The hardest thing to realize in a friendship is when it has become unhealthy.
This is particularly painful when you've invested a lot in that friendship; confided in the friend, shared laughs, adventures, and experiences together. But the human endeavor is a progression of growth where we learn from our surroundings, shared experiences, and communities in order to make things and ideally ourselves, better. Healthy friendships are support systems for both people involved. The friendships you have provide accountability and a gaze through which you partially understand yourself. So it's paramount that the people you associate with care about you and exert as much effort in the friendship as you are putting into it. Because they influence who you are as a person without you even noticing it. The things a friend tells you shapes the way you see yourself, the way they treat you influence your sense of self-worth, and its hard to overcome these influences when they become negative.
I try to go through life seeing the good in people because there was a time when I needed someone to see the good in me and they did. This became a character trait that has carried over into friendships and recently, wrecked havoc. When a person who actively seeks out the good in people enters into a friendship they latch onto the good memories. This was the case with me. As the friendship deepened I began to associate good times with this person -- whom I'd thought in the beginning was becoming another best friend. When things started to go bad I'd replay those good times in my mind clutching onto the promise of returning to them.
The problem occurred when I began to overlook the hurtful things she'd say and do to me in favor of the good memories. As the bad times slowly stacked up outweighing the good moments I'd had with her I began to see how toxic the friendship had become. I think our most daunting moment came when we were sitting on the banks of the Seine by Notre-Dame a month or so ago talking about where, when, and how things had fallen apart. I think this was truly the first real conversation we'd had about the foundational cracks in our friendship. This was also the moment that I realized just how broken it had become. I found myself asking her that day "Where are the good moments in this friendship? Because I can't see them anymore." And I remember her saying to me "I hadn't realized how deeply I'd hurt you."
We had gotten to this point in our friendship where we couldn't even spend more than a day together without getting into an argument -- often a repeated or circular one. There was this lack of communication coupled with hurt feelings that accrued and caused an explosion.
We'd reached a stasis and were locked in this position of operating in opposition to each other yet clinging to the hope of returning to the good times. I think this realization was the farewell moment for me. I'd mourned the lost of her friendship that entire day before we met at the Seine. And when we agreed to give our friendship a second chance, to mend the damage, I think subconsciously I knew it was over for me but I tried again because I wanted those good times back. I convinced myself somewhere along the line that this friendship was good because all the groundwork had already been done. But I am better than that.
I do not have to accept love. I am deserving of a love that is equal to the love I will give. I am capable of being loved to this degree. This applies to every human being.
So, when a month later I found myself, her jacket, dress, and cardigan in hand, knocking on her door for the last time; I had a conflicting sense of relief and angst. This was a person I had spent six months with sharing dreams and fears and being pushed by her to do things that were so far out of my comfort zone that I'd never occurred to me to do them before. I had epic experiences with her and that was all going to end with a double rap on her door. Hours before I'd sat on the floor in my apartment weaving a scenario in my mind of what would happen when I knocked on her door. I envisioned that I would have the bag with her clothes poised to hand over when she opened her door. I imagined I'd say one sentence "Hey, I just wanted to say goodbye." I felt like our friendship deserved this, the finality of that last "goodbye". A word to express our mutual separation and a lament on what we'd somehow lost along the road of trying to change each other.
This scenario; however, was not my reality that night. In reality I knocked four times and the door did not open. There was no closure, no personal finality. Instead twenty minutes till midnight I received a text containing a total of sixteen words which rendered our friendship so insignificant that I felt the familiar rage boil up inside of me again. I, all at once, remembered exactly why this friendship was not working. You have to receive as much effort from the opposite party as you are giving. That night I did not cry anymore, I was enraged by all the ways she'd rendered me and our friendship irrelevant over the last six months. Perhaps without her even realizing it.
A day later, and I'm writing this, sitting on the roof she helped me break onto that night we shoved the door open, planted ourselves with a view of the Eiffel Tower and tossed our friendship with Champagne -- a bottle that later rolled off the roof and rests still a month later in the drainage gully -- and McDonalds Hamburgers. When I think about the times we shared I wonder how I will feel next year at this time when I am writing in my once-a-day journal and I come across an event we'd done together.
