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Monday, January 30, 2006

bless the day you came my way

This weekend I was blessed with good company.

Saturday night I found myself crossing the Seine, smoking and laughing with two strangers. Two strangers that knew me before we even met.

Charlie and Ari are students from Yale studying in Paris through a study abroad program. I met Charlie through my blog, and we agreed to meet up for drinks when he arrived in the city. He brought his friend Ari along, because she was the one who introduced him to my blog.

Sitting outside of Starbucks clutching my tea, they spotted me immediately, and Ari waved her arms from across the street.

I hesitated. I hesitated because there’s nothing more awkward than waving at somebody who’s actually waving at the person sitting beside you.

But it was them. “You look exactly like you do in the photos in your blog, so it was easy!” Laughed Ari.

I felt at ease with them instantly, heading up St.Michel towards my favorite sushi spot, laughing about the fact that they know almost everything about my life here.

The conversation flowed all night, from dinner, to drinks at a trendy bar in the Marais that they’ve named their own. They both ooze optimism and enthusiasm, excited to finally be in Paris.

Just being with them reminded me the beauty of living here.

Later in the night, I left them, an undrinkable Bloody Mary, an infinite number of beautiful gay men, and the smoke filled bar so I could wake up in time the next day for another rendez vous.

I have no doubt that they kicked back a few more cocktails after I left, and that Charlie managed to catch the eye of every male in the bar.

I walked to the metro, across the bridge, and through the small streets of the Latin Quarter, giggling into my scarf at all the owners of the Greek and Italian restaurants who tired to lure me in for a meal.

I woke early Sunday morning and took off on the metro for my next rendez vous.

I arrived on time at Harold’s aunt’s apartment, ready for a long day of walking and another trip to the Indian quarter.

She was painting a large canvas of women in long colorful robes.

Marie Cecile, her friend, was already on the sofa, smoking rolled cigarettes, her beautiful French face with its usual serious expression.

Soon Harold arrived, along side his cousin Damien, and Damien’s father.

They all arrived with their large careless grins, Damien’s father with a long ponytail and a leather jacket.

Soon we were all packed into the metro riding towards the Indian quarter. I felt good in this random mix of people. They’re the kind of people you don’t mind brushing up against, the kind of people you can walk with in a comfortable silence, or scream and laugh with, knowing they’ll join you before they judge you.

Walking through the Indian quarter beside Damien and his torn up jeans, he put his over-sized headphones on my ears. I walked through the streets, taken away by the reggae music pumping into my system.

I was aware of my colorful surroundings and yet removed by the music, and let my company choose a restaurant as I bobbed my head.

Lunch was good. I had a three-course meal for 7 euros, and a mouthful of flavors to go with it. I had a samosa, a vegetable curry, and a bright orange cake laced with cinnamon and raisins for dessert.

Afterwards the six of us took off walking. We walked out of the Indian quarter through streets laced with African vendors, towards les Buttes-Chaumont for another visit of this ravishing savage park.

This time the lake was frozen. Birds tip toed on the water with a strange curiosity. Harold made my heart stop with fear as he walked onto the lake, and became the first man I’ve seen to walk on water.

Afterwards we walked through Belleville, with its small shops and charming courtyards, and stopped for hot drinks at a local pub. We walked up to the Belleville park where the sun was setting over Paris, a fog lying gracefully over the Eiffel tower in the distance.

We walked through an Asian district. We walked down streets with bohemian apartments, paint chipping off doors as if it was meant to. Past bright blue shutters, a bright green Brazilian restaurants, and a man who claimed he loved blondes.

We walked for hours in comfortable silence, scattered on the sidewalk, eyes engrossed in the sights around us.

We walked past the busy bars of Oberkampf, the bright sky turning into a midnight blue.

After hours of walking made our way back to Harold’s aunt’s apartment.

In her small colorful living room we drank mugs of sweet Indian Chai tea, and then moved on to aperitifs.

Eventually I wished them all a good evening, and took off on the long metro ride home.

I added my face to the sea of people on the metro, sat beside a man in a long green African robe, and read a book of poetry.

He sang to himself, and I read, stopping at the end of each poem to look up at the faces around me.

I no longer feel alone in this city.

frozen lake at Buttes-Chaumont
Belleville Sunset
the revolutionaries
watching the sun set over Paris
painting people in gold

"The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;"

-from Galway Kinell's Saint Francis and the Sow


Anonymous Silvia said...

Looks like Paris is like São Paulo: we can find people from every part of the world in everywhere here...

Hope u never feel alone (i know this loneliness feeling and its not good)

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Dear Gill,
I was lucky enough to come across your blog and it is absolutely delicious. Where in Canada are you from? I'm a Vancouverite studying in Montreal myself - not quite the same, but as close as it's going to get to something as fabulous as Paris!
Looking forward to reading your blog from now on,

8:11 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

I'm a Vancouverite as well, and will be going back to my studies in Toronto next year! I took a year off for Paris, but will be returning in September for 2nd year. Thanks for the comment, I'm always happy to have a new reader!

12:45 AM  
Blogger Ari said...

I've passed into Narnia! Look, we're living in the same world!

We shall see you again soon, Gillian.

5:59 AM  
Blogger maitresse said...

of course you're not alone! when are we gonna start our hunt for the perfect hot chocolate, huh?

6:35 AM  
Anonymous schuey said...

there is a good hot chocolate at the café Martini, near the place des vosges...

7:51 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Merci Schuey! Are you still in Paris?

So cafe Martini on Sunday maitresse?

10:20 AM  
Blogger maitresse said...

you're on! email me at lauren elkin, all one word, at hotmail dot com...

12:05 AM  
Blogger schuey said...

nope not in Paris anymore, but i will be on sunday... actually, not far away at all from the place des vosges....

2:29 AM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

How lovely it was to travel with you here, and to be 19 and in Paris. Love your Kinnell poem at the end.

8:41 AM  

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