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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

tainted love

I can barely keep my eyes open. My body feels numb. I’m getting a cold. I had cereal for dinner.

But I’m feeling good about life.

This job is full of high and lows. Some days seem so easy, and others are full of struggles, spills, screams and me saying sorry for something else I’ve done wrong.

Today I was at the family’s apartment at 8:30 to take the kids to tennis, forcing a smile after a night of very little sleep.

I was tired enough to get off at the wrong metro stop with the kids, and got lost in the outskirts of Paris.

“We’re going to be late!” They kept screaming up at me. "It happens," I'd answer, confused by my own calm.

At one point the young girl, often funny without trying to be, said: "All the other au pairs got lost at some point," only to add, "but we were never this late." Somehow we got there. We weren't too late, and we arrived still smiling.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly, other than a few scrapes and spills.

Another young girl came over, and the two ran around in costumes, spreading toys all over the floor and making a small mess everywhere. The young boy played Star Wars on his playstation. Eventually I convinced them all to sit on the floor and do crafts rather than watch TV. This is my down time. Everyone goes fairly silent as we lie on the floor creating what we desire. I always draw, and the girl makes me add glitter, then takes my drawings and happily stashes them in pink drawers.

By the time Madame came home I could barely keep my eyes open. I dragged my body to the store to buy them toilet paper and garbage bags, my life having become one big to-do list.

But it’s okay. The kids are comfortable with me now. And vice versa. We play games all day. I allow them small liberties. And every so often they look up at and offer a tender smile.

Tired and immobile as I am, I’m feeling good about it all. Life is often hell. But it makes the good moments heaven.

Good and bad days, I want all of them. I want to be tainted, torn, tattered. I look at myself and realize I still have so much to experience. I want to have a love affair with life, full of lust and love, pain and pleasure, health and hangovers, highs and lows.

Paris is just the beginning.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

men and onions make me cry

I didn't sleep very well last night. My head ached, my nerves were shot, and everytime I went to the bathroom I turned on every light, looked far down the hallway, and had my cell phone in hand, just in case.

I sent a message to the young man causing me grief, and basically said that I didn't want to be his friend, that he made me uneasy, and that I didn't want to see him ever again.

In the morning I spoke to the woman I work for. She is a hard headed business woman and a quick thinker. She got the painter's number from me, called her husband, and made him call the guy to tell him that he couldn't ever see me again, and that if he attempted to, his company would be called and he would be fired from his job. I was later told that he seemed understanding, that he said he had gotten my message and was going to leave me alone.

But she also went over a few things with me.

For one thing she said that in France you don't mix with people who are of a lower class than you. That a girl like me wasn't to make friends with a painter.

I protested. I have done painting jobs, I have friends that are painters, and I have made good friends with proffessional painters. She told me that it must've been an exception. That it's okay if it's a student working as a painter on the side, but not if it's their job. "But..." I protested as she continued.

She then told me that I dressed too sexy, nodding at my low rise jeans and tank top. "French women dress chic, but not sexy. It sends out a bad image."

She was giving me advice. Honest advice. She is straightforward. She told me I shouldn't talk to strangers, or give out my number.

But my hopes and heart hit the floor. My eyes started to water. She rubbed my back. "What is it that you're afraid? Lonely?" She asked. "It's all of it," I answered.

I stood there, feeling dumb, naive, and underly dressed. I thought I had been doing so well by leaving my short skirts tucked away under my bed.

I stood there feeling like Paris was up against me. Like everything I believed in wasn't accepted here. I don't believe in class systems, judging or labelling people, and I like to wear whatever I feel good in.

I went to the grocery store with red eyes, bought myself some cereal, went home and fed myself.

I cried again later, but that's only because I was cutting onions to make an onion tart. I cut more onions than I have in years-my eyes are extremely sensitive to them-telling myself I had to learn to handle pain.

The onion tart, baked with tears, was delicious. Even if the kids hated it.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

because my intuition doesn't like you

Had a beautiful afternoon I can't even begin to describe. After a pastry and cafe creme I walked along the Seine until my legs felt like they were going to fall off, and felt truly in love with Paris. I felt like I was seeing it through new eyes. I felt like I was seeing the Paris I'd been looking for all along. The light hit the buildings just right, people were in a good mood, and I felt good.

