I want to live in Paris. This is my dream; has been for years. I feel incomplete, like a limb, or at least a major digit, is missing when a trip to Paris is not on the horizon. It was less than a month after returning from a week there in September that I managed to plan a four-night “stopover” en route home from a work trip to Zambia in January. My addiction is that severe.
I love being in Paris as much, I think, as the dog asleep now at my feet loves me. I cried on the second day of my last trip, in the shadows of the archways at Place du Vosges, tears dripping, nose running, sniffling like a woebegone child as I explained to my girlfriends that I’m crying because, snuffle, wipe, I haaaa-aaa-aaa-ve to leave. (They promptly took me shopping and I bought this dress to console myself.)
When I want something badly enough, I make it happen. And I’ve been plotting for years to make a move, sure that somehow, someday, I will live in Paris. But I’m beginning to think that maybe I don’t want to after all. I’m still ridiculously, hopelessly, fiercely in love with Paris. But if Paris is always the light at the end of my tunnel, I no longer have that light if I’m there. Right?
If you have Paris, what lives up to it?
A Parisian man said this in the book I just read, the book that I’ll partly blame for my decision to abandon my dream, or at least acknowledge that it’s not, in fact, my dream – Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing me Down.
It’s true though. If I’m living in the most beautiful city in the world, the city that I can walk for days with no plan, nothing but a huge smile on my face, what do I have to look forward to beyond that?
Recollections of Paris past and dreams of Paris future prop me up through monotonous days at home. Nothing compares to the glee of booking a flight – except arriving. I can – and do – spend long, delicious hours mulling over where to eat and what to eat and what streets to wander the next time I’m there. I’ve collected articles and stories and ideas for future trips for years. I barely blink when I find I’ve forgotten to do something I meant to do — restock my spice cabinet with goodies from la Grand Epicerie, maybe — because I’ll just do it next time. There will always be a next time. I didn’t even go into the Eiffel Tower until I’d been to Paris nearly a dozen times. What’s the hurry? It will be there.
And that idea, that Paris is always ahead of me, allows me to toil through a day job, grocery shop in an American supermarket, face another humid Kentucky summer morning or dismal December day.
If Paris is no longer a dream, then what do I dream of?
Life in Paris blogs flourish online, weaving magical tales of perfect life in the city of light. Everything is lovely, a misty, romantic pleasureville in these blogs. But I know Paris better than to buy those glorified, simplified, “don’t you envy me” cotton candy confections. Paris can be a pain in the arse. Big time. I know this. Rosecrans, the author of ‘Paris I Love You’ shows me to be true what I feared – that living in Paris, you can lose the magic. Bureaucracy, language, a daily grind — even there! — can add up to the bursting of the shiny bubble. I don’t want to lose that, even if it means I will never live there.
“There should be a name for when you’re in Paris and you already miss it,” says Rosecrans. I don’t have the name, but I know it all too well, this feeling. The last time I stand on a bridge and look out over the Seine, my heart breaks. It will never truly be mine. It’s only on loan (like a library book, says the author). And I grieve when I have to give it back, mourn that I can only ever have my fleeting moments there. But I never, ever say goodbye. Rosecrans understands this perfectly. He says:
saying goodbye to Paris was something a person did when he knew he was dying. Otherwise Paris was forever one day soon.
I think that’s what I need. More than I long to try (in vain, surely) to truly have Paris, I need to always know that it’s one day soon.