It’s noon, and a group of newly arrived students trickles out of the Hôtel Châtelet Victoria and gathers on the sidewalk where they are briefed by their older and presumably wiser instructor before being led away towards the Place du Châtelet and on to who-knows-where—Notre Dame, Saint Michele, Cluny, La Sorbonne, all patiently waiting to impress. The shortest (girl) and tallest (guy) walk together, bringing up the rear.
Up the rear… “Up yours!”—“Enculée!” (On-que-lay) I want to yell at this terrible city. Leave it to the tourists and wide-eyed exchange students. Just as everyone comes flooding back after summer break and long August vacations, I am packing my bags. Will I miss the noise of the sirens and motorcycles and busses and delivery trucks on the streets below? No. The wandering, screaming, sometimes singing drunks in the middle of the night? No. The piss at our door? The homeless woman who sleeps on the metro vent across the street and doesn’t accept food? The Italian landlord who never returns our calls? No, no and no. And I certainly won’t miss the public service clerks telling me “No.” Will I miss the scolding—in restaurants, stores, the metro, and at the markets? No. At least I hope not.
The pets are all cleared for their long voyage back to the states—two days of paperwork and visits to Dr. Payancé for health examinations and rabies vaccinations. We spent Saturday chasing around the suburbs looking at three-story houses with yards. Three stories… his, mine, and ours. He needs rooms where he can breathe easier, rooms off-limits to the animals, doors to close to keep out the allergens, windows that open onto green. The house in the quaintest town was too far from the city, too many trains to his work. The nicest house was just 100 meters from the train station—a station on the most direct line for traversing the city each morning and night—in a big, small town with little charm, though it boasts a chateau at the end of the wide main street and a forest on the other side of the tracks. But at the end of the day, we couldn’t decide to move out of the city we love.
So with only this day left before leaving, I have manuscripts to polish and post. If I wait until I get “home,” friends and family will vie for my attention, and I fear that the work won’t get done. There are, after all, the proverbial i’s to dot and t’s to cross—words to revise, deadlines to meet, checks to write, envelopes to address. I’ll take Filou out. We’ll walk to BHV for paper, binder clips, and big envelopes to carry my work away. I suppose I could put them all in my suitcase to mail from California, but I want traces of Paris on these packages… to match the subject matter printed on the pages.
I’m looking forward to being “home…” at least for a while. He’s going home, too… to Tunisia for the end of Ramadan, but only for a week. I suspect the weeks without the animals and me will be harder on him than the time away will be on me. I’ll miss the autumn sun slanting through the windowpanes. I will miss our dinners together—at home and in our favorite restaurants. I will miss walking… and walking, drinking wine and cappuccinos in cafés and watching the myriad Parisians pass. I will miss Saturdays at Shakespeare & Company, and David… his Spoken Word nights. I’ll miss Alexa’s frank and saucy tales. I will miss Ellise… our freakishly parallel lives spilled over salads and Gamay in Montmartre. But I’ll be back… at least for a while. I always imagined a bi-continental life. Maybe all these complications are just the universe at work making the decisions I haven’t been able to make for myself.
Last week’s flowers on the dining table are pretty much dead, ready to go out with the last bag of trash. I smoke a cigarette in the bathroom where the last load of laundry turns in the machine. It’s taken me a year to find the smoothest setting, having always used the “E” cycles which make the machine jump and clatter on the white-hard tile. I loose myself in the whir of the non-economical spin. The air is cold and the sun moves further away. I hang my wet clothes on the rack by the bedroom window and hope they’ll be dry by tomorrow.