All I can think of now is that, I hope I remember why it had to end, that I wished we hadn't gotten to the place where we were continually hurting each other.. I hope I remember how I mourned the loss. I hope I remember how I tried to mend it. I hope I've learned by then to separate our good moments from the pain of our ending. I hope I remember the pain I had to overcome because of that friendship. And I hope I remember the nights we spent sitting at Trocadero until 2am, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle, listening to street performers, and sharing our vulnerabilities.
So, it's spring break time for me and for the first time this year all three of the schools I attend and the babysitting gig I have, have aligned so that I have two glorious weeks off from any obligations. I could stay in bed all day without pants on if I choose to and no one but the elderly disapproving French lady who lives below me would be able to judge my life decisions.
Instead of doing this though I have decided to spend this time in the typical Anna-Fashion (why that's capitalized I'm not sure; but language is fluid right?). That being reading for fun in a lounge chair.
Normally this would feature a desert atmosphere and a pool. As my spring breaks growing up were spent with my Grandparents at their time-share in Indian Wells; which if you've been to Coachella know that this is just twenty minutes outside of Palm Springs and hot as all hell from March-February. Hence the necessity of the pool. There was this one time in high school I remember staying with my brother when he lived in Big Bear and worked as a Groomer for Bear Ski Resort back when it and Snow Summit hadn't been bought out and there was a freak snow storm that we BBQed in.
My spring breaks changed when I got to UCLA as a transfer-in Junior and got, well, real crazy 😜. My first year there I road-tripped with a student theater club I was apart of (The Shakespeare Company at UCLA) to Ashland, Oregon to camp and attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My second and last year at UCLA I made a mixtape and road-tripped with my best friend to San Diego to meet her family, go hiking, and tide-pooling where I got to enact my lifelong dream of being a mermaid in a cavernous water outcropping (there is most definitely as easier way to say this).
This year I'm reconnecting to my childhood spring breaks by lounging at various outdoor locations around Paris; mostly gardens. This started when I woke up on Monday with nothing to do and in desperate need of some REST & RECOVERY after the whirlwind that has been my life as a grad student living abroad. So I first wandered aimlessly until reaching my favorite chocolate shop in Paris : Edward's, where I purchased melted chocolate for 4€ then discovered that there has been all this time an English bookstore right next door(WHSmiths; highly recommended cause it's swaggy af and has a secret English tea room on the second floor). Y'all can guess what happened next; with a book I purchased for 10€ I made my way across the street to the Tuileries Garden and sat down on a marble bench to read.
While reading this book and underlining; a thing I've highly missed as I've been working with primary documents; borrowed copies of books, and kindle editions all year. It struck me to do a posting of a collection of favorite quotes from the books I've read over my spring break because if there is one tradition I've kept without realizing it, it's been to read at least one book for fun over spring break. So let's span the last six years of spring breaks with quotes from the books I've read.
Luckily for me I was a deeply geeky young adult who created a blog dedicated to book reviews and was highly active on Goodreads.
I had this realization the other day that I am approaching the half year mark y'all. As in I've been in Paris for nearly 6 months now. Its safe to say that by now I have found myself solidly into a fluffy routine. That is to say I am devotee to particular pastry and coffee shops (*cough* catch me reading on Sunday mornings at Café Kistuné *cough*). But it's time to shake myself out of it! So it's time to create a list of things* I want to do before leaving Paris and start doing them. Also, if y'all got any suggestions, I am all ears.
*I admit, I stole this idea from another Paris based blogger Anne Elder, seriously check out her blog as she's a pretty cool and dynamic lady, who I discovered through Our Paris Stories, a great website dedicated to showcasing real people and the reasons they're in Paris.
