, or floss around with me. But I do floss every single day. And I brush every day, sometimes it's only once a day, at night before I go to bed, but I never miss a day. Which is why I can't stand that there is no floss in this country. OK, there is floss here but it's not nearly as common. I had to go to three grocery stores to find it. The first one normally had it but it was just out of stock at the moment, at the second one they didn't even know what I was talking about, and when they finally figured it out they told me that they don't cary it. Once I had finally tracked it down I ended up paying something like 4 or 5 euro (between 5 and seven dollars depending on the exchange rate) for one spool.

I squeeze a bit of toothpaste onto my toothbrush and begin massaging my teeth in a circular motion. I look in the mirror and think about school. It's an adventure of frustration and futility. The teacher doesn't allow any language but French to be spoken after the door has closed. I mean, it's not like I don't understand ANYTHING... it's just that I have trouble understanding mostly everything. After my first day the teacher asked me to stay after and talk with her(in English, of course). I told her the truth, it was hard for me to understand what was going on in class, but that I wanted to stay in her class because I would rather be challenged to learn faster than to be bored with a class I understood completely. I thought that after a week or so that I would start to understand more but I'm not progressing as quickly as I had hoped. I guess learning a language is like anything else, you have to take it one step at a time.

I spit. Then begin brushing the backside of my teeth, then tongue, then roof of my mouth...

I didn't always brush my teeth. In fact I had pretty terrible dental hygiene up until I graduated from high school. If you asked my friends from high school about it they would say that I never brushed my teeth. If you asked my college roommates they would say that I always did.

I have been to the dentist twice a year since I was six and every time they have told me I should brush and floss everyday. I never did. I always felt guilty about it too. Like God had given me a gift of teeth and I didn't care enough to practice basic hygiene. When other things in my life would go wrong I sometimes would think that maybe things would be different if I brushed my teeth more. I didn't think this often, but I thought it more than once. Now I don't really believe that any miraculous changes would have occurred if I had been an avid tooth brusher, but any time you aren't doing something you know you should do you doubt yourself, just like anytime you are convinced you are doing what you should you have a bit of extra confidence. And I kind of think that even things like dental hygiene have a spiritual aspect. Right now it's providing an unlikely barrier between me and absolute despair, so I guess that counts for something.

But when I was in high school, even with the dentist telling me that I needed to start brushing and even with all the painful drilling and cavity filling and occasional guilty feelings, I still never brushed my teeth. So what happened? Well, like the all normal human beings, I have never really cared for anything until I was going to lose it... One time I went to the dentist and they did a periodontal exam and told me I had pretty bad gingivitis and even some periodontitis, which the hygienist explained is when microorganisms in my my mouth cause the bone to deteriorate which eventually causes my teeth to fall out...

Hygienist: At this rate you will need dentures in your mid thirties.

I didn't want dentures. My mom has dentures. Dentures are annoying. Plus, loosing any part of your body permanently, even a tooth, is just kind of horrifying. My mouth was full of blood and saliva.

Me: Wha caa aa oo...

Hygienist: What? Oh hold on, you need to spit, let me get the vacuum... Close your lips... There you go.

Me: What can I do?

Hygienist: Well your gum tissue is bleeding a lot so I can tell you aren't flossing. You need to start flossing everyday. And brush as well. I'll give you a prescription mouthwash that will help fight the periodontitis, but it won't help unless you are FLOSSING and using the mouthwash everyday.

And so I started flossing. It wasn't an immediate transformation, but it was a start. Six months later I had another periodontal scan and there was little progress, so I flossed with a renewed determination and soon I was flossing everyday, and brushing, and then I started going to the dentist and not having cavities. And now I floss and brush everyday.

I spit. I rinse. Spit again. Wash my night guard under warm water and insert it into my mouth (I'm a jaw clenching, tooth grinder). I look at my reflection in the mirror, I look tired. For whatever reason, I've always done some of my best thinking in front of the mirror... maybe that's just because I spend a lot of time in front of the mirror. 3:23 AM. I really ought to be asleep by now...