And then I got home. First wierd thing: the bathroom down the hall was locked. So I knocked. No answer. No noise. Had they switched the lock on me? My key wouldn't work. So I went and spoke to a man, who came back up with me with his key. But when we got there the bathroom door was open. "There must've been someone in there," he told me. But why hadn't they said anything?

And then I got a message on my phone. My phone has an incredibly loud and terrifying ringer to it, because I'm deaf at times. The first message said "Are you sleeping?" It was from the painter. I had told him I didn't want to see him today because I wanted to go jogging and have time to myself. And then another message, which made me start shaking: "The ring on your phone is incredibly loud." "What?" I responded. "The ring on your phone. It could scare you." But I was already scared. Where was he? This guy knows where I live because he was painting our elevator, and has already dropped by on two occasions to see what I was up to. "Where are you? Are you here?" I wrote back. "No, I'm at my place, but I hear everything." No fucking way. This guy lives in the next arrondissement. And then "Count to ten and open your window." I don't know if he was trying to be cute or scare the shit out of me. But I was scared. I closed the curtain. I paced. Then I grabbed my keys and went outside to see him standing there.

"How did you hear my ring? Where were you?"
"At my house, but I hear everything."
"No, really. There's no way. How?"
"I just did, because it's your ring."
"I was down the stairs a bit..."
"You can't show up like this. I need my private space."

I didn't know how to get him to leave me alone. How to make the message clear. I told him I was dealing with something personal. And no, I didn't want to talk about it. But I couldn't see him, or hang out with him, and I needed to be alone. He wanted me to talk about it. It's personal, I said, I don't want to talk about it.

"Can we see each other in a month?"

This guy's persistence makes me nervous. I had told him at one point that we could be "friends" because I wanted no romantic involvement with him. But after he showed up twice, I didn't want even that. I didn't like the way I became angry everytime I saw him. I didn't like the way something inside of me just couldn't like him. I like people. This doesn't happen all the time. And although he seems completely harmless, something in me just says no.

He was baffled. I couldn't explain. But I kept a straight serious face, told him to forget me, and went to my room and shut the door. I heard him take the elevator down.

I'm still shaking a little. I don't know what to think.

All I know is someone who intrudes my personal space like this, is not someone I want to know.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

the unknown soldier

It's strange, this being alone.

I've been alone a lot in my life. Mostly out of choice.

Alone time is precious when you live somewhere where you know people, where everything's familiar, where you go home to someone else being there. It's different when it wraps itslef around you, morning and night, waking up with you, following you down the street, into cafes, through shops and museums, and into your apartment at the end of the day, when you crawl into bed with yourself.

I've never been alone to this extreme.

There are a few people I could call, but my fingers don't seem to want to dial their numbers. One a young man, who I met because he was painting our elevator, is really eager to be my friend and keeps calling me. But I don't feel at ease with him, he gets on my nerves, and there's no right way to say "I don't want to hang out with you." I could call the Columbians, but my energy isn't high enough to keep up with them right now.

And part of me doesn't want to share these days. These precious days where I make plans based on intuition and feel out what I want to do.

I may not be building relationships with those around me, but my relationship with myself is blooming. I'm really trying to find what makes me happy, what brings me down, and what stops me from sleeping at night. I worked against myself for so many years that I'm really trying to make up for it. I want to work with myself. Let myself grow. See what's going on inside my head.

I spent today at the modern art museum in the Georges Pompidou centre. I like modern art because it's incredibly interpretive. I walked around alone, laughing out loud at many pieces. From Picasso's naked woman sprawled on a couch, to a sculpture of a man who would randomly fall forward and clang against a big bell, I couldn't help it. I couldn't help but smile either, everytime something grabbed me, or I saw real Picasso or Matisse hanging on the wall.

Aferwards I walked over an hour to the Pere Lachaise cemetery, blisters forming all over my feet, only to have the guard tell me they were closing. "Vous etes serieux?" I asked, baffled. "Oui, il ferme a 6 heures." What would Jim Morrison say to this? All I wanted to do was give him and Edith Piaf a quick hello, exchange some wisdom, and be on my merry way. But the guard with the large gut said non. So I sat down outside the entrance, applied my last band aids to my blisters, laughed to myself again, and hobbled to the metro.