SEE THE LOUIS VUITTON FOUNTAIN
If there was one place on this planet I never thought I'd be, it would be standing on the grounds of the Roman Forum. But there I was this past November, standing before the Rostra completely dumbfounded. The words of Cicero playing in my head, the pain at seeing what was left of it, wishing desperately to either be Marty Mcfly (for time traveling reasons yo) or a cat (for their ability to go where humans cannot--damn our destructive and pilfering nature).
In this post I'll tell y'all about the absolute wonder of seeing three Italian cities (Pisa, Florence, and Rome) in two days. So here we go, crossing the Rhine (figuratively of course, as the only body of water I crossed was the Ligurian Sea).
chapter 1: pisa
Nicole and I made it to Porte Malliot with the world still a damp blue and caught a bus to Aéroport Beauvais (BVA). This airport bares a striking resemblance to a warehouse (tbh not entirely convinced that it is not one and is simply masquerading as an airport). It has a whooping total of two gates, which made it rather difficult to find our flight, and a tiny duty-free store that stocks Chanel.
We disembarked the plane and discovered, to my eternal chagrin, that our passports have once again both not been not asked for and not stamped. *cue dramatic sigh* I realize two things, next: #1 romance languages do not translate as easily as I'd imagined they would and #2 water is copiously excreting from the sky. Let me take this moment to tell you a little fun fact about Nicole, she and rain really just can't handle each other. Honestly, it is really best if they don't interact with each other.
Thus, if this was a movie: the camera would flint to a shot of two American girls wired and racing, backpacks flopping from side-to-side, through the cobblestoned streets of Pisa battling this sporadic and epic downpour of water whilst trying to remain under the protection of a one-person 3€ rainbow umbrella. The scene would do a slow creep segment of the Leaning Tower, which indeed, is really quite astounding in its ability to remain upright. I think in total we'd spent about an hour in Pisa before boarding a bus to Florence. Long enough to see the Tower, grab a canoli, and catch a bus.
The good stuff: A scarf was purchased for 5€ (#score). Pisa resembled Nice so much it was a little triply. I was seriously digging its buildings and their varying hues of reds, yellows, greens, and off-whites.
chapter 2: florence
By 1pm Nicole and I were boarding a bus bound for Florence. During the hour or so bus ride I did a total of two things, #1 combed the matted mess that had been my hair before the rain claimed it and #2 ogled the handsome man sitting in the seat in front of us. Not much excitement there.
The first thing we saw in Florence was the church, Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore. I was irrevocably stupefied. There I stood, before this massive structure that stretched so far into the air, above and around me, that its construction seemed to be improbable. A church known for its marble walls and bronze doors. The city that saw the birth of the Renaissance.
By 3:30pm I was eating another canoli and learning from an old Italian man the proper way to accentuate the 'double r' in vorrei, which is in no way pronounced as it's spelling suggests it would be. From the small shop we wandered to Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. In which museum there is an entire rather large, room dedicated solely to Roman busts. Seriously an impressive collection.
After this we ate more, this time gelato. This trip was honestly more of a "Anna Eats Every Hour While in Italy." But the gelato. *wail of withdraw* Let's pause here. Because goodness did Florence have the most amazing food I've had in Europe thus far. While in Florence I had a cannoli, two gelatos, a huge plate of pasta, and a rich chocolate tarte/cake/cookie thing.
We strolled along the Arno River as the city sparkled with lights and nightlife, licking my gelato and loving so desperately every sight around me. And then something dreadful happened... Nicole tripped and fell shattering her iPhones screen. And this is how the night ended, Nicole hobbling to our hostel cradling her function yet severely damaged phone.
chapter 3: rome
The next morning, we woke up the at 8am, jumped on the first train we could find leaving Florence toward Rome and made our first stop our hotel to drop off our stuff. What an adorable hotel that was, so quant with blue and white tiles as a bed frame and complementary chocolates. I do love free chocolates.
I'm going to preface this story by saying, first and foremost: Trying to see all of Rome in one day is impossible. Word for the wise: if you've given yourself just a day in Rome, 1) rethink this option, 2) if you've decided you want to do this, then, resolve yourself to the fact that you will have to breeze by some things. Accept this and the day will become more relaxed because doing Rome in a day is possible if you have a clear idea of the things you HAVE to see.
