“In an hour, the van comes to drive me to De Gaulle airport. Tonight, I’ll go to sleep in New York.”
Is what I wrote more than two weeks ago, in Paris, when I was supposed to post the goodbye entry on this blog. I fidgeted and struggled to write anything and decided that I’d write the sign-off from New York, once I was back in the States. Then I was supposed to write it in those first days, then I was supposed to write it once I’d been back for a full week. At a certain point it became clear that I was avoiding it.
In part, that’s because there isn’t much to say that doesn’t seem both patently obvious and overly melodramatic. Saying that I’ll miss Paris is silly. Of course I will miss Paris; of course I already do. I know exactly the things that I’ll miss, each and every one.
I’ll miss the mornings I woke up early to go running and jogged down the Rue des Rosiers and smelled the burnt sugar smell of the Jewish bakeries getting ready for the day. I’ll miss glaring at the tourists upstairs at Shakespeare & Co. and I’ll miss walking around the Pantheon at night to wind our way to Piano Vache. I’ll miss the way the river looked at night and I’ll miss walking home on the Rue du Temple, with everyone spilling out of the gay bars as they closed. I’ll miss seeing the sliver of the Pompidou each morning as I left my apartment, and I’ll miss fighting my way through the roaming packs of French teenagers walking home from school each afternoon at La Muette. I’ll miss the African man who sold me my vegetables at the Marché de Bastille, who tried each week to fool me into believing that he too was born in Los Angeles. I already miss the cheese aisle at any grocery store, even the dingiest Franprix. I’ll miss speaking French every day, maybe that most of all.
But I’m back in New York now, along with almost everyone I know, and walking around this city is almost as different from walking around Paris as it could be. With every day that I’m here I feel more confident that it wasn’t a mistake to come back, that another year in Paris would have been fine but not better. But it’s also a decision that isn’t likely to reveal itself clearly for a while – another year, five years. I never doubted the decision to go to Paris in the first place, not even when I got there and was effectively homeless for two months and couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing there. Somehow, I still never doubted that it had been a fundamentally good idea. So when September comes, and I’m not on my way back, maybe I’ll have second thoughts. But the blog will be dormant at that point, so if and when those doubts come, they needn’t be publicized. And in the meantime, I refuse to say anything sentimental in French, or to make some sort of “Paris, Je T’Aime” comment. Just a pretty picture, one of the very last ones I took in France.