It's evening now, and I'm in my aparment. Alone. Feet too sore to go anywhere. But atleast I'm in good company.

grey sky over Paris

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

i could eat the sun

Even the woman at the Patisserie half smiled at me today. Normally she stares at me with a permanent scowl on her face, remaining expressionless as I make chirpy chit chat and give her the wrong change.

Today it was her who was working slowly with the change, "Sorry, I'm a little lost today," she said in French, in a self-mockery tone, "It's okay," I smiled, "so am I."

And I was. Just ten minutes before I had rolled out of bed, realizing I had to get a baguette and pick the kids up from school pronto. I threw on some clean clothing, put on a dab of make-up, forgot deoderant altogether, and headed out the door.

Rather than feel flustered I felt light and confident. It was such a beautiful day that I let it rub off on me, seep into my skin, and let me feel that way as well.

I met the kids with a smile, nibbling away at the baguette. I took them home, fed them, made them clean their rooms, took them back to school, and had the rest of the day for personal freedom.

Given the grace of another afternoon off, I took off to a trendy shopping district of Paris to walk and wander around stores I can't afford, and take in the latest trends in fashion.

I looked at designer shoes at Bon Marche, and was taken aback when I found a whole section they had devoted to New York. On the second floor is a small area, with little rooms split off into different New York labels. They even had a small grocery section, where I warmed by the familiar sights of peanut butter, Jones soda, brownie mix, marshmallows and other American goodies us Canadians enjoy as well.

Even more impressive is the Bon Marche Epicerie, where I walked around with my jaw hanging open. It's the ultimate grocery store. They have food from all over the world, including Irish oatmeal, peanut butter, and Japanese condiments, all of which I'll be coming back for. Good grocery stores are like museums for me, and I walk around admiring spices, sauces and different types of chocolate as if their the finest Renaissance paintings, placed carefully on supermarket shelves.

The candy section set off my sweet tooth, and I headed to Starbucks, because as much as I love Parisian cafes, they don't sell caramel frappucinos. The ultimate satisfaction. What else will feed my caffeine, sugar, and fatty whip cream habit all in one go?

Fully fueled I wandered more. Finally made it to Colette, the three floored store for all those who are hip and with it. Downstairs is a water bar, first floor is beautiful graphic art books, skin care, CDs and knick knacks, and upstairs is gorgeous clothing, dressed up on mannequins. I wanted to take a short black dress and bolero home with me, but they were worth more than my apartment.

With my love for fashion and food in full thrive, it's great to be here. To fully appreciate it I really need to make myself get out as much as possible. This is much easier with a full night's sleep and a good mood. It's not a city made for sulking, at least not on a day like today.

balcony view
admiring the sky
new york section at Bon Marche
parisian cafe
place vendome
artist by the opera

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

blonde ambition

She met me in front of the church with a bouquet of flowers and a big smile. I think I was still a little girl the last time I saw that smile in person.

But there she stood in the flesh: a tall, natural beauty, with an angelic face and a small black suit case.

in my apartment

Through our families Jen and I have known each other since I was in pampers. I have the home videos to prove it. She adored me when I was younger, always giving me the full attention my big blonde head demanded. And even though it's been years since we've seen each other in the flesh, we kept in touch through blogs and emails, and it felt like having a close friend arrive in Paris.

Then again, I'm pretty sure a lot of people could feel like Jen was an old friend from the start. Her easy going nature makes her extremely approachable. Could that be the reason the guy at the table next to us told us every detail of his wife's scandalous affair while we sipped wine at a bar? Either that or he saw her smile.

It was great to have a visitor. Not to mention one who brought me the ultimate goodie bag: instant oatmeal (upon request), fashion magazines (in English), four great books (can't stop reading Kitchen Confidential), four toothbrushes (she works for Colgate), Tazo tea (how she knew I was a tea addict, no one knows), and a sample kit of Burt's Bees amazing pampering products.

But beyond my love of the material goods, it was great being able to sit back and talk to a woman with a brain in her head. From her marathon running, to her great job, to her appreciation of solitude, she's definitely an inspiration.