In the warmth of a soft 75 degree sun Nicole and I set out to conquer the sights. It's notable to mention that at this except moment in Paris, the weather was a crisp 35 degrees. We found the Trevi Fountain first, threw a coin in and made a wish I won't spoil. From the Trevi fountain and its mass of people we walked along worn cobblestones to the Pantheon. Rome is the most amazing place to be, because there's an incredibly modern metropolitan city built directly around buildings that have been there for thousands of years. The amount of times we walked by the ruins of temples that were simply just there in their eroding form across the street from a restaurant is crazy.
After a much needed gelato break, we took to the ruins. Which, to this day still brings forth a surreal feeling of otherworldliness in me. I remember we took a break to sit on a marble stone in the shade and look around. The scene you see is marble blocks that form squares and rectangles in the ground to distinguish the different rooms of a house. The marble stones are everywhere in the ruins among them grass grows and more marble for pathways wind through them. For some reason I imagined the homes of the Romans would be further away from the Forum, they are not actually all that far.
The colosseum, what to say about the colosseum. I will say that on the size is impressively intimidating. The picture of it in its epoch, red flags waving and vibrantly painted statues in the archways is really an image you can picture quite clearly while there. We ate gnocchi at a restaurant across the street, purchased more gelato and stumbled upon an obelisk stolen by the Romans from Egypt.
My experience in Rome was unlike anything I have felt before and it ended with the two of us eating a large greasy pizza in a hotel room.
chapter 4: the way back
This was a mission and a half and I'm not even sure how we managed to pull it off. Think James Bond and the ominous presence of a large timer ticking away. Start time: 2 hours. Go.
Two hours to get from BVA, roughly 50 miles northwest of Paris, to the 5th arrondissement where I had to present my Master's thesis to a group of distinguished professors and my peers. Not that I was feeling the pressure or anything. Word to the wise, never try and go through customs on a time crunch you will end up, as I did, cursing the red letters of a digital clock that would not stop moving forward.
From the moment we landed in BVA, we entered into dark-ops mode without the leather attire, the mission was: make the impossible possible. We were out of our sets and into the aisle of the plane before anyone had even clicked their seat belts. Unfortunately the passengers were exiting from the opposite side of the plane making us the last people off the plane and some of the last people to make it through customs. 20 minutes down the drain. Thanks world.
Once free, we rushed straight toward the bus where a ticket mishap happened, because I'm Anna and this is my life. The man scanning tickets scanned Nicole's ticket and then I unknowingly, but promptly, handed him another copy of Nicole's ticket. The scanner flashed red. So there I am speaking something that I don't feel was French and there's Nicole watching me like an amused cat because there's the man looking confused as I waved my hand about. --- If you could burn minutes like paper another 20 had just gone up in flames as the man proceeded to try and figure out why there was not enough seats for all the passengers. The answer was of course because he'd scanned my seat twice.
I bit away my nails at such an unprecedented speed. Let me just tell you. Once on the bus, I changed my shoes, combed my hair, and willed time to slow down. We arrived in Paris 30 minutes after I was set to present; however, luckily for me the other Master's students in my year have epic topics and so the presentations were running 45 minutes late.
Flinging the blue door to the Reid Hall building, I rushed to the conference room and tried to sit down as quietly as possible. I quite literally had only 2-3 minutes to spare. I was just feeling mildly settled when one of the professors was finishing up a comment on one of the students presentations. The twelve faces swung towards me. I blanched. My program director smiled encouragingly at me as I stood up and gave my presentation.
SEE A BALLET AT PALAIS GARNIER & OPÈRA BASTILLE ✗
While I've seen a total of three performances at Opéra Garnier, I was a bit hesitant to link the two opera houses together in the to-do list as I wasn't sure when I would be getting around to seeing a performance at the Bastille opera house. Luckily though my school had an extra ticket lying around for a last minute next-day performance of "Le Songe d'Une Nuit d'Été" by one of my favorite choreographers: George Balanchine. So, this afternoon I picked it up, did some light shopping (by which I mean I finally purchased a shatter proof protector screen for my already cracked screen, curse you Uber driver for dropping it while plugging it in to charge), and waited in a nearby Starbucks until 8pm rolled around.
