I’d always seen you and loved you from afar. In movies. In postcards. In my mind… envisioning myself at one of your cafes, drinking an espresso (though I’m not a fan of coffee), smoking a cigarette (though I’m not a fan of tobacco), having witty repartee in fluent French with some guy that I liked much less than you. Oh yes, and I’d be doing all of this in crimson-red lipstick, and a black and white striped sweater while basking in your light. Paris– golden and ideal.
Paris, I studied your language for years, so that I could understand you and relate to you. Language is always the first step, isn’t it? I listened to your music, watched the movies in which you were featured, became familiar with your celebrities: Yvan Attal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melvil Poupaud, Marillon Cotillard. Their grace, beauty and talents were a reflection of you. I wasn’t a Francophile, I was a Parisphile… obsessed/obsessed/obsessed.
Then, in spring of 2010, after many years and many films, and many classes at the Alliance française, I met you. Oh, the feeling. When I sat in one of your 200 parks, with a baguette in one hand, and a mimosa in the other, I knew that we were meant to be together forever. It was March, but your sun warmed me inside and out.
A year and a half later, we reunited. Your Tour Eiffel sat on my desk at work, a gift from my wonderful boss (in a not so wonderful job), and I knew that we’d reconnect. Your most revered symbol, and perhaps the most visited tourist attraction in the world, rested on my desk, on my mind, and everyday I plotted how to see you again.
And so it happened. In June, I gave up my job to come to you. Exactly as Peaches and Herb sang, all summer long, I’ve been singing and screaming and exclaiming, “Reunited and it feels so good.” It has. You have been amazing, living up to the promise. How many things do that? My adoration for you was complete, only to be rivaled with my adoration for The Gloved One. When my friend Nadia, said that she’d come to visit us this weekend, I wanted her to see you and love you as much as I. Your charms didn’t impress her on her previous visit, and I just knew she’d change her mind once she saw how absolutely perfect you are. There’s no rudeness, arrogance, or ill-will in Paris. Never.
Sadly, she was harassed by three police officers at the airport. She was chosen at Charles de Gaulle for a random search, and your brash officials asked her why she doesn’t speak French, rifled through her underwear, and unscrewed her toothbrush. Sure, she was shaken, but I told her that all airport officials, in all countries are, for lack of a better word, pricks. That wasn’t you, that was “airport security.”
Then, today we left the hotel to find a nice cafe to live the “Parisian dream.” When I opened my purse to pay for something, lo and behold, the wallet was gone. The bright pink wallet with my money and bank card and credit card. Gone. Paris, I’ve been with you for many weeks now and have received nothing but love, so imagine my shock. I thought “could things between us be going sour?” Then I spoke to my mother on Skype, and she said, “Valerie, Paris isn’t perfect.” She told me that you weren’t perfect, that you weren’t heaven, and it amazed me, because I thought you were. So, Nadia and I went out and enjoyed our Saturday:
* In a cafe, you’ll never be rushed, never be hurried; buy a crepe and spend four hours catching up with your friend.
Paris, as my mother says ”you’re not heaven,” and yes you’ve disappointed me (your large number of pickpockets at least), but I realize that one needs to be very, very careful with his/her wallet, and also that I’ll always love you (cue Whitney Houston).