And when she bit into her pain au raisin and declared "Life is good!" I knew she was someone I was happy to spend some time with.

morning departure
(Last photo, early in the morning as I head to work and Jen heads to the train station.)

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

a walk around paris

It was a weekend to be in love. With the sky, the Seine, the faces that passed me in the streets, the boutiques, the food and the city istself.

I basically spent my whole weekend getting lost. Mostly on purpose. I let myself discover new restaurants, new stores, and new sides of Paris. Saturday evening wasn't so pleasant, when I got lost in the middle of nowhere trying to find a restaurant, hoping to meet my new friends, and had no luck. I headed back to the city centre, fell fat on my face in the metro, and didn't get to eat dinner until 10:30 in the evening, when I sat in a sushi bar cramming what I could afford down my throat. I felt starved, alone, and intrigued by Edith Piaf's face that played on the TV behind the bar.

But other than Saturday night, most of my getting lost in Paris has been a pleasant experience. I follow my intuition, change my plans by the minute, and let my feet lead the way.

My lazy Sunday has been spent in les Bois de Boulogne, the biggest forest in Paris, that stretches on for miles. I didn't know where I was going at first. I went to the park thinking I was just going to sit, eat my chocolate tart, then take the metro to some other location in Paris, but ended up following a path which led me deep into the woods. I lay by one of the many lakes, resting and watching as families and lovers passed in row boats, and followed paths that led me to me nature.

These days are made for dreaming.

where's the seine?
jewels on display
an artist capures notre dame
street jazz
paris pup
angel in the window
blonde by the lake

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

the underground blues

After checking out all the entertainment of the local bars, I end up at Caveau de la Huchette, drawn in by the promise of some swinging blues music. I buy my drink and saunter downstairs, where I get exactly what I'm looking for.

In front of me a woman in her fifties spins and twirls around the dance floor. Her short black skirt lifts with every movement, but is careful to only reveal her black tights, and nothing more. Only her face reveals her age, as she grasps her grey haired partner’s hand and leans way down into the ground.

I clutch my Jack Daniels and Coke, and try not to spill on the people in front of me as I tap my fingers to the contagious beat.

On stage a French man sings American blues, and although most of his band looks ready to retire, their music brings the room to life. The one young man in the group plays his electric guitar in the back, and is the only one to scrunch up his face like an old Blues musician, a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

There are many people here, crowded into this underground bar that must have been dancing to the Blues for years.

At one point the older waiter with the crowbar mustache sets down his tray and takes over the dance floor. He grabs a partner, and proceeds to prove he’s the best dancer in the room. His legs have a life of their own, and must be wired up to the music. His partner is a beautiful young black woman, an amazing dancer, but nothing in comparison to him. He has complete control of her as he swings her back and forth, grabs her hand, and then throws her forward. I can’t help but imagine him in his youth, young, handsome, and seducing all the ladies in the bar with his dancing.

I, for one, can’t twirl. I only get dizzy and confused. So I sit tucked into a tiny bench with a ledge for drinks, watching the dance floor with envy. I get talking to an American woman, living in England, who was taken her daughter to Paris as a gift before she goes back to University. Her daughter is vibrant, looks somewhat Egyptian, and begs her mom for her wallet with a heavy British accent so she can get drunk. She looks almost like a young cartoon when she speaks, her expressions alive and exaggerated.

By the end of the night I know a lot about the woman beside me. She speaks to me with ease and enthusiasm, about her son, about journalism, about her job as a flight attendant and her daughter’s education. I might meet them at a traditional French restaurant for dinner tonight.

I take off to catch my last metro soon after I'm asked to dance by an older Frenchman. I tell him my feet hurt, and then realize I have to go anyways. I'll have to wait until next time to try a twirl or two.

caveau de la huchette

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Friday, September 16, 2005

comfortable, it's the same word in french

I'm letting my skin go pale. I'm not smiling as much. I'm walking at a fast pace, eyes staring straight ahead.

In true Parisian fashion, I walk these streets, and everyday it gets a little more comfortable.

The kids smile when they see me now, they laugh at my jokes, compliment my drawings, and the little girl asks me to sing songs from a book. She crawls up into me every chance she gets, and forces fake cries as an excuse for me to pick her up and smother her in sympathy.