A bit of symmetry for ya: the first Ballet I saw in Paris when I came back this year was a contemporary piece also choreographed by George Balanchine at Palais Garnier.
Palais Garnier let's be honest you're going here for the atmosphere, historical significance, and to see that chandelier that was in the Phantom of the Opera. These are not bad reasons to go and it is on the list of things one ought to do if they are to live in Paris.
Tips for any first timers:
For the love of holybelly coffee and bacon pancakes please do this. Trust me you do not want to find yourself dashing up those marble steps in a frenzy. I am notorious (can you use the word notorious if you've only done a thing thrice?) for arriving late to the opera house. Except for the last performance I saw there the marvelous Tree of Codes (I had to stand for the entire hour and a half of the performance, but it was so worth it because that piece is magic) when I tricked myself into thinking the performance was at 2:00pm instead of 2:30pm, because sure enough there I was rushing into the opera house at 2:10pm huffing and cursing myself only to find out that no the showing started at 2:30pm. I had, for once, the time to mull around and see the the gloriousness of the interior without the stress of those bonging bells propelling me up the marble steps, that I will seemingly never cease to trip on.
This is honestly just a thing. Unless you're splurging on those fancy Orchestra seats of course. But lets be real, the grad student life that has one rolling in the euros. I say discomfort because the seats are just painful but you'll accept this because it will be magic. One time ( *cough* Tree of Codes *cough*) I branched out from those Amphitheater Cat 4 seats and tried Cat 3 Loges and wound up both standing and wishing I was in one of those tiny red velvet seats with that wooden bar back that offers no support whatsoever. None.
Opèra Bastille, this place is so massive that I got lost twice trying to find my seat and then proceeded to sit in the incorrect seat.
After rumanaging through some discount designer clothes at a Confessions of a Shopaholic like yardsale-thing. I wound up where one normally does when fatigued by elbowing through masses of impeccably dressed women: Chipotle; munching on a burrito that I wished had French fries and carne asada chunks.
Two things occurred to me, one, I was alone and two, this was an advent in my life.
Back in L.A. I hardly ever ate alone. It wasn't actually until recently that I realized I had a slight fear of eating alone. But here in Paris I seem the ratio of me eating alone versus me eating with friends is highly tipped in the favor of the former.
And I got to thinking about this, its not that I don't have friends here it's just that friendships seem to be different in the adult world versus in the world of an undergraduate student. In college your first couple of years are spent in the dorms where you bond over silly things like playing cards of humanity drunk/high/sometimes both. And you go to the cafeteria to eat together, or you venture into town to grab coffee, tea, or pastry things.
This was my experience as well, I lived in the dorm my first year at UCLA and attended all those first year student traditions, going on a scavenger hunt in Westwood, getting Diddy Reese, racing down the hallways in the lounge chairs that had rollers on them, playing cards against humanity and building secret insider jokes with everyone on my floor. Rieber Hall, Floor 5, North Side will forever be my hall. This experience, I realized shaped my understanding of what friendship means.
Everything was convient, my friends lived mere steps away from me, someone was always available at any given time to be around and I hadn't realized just how much I'd taken advantage of that. Because now here I am alone and sitting on the steps of the Opera Garnier listening to this man play Sam Smith songs and I realize that this is a foreign experience to me. Don't misunderstand me, I have friends here, I've meet beautiful, wild, and insanely intelligent people here. It's just that we're all scattered around Paris and we all have separate lives and separate obligations. We don't hang out everyday and that's okay. That's adult-ing, that is living autonomously. And I'm pretty sure that's a good thing.
I don't want to be dramatic here, but I'm pretty sure I'm going through an exesential life crisis here. For the first time in my I'm not sure who I am, Im spending so much time by myself that I'm actually discovering that I don't really know who I am.