But what was the point of all of this? I guess it's that I changed. Whether or not people can change is a heavily debated topic, and one that I've found myself on both sides of. But the fact is that I never used to brush my teeth... and now I do. Actually now I can't sleep if I haven't flossed and brushed. That gets annoying those times when I want to go straight to bed, like if I've been up late thinking or regretting or being cold. Anyway, some might call it trivial, but I changed. And if I can change in that way I suppose I can change in others... and maybe other things can change too. And if things can change, maybe I won't always be cold. Maybe I won't always be alone...



Currently watching:

L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)

Back to school

I start class tomorrow. As a college graduate I never thought I would set foot in a school again. Of course I never thought I'd be living in Europe either. Life is full of surprises I guess. I spent the better part of the last week looking at different language schools, all of which were expensive. In the end I chose the school that was the cheapest (around 400 Euros for two months). I wanted to take class in the morning but the evenings were less expensive. The problem with having nothing to do until 6 PM is that you end up doing nothing until 6 PM. At least I do. Living in Paris without a job and without anywhere to be, I have become somewhat nocturnal. This has happened to me before, once when I was unemployed for a few months, because I had no reason to get up in the morning, and another time when I was heart broken, because I found it hard to sleep at night... this time I'd say it's a little of both. I was hoping that having class in the morning would motivate me to go to bed earlier. But that would have cost another 50 Euros and well, sleeping during the day is the same price as sleeping at night. I wish all decisions were this simple and numerical.

My school is called Campus Langue it's in the north east of Paris off of line 7. I went there earlier today and paid all of my fees, bought all of the books. To be fair I haven't been to class yet but so far the best thing about the school is it's proximity to the Canal Saint-Martin, specifically the Bassin de la Villete. It's a charming little body of water originally built to bring drinkable water into the city. After I squared everything away for school I strolled along the bank. And now I am sitting on a park bench next to the canal, eating a kebab and watching a boat go through one of the locks. One of the streets that goes over the canal just pivoted to let boat through, and all of the traffic trying to cross to the other side of the canal has to wait. I wonder if this happens often. It's interesting but it takes forever. It's the kind of thing that you can watch once but if you had to deal with it everyday you would want to kill yourself.

I wonder if any one has ever jumped off any of these bridges? Not that any of the canal's bridges are high enough to properly kill yourself from. There are a couple over the Seine that might work. In America about half of suicides involve a firearm. Like Hemingway's. In France people jump from buildings or hang themselves. Maybe it's because guns are not legal in France... or maybe they prefer the old fashioned methods because of their strong connection with traditions. French people also kill themselves more often than Americans. And French men are two and a half times more likely to kill themselves than French women. Interesting isn't it? And I wouldn't be surprised to find out that suicide was more common here during winter... I have been reading a lot about suicide lately, but I wouldn't read too much into that. I just payed for two months of school and I'm determined to get my money's worth. So I'll be around for a little while longer at least.

In other news, I've been listening to a lot of French rap lately, and while I don't really understand most of it, it seems to be a lot more political than the rap in America. I like that. Rap in America is all about getting high or getting laid or getting killed... or being really good at rapping. I shared some French rap with Becca and... well she wasn't as enthralled with it as I am. She prefers American music. Incidentally she is moving back to America this month. I guess her internship is over in a week or so. She says she is going to try to move back out here but it's all uncertain at the moment. You should meet her... except she is from the south, so it's not exactly next door. If you do get together, I'm sure you can enjoy listening to Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros together since you both love it so much... not that I don't like that song... it just seems like most songs in America have to be about love and sex and relationships in order for anyone to care. But maybe the music is the same here... like I said I don't understand most of it.

Come to think of it, the water in this canal is probably freezing. If I jumped in there's a slight possibility that my heart would stop working.

It's something to think about...



Currently listening:

Puisqu'Il Faut Vivre

Soprano - Ferme les yeux imagine toi