They're getting to know me, and I'm giving them as much as I can. I listen attentively to stories about monster trucks and Star Wars, their eyes as big as the Eiffel tower. I run after them in the streets, playing tag, as primped French women give me dirty looks.

There are times where I think I've really got this Mary Poppins thing down, like when the parents came home to find them cuddled up in me as I read to them about space. Or when I pop a perfect roast chicken out of the oven with a Stepford Wives smile.

And then I forget my keys at the end of the night, and crawl back to their apartment late in the night to fetch them. Or the little girl runs ahead of me and gets hit by a car (luckily it just tapped her, and she acted as if nothing happened). Or I forget the boy's backpack at the Patisserie when we go to buy a baguette, his eyes burning through me as we march back from the park to fetch it.

Today I've been left a list of specific instructions for the day. It's timed by the minute and to be followed with precision, from leaving the park at 4:45 to the times the kids must take their baths and clean their rooms after dinner. This won't be easy, as I like to go with the flow, always too relaxed. I still laugh at all the things that make the parents furious.

But it's getting easier. And as of today, I have internet in my room. Outside the rain falls, and Parisians rush through the streets with serious faces, their legs declaring they have somewhere to go. So I'm sitting comfortably, having a long lazy morning, and preparing myself for a hectic afternoon.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

a song for the south

The weight in me lifted as the train made its way out of the city and into the vastness of the country. I brought no books, no music; no distractions for my five-hour train ride. I sat still most of the way, and let myself be soothed by the passing fields.

The lightness stayed with me all weekend. Back in the small town of Castelnau de Montmiral, surrounded by a soft landscape of fields and vineyards, I found the calm I was looking for. I found the calm in myself I was starting to lose a hold of.

afternoon table

Not only this, but I came back to somewhere that felt like home. Where the young girl down the street thanked me profusely when I gave her the small metal Eiffel tower I’d promised her, where my neighbor gave me two huge jars of homemade fig jam, where I sat with the restaurant staff late after work, sipping on whiskey and talking about music.

my street

I spent my few days there on my own, walking, resting, reading, and eating meals of bread smothered in country honey, and whatever I could find in the pantry. In the evenings I walked down the street to the restaurant, where I knew that anything I ordered would be gastronomical, and that the waiter would be a familiar face.


My first night I went to the restaurant asking for a table for one, and ended up sitting with 11 men who rode motorbikes behind the cyclists for the Tour de France. They insisted, so I took a heavy dose of testosterone with my memorable meal of duck, raspberry sauce and crispy pastry. At the end of the night I had a few new friends and a free meal.

Afterwards, as I blasted music through the house, one of the young men knocked on my door. I invited him in for a drink, had a long honest conversation, then took him to the bar to meet up with my friends. My friends eventually replaced the young man, and made their way back to my place for more drinking and more music.

reflecting the sky

I got everything out of my stay that I was looking for. The late night conversations. The long walks. The calm. The stars at night. The heavy rain that pours down for an hour and then stops completely. A familiar setting.

through the leaves

Nevertheless, I’m glad to be back in my city. When two young men came on the metro with a portable stereo, and played their flutes to snake charming music, I was excited to be back in the life of it all. It was nice to see the glow of the Eiffel tower again, to see so many cafes open at night, and to see the influence of fashion on so many of the metro passengers.

And when I picked up the kids at school the next day, they seemed genuinely happy to see me. Vive Paris, the adventure continues!


I sat wearing all black, drinking a black coffee, and wrote this poem, just because:

One day you step out the door
And all you see are unfamiliar faces.
You are nameless,
Another body, in the body of it all.
You only want to go out at night,
When the shadows hide your face.
The light is too revealing,
And you feel on display,
Like a mannequin in a window,
What garments will you wear today?
So now you wear only black,
Thinking you might blend in,
And you sneer at all the strangers,
Who tell you to smile more.
If only they knew how wrong it felt,
To mold your lips
So unwillingly,
Into an image of happiness,
You barely remember.
All you remember,
Is one day it faded to black.
One day you closed the curtains,
And they didn’t seem to open
After that.
It started with your morning coffee,
Black and empty,
And crawled back into bed with you at night.