The guitarist in front of me, in between songs, told the crowd that 2,000 years ago a man once said "Carpe Diem"; which he translated in a way that I haven't heard yet "Catch the day." I think I like this translate better than the standard "Seize the day." Because sometimes the days just seem to go by with you knowing it and soon enough it's the end of October and you've been living in Paris for 2 months. So I like the idea of taking action against the day and catching it.
Another gem he told the crowd is "Don't hide from you emotions, be in them. It's all about love. We are connected on the wifi of love. So let's share love. Let's delete all bad picture of Paris and only keep the good ones." He was quite a poetic speaker.
So if I can give y'all some parting words: Don't run away from who you are individually by running towards people. Being alone isn't a bad thing, it's liberating and shocking and magical.
Here is the story of two girls who dashed in mad flight from the city one weekend to court. Enthralled by the sun and autumn around them they went boating, were surrounded by lady bugs and beheld the wonder of Versailles at sunset.
le château du roi-soleil
Nicole and I, war battled travel pals at this point in time, set out as we normally do, early in the morning and half awake. We hopped on the Metro at Kléber and took it to where it connected to the RER C, getting off at that stop we find out that the RER C is not stopping at this station until the beginning of November. This is of course just the sort of thing that would happen to us. We flounder for a few seconds waiting for my data to adjust from coming from underground and in end simply did to hop back onto line 6 and take it to the 10 where the RER C connects again. Once on the RER C we take that to the end of its line Gare de Versailles Château Rive Gauche.
Once in the city of Versailles we do what must be done before attempting to take on such a daunting task such as seeing the old sun king's home and gardens. We stop at Starbucks to fuel up on scones, muffins, tea, and pumpkin spice lattes. Facing to train station I watched as person after person consistently did the same thing, they would descend the stairs, look about themselves confusedly then head towards where all the other people were going: left to the Château. This is what most come to Versailles for, the grand palace of the once beloved sun king, who's rule was absolute, until it was not. And then, well then heads rolled; but that's a different story. Today, we talk about what is left of this king.
Caution~ Tangental aside on the tiny beds at Versailles; skip over if disinterested.
The one thing I did not understand a second time was the tiny beds. Last summer when I first went I swore I'd go back to my apartment and research as to the historical accuracy of these tiny beds. Alas, I did not do this last summer, so now, now I research. My google search started first as a question "Why tiny beds Versailles?" This search proving unfruitful I switched from web to books and searched "beds 17th century France" this brought me to page 206 of a book called "Culture and Environment" written by Irwin Altman and Martin M. Parliament. On this page I learned that a bed was an integral piece of furniture in a home because as I was told, Guy de Maupassant (a 19th century French author) says "The bed comprehends our whole life..." I was also informed that Louis XIV was said to have 400 beds made throughout his lifetime and one truly large one installed in the French Parliament. The official website for Château de Versailles says that the bed that is in the Queen's Grand Chamber today was "... resculpted from the old documents..." and having interned in a historical landmark I am quite aware of the tediousness of having to be as precise and historically accurate as is humanly possible when one is trying to revamp a bedroom. So I have no doubt that the beds are true to size.
So back I went to google this time searching "average height of French people in 18th century". Because if the beds were historically smaller than average sized beds today than logically the people should be smaller. Interestingly enough with this search I found a discussion paper written in 2005 by John Komlos and Francesco Cinnirella for the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Economics department entitled "European Heights in the Early 18th Century". This analysis relied a lot on datasets pertaining to the heights of soldiers and estimated that the general height in France was 65.8 inches which is roughly a person who is 5'5. So, basically people were not all that short in the 18th century and I still have no idea why the beds are tiny.
Aside is concluded, you may resume to adventure here.
