After a tearful goodbye, I picked up my pillow and carry-on bags, handed my passport to the security agent, and trudged through tedious airport security. I turned back to wave to my mom one last before starting to my gate, but she was already gone. That’s when the realization set in- I was on my own for the next 18 hours. The airplane cabin was spacious; however, legs were crammed between itchy seats. The icy air circulating throughout the plane would be the air every passenger breathed for the next nine hours. Little screens glowed on the backs of every seat and children stretched their tiny arms out to touch them. Massive engines roared powerfully to project the Boeing 747 37,000 feet above the ground. Settling at the desired altitude, the engines became softer and all that was heard was a gentle hum throughout the cabin. Voices became whispers and the cabin was lit with an eerie glow from the few windows that remained uncovered. Dinner carts rumbled down the walkways and the smells of burnt plastic and processed food crept throughout the cabin. Those around me had slipped into restless sleep, as I remained wide-awake. My heart was racing just from the thought that in nine hours, I would be in my favorite city in the world: Paris, France.
A glimpse of Paris peaked out from the top of the dirty staircase. I felt myself ascending, and watched the City of Lights unfold right before my eyes. Ancient buildings loomed over noisy streets and crowded sidewalks. Street music could just be heard off in the distance. Thousands of Parisians and tourists circulated throughout the district. As I stepped onto solid ground, a blast of fresh air encompassed me, and the distinct smell of warm coffee and freshly baked bread greeted my sensory nerves. I slowly turned around and drew in my breath. Right before my eyes was the famous Palais Garnier (Academie Nationale de Musique). The glistening gold angels glimmered in the sunlight, watching down on the picturesque streets from many stories above. The ornate detail on the building draws tourists in with one quick glimpse. People of all ages gathered on the colossal stairs eating lunch in the presence of the most striking building in all of Paris. Time seemed to stand still and my surroundings began to blur- I could not tear my eyes away from the beauty of l’Opéra.
Darkness swelled around me as I descended back into the hectic tunnel. My train pierced through the blackness that had engulfed it. Brakes screeched to a halt, and a whirl of people rushed around me. I stepped off, and was welcomed by warm sunlight seeping down the never-ending staircase. Lush trees and opulent buildings lined the street. Middle-aged businessmen briskly walked past in a hurry to get to work. An elderly couple was at the next table having a conversation I couldn’t quite understand. Frustrated people were honking their horns in a traffic jam. And there I was, soaking it all in, planted at a table outside the renowned Café de Flore. A flaky croissant sat atop the dainty table along with a pot of their notorious coffee everyone made out to be the best in Paris. The scorching hot liquid did not taste as wonderful as I expected, but the essence of drinking pure, black coffee on one of the most prominent streets in Paris made me feel like a true Parisian. I tossed a few euros on the table for a tip, and began sauntering down the street.
I took the last train back home to my little suburb right outside of Paris called Antony. A crisp breeze swept through the quiet streets and tousled my freshly brushed hair. Cold air forced its way through the microscopic holes in my sweater causing my muscles to contract and release a shiver down my spine. A few days prior I had made an acquaintance with whom an instant connection was formed. Mon noveau ami1 was waiting at the metro station to accompany my walk back to the flat and bid me une bonne nuit2.
“Tu es froid mon coeur? 3” he whispered sweetly.
“Oui, un peu, mais ça va parce que tu es ici avec moi, 4” I replied.
My heart fluttered when I felt his arm gently pull me closer to him. The street lamps seemed to glow a little brighter and warmth rushed over me. The softly lit homes and his protective arm created a safe atmosphere around me. Trying not to think about the fact I would be leaving in just ten short days, we let silence encircle us as we enjoyed one another’s’ company. I had never experienced any place quite so comforting and blissful.
On the morning of my dreaded departure, the mood in the metro car was melancholy as it rushed under the streets of Paris. I was dazed, and everything inside the car seemed to melt together. The many unforgiving plastic seats became one red, hazy shape. The filthy silver poles disappeared before me, and all of a sudden, I was alone. Gazing out the window at the landscape of the city so dear to my heart, I couldn’t fathom leaving it all behind. Their laid-back culture, delectable food, high-end fashion, bustling streets, and gorgeous language was all already a distant memory. I could see Palais Garnier shining bright in the distance. I could hear low conversations in French all around me. I could feel the soft material of the beautifully made Parisian clothes in Galeries Lafayette. I could smell the distinct aroma of warm bread coming straight out of the oven and into waiting customers’ hands. And concentrating hard enough, I could briefly taste the sweet vanilla macaroon dissolving inside my mouth. Squeezing my eyes shut and tuning out the monotonous grinding of the train car against the track, I reminded myself, Paris isn’t going anywhere, and I’ll soon be back.
Title Translation: In Paris
Translation 1: My new friend
Translation 2: A good night
Translation 3: Are you cold, my love (or heart)?
Translation 4: Yes, a little, but it is okay because you are here with me.