I sat around a table of males,
And felt the ability to love any of them.
The whiskey had warmed my heart,
Reminded my body of making love,
And the candles I had lit,
Made their faces glow like romance.
They talked about girls,
As a joint was passed around the table,
Saying “She’s a one night kind of girl,”
Or “That one talked too much.”
And I wonder what they say about me,
Hoping I’m at least worth two nights.
They talk about literature, music,
The way they feel about their looks.
I can’t help but be impressed
By their honesty,
After all the conversations
I’ve heard between young men,
Who always had something to prove.
They left early in the morning
After polishing off the bottle of whiskey.
Part of me wanted to hold one back,
To warm my bed,
But I watched them leave,
And took a bath instead.
I held myself,
As I fell asleep,
My arms as strong
As any man.


I take the train back to Paris,
And it’s cold.
Outside the sky is a deep dreamy grey,
And somehow the darkness comforts me.
The cold air of fall has taken over;
Wraps itself around me.
I’m reminded of all the times it’s done
This before,
Of the times I’d walk home from school
Crunching leaves under my feet,
Trying not to let the weight of my knapsack
Break my back,
As I headed hungrily towards the house
For an after school snack.
Even the thought of these days warms me;
The image of the orange tiles
Of my kitchen floor,
Of the cupboards in yellow wood,
And the Mexican masks,
Pinned on the wall by the oven.
The grey sky outside the train gets heavier,
But all of our bodies are tucked in here,
Glowing under the yellow lights that lace the ceiling.
We’re tucked into our seats with distractions:
Books, music, journals and food,
All headed back to Paris,
Where we’ll climb out,
Lugging bags too big for us,
The grey sky
Having turned to black.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

out of the gutter

I sit in my room with the window wide open. I have a view of a staircase, an elevator, and buildings in the distance, beyond the balcony. I can hear sirens down the street, and a kid screaming in the apartment underneath me.

It’s hot and humid. I have a traditional nanny apartment, located under the roof, where the heat in summer is almost unbearable.

But I feel relaxed. I have a glass of red wine beside me, and a lightness to me I thought I had lost.

Walking back from the park with the kids today, the Eiffel tower lay before me, larger than life, glowing in the distance. And it hit me: I’m here. After months of envisioning my life here, it’s unwrapping before my eyes.

I’m here, with two small children that I have to feed before they start whining and gnawing at my nerves. I’m here, regaining my independence, living out a dream, and taking on an entirely new lifestyle.

Everyday I enjoy my own company more, and am remembering how much I love solitude rather than loathe it. When I’m not taking care of the children, it’s about me, and I indulge in this me time with gratitude.

I’m learning a lot about these miniature people that yell a lot. You know, the things that pop out of women’s swollen bellies? The things that make us buy condoms in bulk and pop a magic pill everyday? Kids. Yeah. Those.

And I’ve realized that it’s me who needs to be patient. It’s me who needs to realize that they are still developing and that I must be there to help them. It’s me who needs to realize that the moments when they grab my hand, or kiss my cheek, make it all worth it.

So here I am. Figuring it all out. Figuring myself out. High and low.

For my high of the moment, my boss is job hunting (interview with Chanel tomorrow…sigh), and has given me Friday and Monday off. To add to this, I have been given a train ticket to the South, to my village of memories, as a birthday gift from my mother.

I can hardly wait to breathe in clean air, see the stars and take off on long walks. To talk to people who don't own anything Louis Vuitton and have yet to discover Starbucks. I was once a true city girl, but these days I wonder. It seems I crave the simple things more than anything.

So it’s back to the country for the long weekend, and a taste of somewhere that feels something like home to me right now.

It’s good to see myself smile again.

statue of liberty in paris
day for a boat ride
basking in the sun

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Monday, September 05, 2005

meet me in montmartre

I walked along the Seine with the sun glowing in the early evening.

I sang to myself as I passed the boats, the sun reflecting in the water, people lounging on their top decks.

I walked to Les Invalides, where there are large stretches of grass, and people sprawled out everywhere. Some play soccer, some play frisbee, and many lovers lay in the grass, bodies tangled up in each other.

I sat on a bench and watched it all. Caught my breath for the first time in days. I've been overwhelmed by all the changes taking place in my life. I haven't spent more than a year in one location in a long time. Grade 11 was Ireland, grade 12 was Vancouver, first year of university was Toronto, summer was the South of France, and now I'm in Paris.