The marble staircases in the château have worn groves in them from where mass quantities of people and their weight over the decades have walked on them. The wooden floors creak and the age of the place resounds in such a way that its hard not to imagine what it would have been like in the 18th century.
les jardins du roi
I remember reading in my first World Civilization's textbook four years ago that it took thousands of people to keep the gardens of the Castle groomed. Walking around today, I wonder how long it takes the army of gardeners to prune and tend to the vast acres of these gardens.
Nicole and I got it in our minds, while on our way to find the Queen's Hamlet that it was a great idea to rent a row boat and row around the grand canal. Now, I have rowed a total of one kayak in my entire life and that Kayak's ore broke on the way back to shore. Nicole has never rowed a boat before in her life, she was; however, very determined to row this one. And one thing I have learned about Nicole is that when she has settled her mind on doing something, there is quite literally nothing you or any force in the world can do to stop her from doing that.
So, there we are rowing this wooden boat on the grand canal in the middle of this garden next to a castle. And there I am advising Nicole that if we wander too far away from the boat launching area we will have a harder time getting back there. She is having far too much fun at this point enjoying my freak-out session to be bristled by my advice and continues on, struggling with those two ores and treading a lot of water in the process.
We hit the edge of the canal twice, a stone ridge that divides the water from the people who are lounging on the grass and chuckling at our slight dismay. We nearly topple over twice during this boating adventure when we try to shift positions. At one point a song from Pocahontas is sung by Nicole and I have proclaimed that we are redefining the notion of the chivalrous lord who rows his lady around the canal.
When we return to land, I obtain an ice cream for my efforts and Nicole a tea. Than we return to our original mission of finding Marie's house because the clock strikes 6:30pm and the grounds close. We take a misleading road that turns out to not be the road we needed to take and have to make many turns to readjust our direction and when we finally reach the area where Marie's house resides we discover that a tram would have taken us from the Grand Canal straight to Marie's house.
le domanine de marie
This is where the ladybugs made their move on us. Nicole and I walked down a tree lined gravel path took two rights asked for directions and then took a left into Marie Antoinette's house. Coming from the opulence of the gardens and the gilded house, we were expected the same to be found here. We were though very surprised, instead of the ornate designed wooden floors or the tapestries that we had been expecting, we found a same country home. White marble floors, cream stone walls, arched ceilings with sparse furnishings were the things occupied the Austrian Queen's home. To get to the Queen's Hamlet you had to walk over the carcasses of the fallen ladybugs, which was really quite unsettling for me. I wish I'd been able to snap a picture, but my phone had died at this point; however, the sheer amount of ladybugs (we're talking hundreds here) was truly astounding.
It seemed somehow fitting to me that the Queen's respite from the court, its glamour, and espionage, would be simple and surrounded by foliage, trees, and small ponds.
By the time we'd left the city of Versailles around 7pm(ish), boarded the RER C heading toward Musée d'Orsay, and sat for about an hour in that train Nicole and I were barely able to keep awake. I climbed those 133 stairs of my 6-floor walk up and fell face first onto my bed with a huff. How I even showered that night is beyond me.
Still despite this being my second time seeing Versailles I still feel like I could go back a thousand times and still discover new things, just because of the sheer vastness of the estate.
Sometimes I catch myself watching shoes as they pass by me. I'm most often outside a coffee shop wishing I liked the taste of tobacco so I could be the image of Paris like the rest of these chic people embody.
You can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear.
My mother back when she was single and living in Vail, Colorado used to have this list. Whether it was a mental or physical one I don't remember. But the list had all the characteristics of a man that she wanted and on it was good shoes, I don't remember much about what else was on this list apart from the shoe bit and that it was very long.
But now as I sit here in front of The Broken Arm, a concept coffee shop in a chic fashion-centered area of Paris I wonder if she was right. Do the shoes we wear reveal our social class?
And just how often do humans gauge someones sense of wealth by the external objects they put on their bodies?
A fellow au pair friend of mine asked me the other day if I've felt it yet, the ever ominous homesickness. I started my reply with a "Well..."