There are moments where I feel as if I'm floating somewhere above all these locations. I have lost my sense of home, of permanence, of familiarity. This is invigorating and at the same time draining. The reward is that I slowly, through nights of tears and days of walking aimlessly, become more at one with myself.

But seeking company, I took off on the metro after sitting in the sun. I went off to Montmartre, where I met my new young friend, Yeliz and her older brother. Inside their family's restaurant I feel more comfortable than anywhere in Paris. There is a strong sense of family, as the mother greets me, brings me a drink, and they treat me to a feast of lamb, rice and salad.

Afterwards we took off towards the Sacre Coeur, where we walked around with ice creams dripping into our hands and our mouths. They showed me some streets I had yet to see, streets romantic as the Paris you dream about.

Everything is quaint through these streets, strewn with restaurants, bars and tourists. In one restaurant a man and woman sat across from each other at a small table. The man played the accordian as the woman sang. The woman was dressed like a gypsy, and moved her red lips mechanically as she stared at nothing in particular. In another restaurant all the waiters wear suspenders and berets. And then there are artists that surround the a central square, painting portraits or selling paintings of Paris.

Before saying goodbye we sat on the steps of the Sacre Coeur and stared at the city lights. All the buildings are minature from this height, and look like a child's playmobile set.

Although it's only been a week since I saw this brother sister team, they tell me they've missed me, and the young girl has been longing to see me all week. They are so warm and genuine that my heart explodes somewhere underneath my tank top.

I left them with a sense of well being.

And as I was riding the metro home, there was a girl who sat across from me who kissed her boyfriend goodbye, and then sat crying, fighting back tears in the same way I had a couple nights before.

And I said Parisians didn't cry in public.

I have a lot to learn.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

a date with solitude


What do you want out of life?

The car? The kids? The family?

The perfect job? The briefcase?

The fame? The fortune?

The beautiful wife? The swimming pool?

The vegetable garden? The summer cabin?

The perfect body?

The university degree?

I guess what we essentially want is happiness, but are the things we pursue really going to make us happy?

Sometimes we only pursue a goal because we have something to prove, or because we’ve over estimated he final result.

I say this because my goals are confused. Everything I thought I wanted has turned into a Monet, beautiful from afar, but blurry and confused up close.

I wanted the city. I wanted the perfect job. I wanted the independence, the status, and the bank account of a modern day woman doing well for herself.

I wanted high fashion, lunches in restaurants, one-night stands and late night martinis.

But as I walk this city on my own, thinking deeply as I stare at café walls, I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what will make me smile at the end of the day.

What I do know is this summer I felt genuine happiness more than I ever have in my life. Never in my entire existence have I felt so much compassion for myself and for others. I found myself randomly embracing those around me, dancing by myself late into the night, and practically skipping down old roads, throwing my arms up for the beauty of living.

I finally felt I truly loved myself. I tanned topless. I wrote a song in French. I made elaborate meals, even if I was dining on my own. I spent nights drinking and talking with people twice my age.

I was inspired by the love of life of those around me. People spoke, drank, danced, sang and smoked with a passion. The old and the young gathered at local festivals and dances and clinked glasses. I walked through the streets of this small town in the South of France, and most people knew my name. I walked into the Tuesday Market and laughed with the vendors. I went to the restaurants and knew the workers. And I had the security of being with someone I wanted to be with. Someone who, for a moment, made all my insecurities disappear.

Maybe it was the summer sun.

But for the first time I didn’t want to be alone anymore. The life of solitude and the dream of being an unknown foreigner to those around me faded into the evening sunset, alive in orange and pink, eventually fading into a dark star lit sky.

I’m still holding onto the thought of it.

And now I know that I want something real.

I want love. I want good conversation. I want friends. I want people that love me in return. I want nature. Health. Hobbies. Passions. Good food. Late nights. Morning walks. That’s what I want. That’s the life I'm going to work for.