There are phases one goes through, I think, when moving out of the metaphorical birds nest and then there are completely different phases one goes through when moving across the world from your metaphorical birds nest. By accident one time I routed myself to 'home' in google maps without realizing that I hadn't changed the home to my Paris location and so this screen popped up saying "can't find a route to this location". It took me a while to realize that the home was my old college address in Westwood, California. Anyway this isn't the moment that homesickness hit me. In reality I don't think it has yet, I'm still discovering... well... everything really. Who I am without roommates, what my interests are, how to be fully responsible for myself. These are things I thought I grappled with in Undergrad but you don't get a diploma for life when you get your B.A. I'm realizing. I don't think it will come with the M.A. either.
So, has the homesickness hit? No, not yet. Not to the extent where I'm crying and watching "How to be Single" and "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Sex and the City". I'm not curled in bed with that cliché bottle of wine just yet. But I can feel it coming, the moment where I'm going to need to process the fact that I'm not returning to the United States until August 2017.
I know I can feel it coming on because every once in a while I'll think of my brother, often the memory that comes along is of our last weekend together. A truly grand and spur of the moment adventure where we started off with just a truck, two siblings and a country playlist. We picked directions, left or right, when we reached stoplights and ended up in Big Bear.
When I think of this memory I see him, traversing through a riverbed like some mountain man explorer explaining to me how one could tell it had once been a much larger riverbed by the cutouts the water had made in the sand and by the presence of sand. I think also of being in the bed of trunk while he drove down a dirt road, I think of the excitement in his eyes and the sound of his voice, I don't hear him sound carefree often so I remember classifying the tone of his voice in my mind. I remember eating the famous bacon wrapped shrimp at Murrey's Bar and seeing the house he once lived in when he was 18 years old and I remember driving home the next day and thinking that I didn't want to leave the States now, that I wished I'd been more realistic with my qualifications when I applied for Doctorat programs.
And now here I am, in the library in Reid Hall in the sixth district of Paris. Typing this on my iPhone with tingling fingers because I've still yet to buy gloves. I think right now homesickness is coming in humps. I think that's how homesickness is going to be for me this year, it will be like I'm surfing, I'll be sitting like a buoy on my lime green board waiting for my left and the pangs of homesickness will come, like the rolling humps you get before a set is about to break and then as the pocket appears on the wave I'll catch it and it'll be like nothing can touch me and then the ride will be over and I'll have to wait out the set and fight through the inside to get to the place where the waves break.
I lingered around the pants section in GAP this afternoon brushing my fingers over the soft denim. "Quelle taille?" The employee asks me. Flustered I blush beer red and in embrassement scurry away snagging a pair of jeans before heading to the dressing room.
It's not that I didn't understand what he meant, as is my usual source of embarrassment when I'm interacting with French speakers. Instead it was the embarrassment of having to say that I wasn't sure what my size was. Often I find that I exaggerate my size by at least two sizes and that's simply because in my eyes this is what I imagine I look like. It's common, my therapist once told me, with people who suffer from eating disorders to not see themselves correctly. They add pounds that are not really there to validate their disorder. So even though I'm your mind you strongly believe your a 12, in reality you're a 6.
I didn't realize I had been doing this again, I thought I was on the up-n-up. But it turns out that sometimes these things just sneak up on you and you find yourself falling into old habits because it's comforting or gives you a sense of self-control (that one was always a big one for me).
I was inspired to write this, after I realized that in my hast to hide from the GAP employee, I'd grabbed the wrong size, inside of the 32R I'd been looking at I grabbed a 28R. In the dressing room I held up the jeans and regarded them with a doubtful glare. Avoiding my eyes and giving myself a mental pep-talk I tried on the jeans all the while knowing without a shadow of a single doubt that they would not-could not- possibly fit. Much to my shock and awe they didn't just fit they looked good. I took a moment, then did those posing movements where you shift on the balls of your feet every which way until you justify spending the money. And then I left the dressing room purchased the pants and walked out smirking slightly feeling like I'd just won a battle.
And in some sense I did win a battle, there is a lot of progress that goes unnoticed when you're dealing with mental illness and it's very easy to not see how far you've come.