You think you’re happy alone,
You think this is the way it should be,
You feel strong,
Good on your own.
You laugh at the idea of family,
Of marriage;
Of depending on others.
You don’t need any of that.
Until one day,
One day you taste it.
Someone falls into your life,
And you fall right into them,
You need them;
You can’t breathe properly
When they’re not by your side.
And you’ve never,
Never felt so alive,
And the world embraces you.
People tell you things
That make your face
Come alive with a smile,
And you discover
A new radiance,
A new life
In yourself,
And you return it,
You embrace it.
And suddenly you want family,
A real life.
You don’t want to be on your own,
Because being loved,
It just feels too good.


I saw a face in the small mirror that hangs above each tunnel, before you enter into the darkness. Hair blonde like a Polish girl, she sat concentrated, her made up eyes fighting back tears.

I saw myself. Staring at the wall, crying on the metro.

It’s funny, people don’t know what to do when they see someone crying. They glance at you nervously and quickly look away. I don’t think Parisians cry in public. I do.

And I hear all the voices that tell me how lucky I am. Who wouldn’t want to be in Paris?

So many people have good memories here. I watch lovers, taken by the romance of the city. Tourists swooning, finding it hard to believe they’ve finally made it here.

All day I speak to kids that want me to feed them, and at night I speak to men that want to fuck me.

I don’t feel human. I only have my emotions to remind me that I am.

All it takes is a moment of silence to make me cry.

I don’t know what I want. Everything is an illusion. The cafes, the sights, the Seine, the restaurants and the charming waiters. They’re all imposters in cheap costumes when you’re down.

I can’t walk the streets at night without worrying about being attacked. This is my time of liberty, of freedom, and I’m so restricted due to the dangers of the city.

I love my solitude, and yet I feel so vulnerable, like one small animal in the jungle of it all.

And so I cry on the metro.

It feels almost taboo, being so openly emotional. Next time I’m taking the metro naked, just to test the crowds, to see how they react.

I’ve given up on trying to hide the way I feel. I feel alone. I feel sad. I feel like crying. And that’s all there is to it.

It’ll make me feel better eventually.


With the tears gone from my eyes, I can see clearly again. I can do this. I have myself.

paris by night

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Friday, September 02, 2005

take me higher

Last night I felt low, and decided there was only one thing I could do to bring me back up: go to the top of the Eiffel tower.

I could stay in like the night before, drowning my thoughts in music and television; staring at the walls; calling home to only end up crying. Or I could remind myself why I came here in the first place.

It's important that I let myself live. Even if it's getting late, and I have to get up early in the morning, my urges must be fed. If I don't keep myself inspired, life is wasted. They say the youth is wasted on the young; I don't want to waste mine.

I took off at a fast pace, walking towards the lit up tower that glows in the city at night. Every so often the lights flicker, and the tower is alive, practically magical.

I filed into the elevator among all the other tourists, and watched the city become surreal as we made our way up into the sky.

Looking at the city from the top floor, entirely visible from this incredible height, my thoughts became more clear. This is where I need to be. I am feeding my need for experience, and experience is always good and bad. The bad moments will make me stronger; more appreciative of the good moments. I am living my life. I have all of this before me.

One of the male tour guides approached me, and offered me an explanation of everything I saw before me. "Voila l'Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, le Centre Georges Pompidou..." As well as a long list of historical facts which swam through me the same way they did in highschool. And when he asked for my phone number and tried to convince me to go out with him afterwards, I knew I was truly in Paris. When you get hit on by a tour guide on the top of the Eiffel tower, you know you're really there. I took his number instead, telling him I didn't give out my own. He said that if he didn't hear from me he'll get the point. So let's hope he gets the point.

I'm still overwhelmed by the men here. Is it because Paris is such a romantic city that they're so persistent in finding a partner? I guess I can't blame them. The other night a lawyer passed me in a black Ferrari-or Jaguar, or something ridiculously expensive-as I walked into a Japanese restaurant. He entered and sat casually across from me, eventually talking me into letting him sit with me, and proceeded to admit he came in because he saw me enter. "Hey, it's a good way to choose a restaurant," I told him, laughing.

On my way home from the Eiffel tower I met a group of young American men. I got good vibes off them, and was ecstatic by the prospect of meeting innocent guys my age. I practically jumped when I found out they would be here a year studying at the American University of Paris. We agreed to go out soon, and now I can venture safely into the night with a male entourage.

I headed home, all smiles, having finally been to the top of the Eiffel tower.

They say heights represent liberation. I understand why.