Paris

23 Oct

This morning I wrote for awhile on paper, and it was surprisingly pleasant. The words flowed calmly, organically- not the sputtering frenzy that is typing in a word processor. I wrote about the first thing that  I thought of, Paris. Often the things I wish to write about during the day aren’t the same I wish to write about when I finally sit down at night. The inspirations that flit through my mind pass quickly, and often. And the only way I can get myself to write after working all day is to indulge my writing fancy and put into words whatever pops into my head. There’s nothing disciplined about it except for the fact that I must write- about something – and I allow that something to be anything.

To write is to create an alternate reality, and your loyalty lies only with the words as they lay themselves, one after another, across the page. When you read an author’s recollections, their memories, they are not truth – for who can re-capture ancient thoughts and impressions that vanish second after they’re given life? We must try our hardest to be thoughtful, and true, to what we are writing about, but also realistic in acknowledging that what we are doing is not dredging something up but creating something new:

The timing- perfect. As I looked over the rooftops of Paris, just beyond them the glowing, fat red sun set, and the Paris lights twinkled in the afterglow. I leaned against the cool metal rail rimming the very top of the Eiffel Tower, and I sucked everything in – the language, mostly French, people rustling all around- and I pushed down my own rising frenzy, the panicky feeling that I would never again be here – at this place, in this moment – and that I’d better remember everything for later.

I felt the same way walking through the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre – so deep and imaginative you could lose yourself for a life time – and even the dirty, crowded streets I hated: “This is Paris!”

I knew that the poor college student that I am – and the poor (hopefully) writer that I would be after college couldn’t afford to return to these sights for a second look. This was it, the one time the twinkling Paris skyline would pass into my eyes and dance around in my brain before settling down somewhere deep, and dark, in memory.

I do not know if anyone else possesses this thought, but I did before I left for Europe, that it would be one long string of romantic, magical moments. I instead discovered that traveling through Europe is mostly like traveling through real life – hot, messy, dirty and annoying, with the magical moments appearing rarely, if ever, and when you least expect them to.

Just because I’d spend boat loads of money  to get here and traveled over an ocean wouldn’t change reality as I knew it – although I still secretly thought it might buy me more enchantment.

This was before I arrived at one of the first places we set foot upon in Europe, the Burger King in the train station in Munich. We were all famished, and it was the only thing our budgets could afford. The women at the bathroom there angrily demanded that I give her money before I used the bathroom at the Burger King. I would have none of her ridiculous request and simply stared back at her in bewilderment. The leader, a kindly professor, came over to us and explained to me that he’d forgotten to relay to the group this custom of theirs- to pay to use the rest room. What an idea. Must one pay here to use libraries, too? But after all was explained, I felt embarrassed, that I was being an arrogant, insensitive American, and so I smiled, sucked up my cultural pride, and handed the bathroom lady, who suddenly looked not quite so fowl, the money. And all was then well, the equilibrium in our travel world restored. Then, we  ate our first ironic meal on European soil, French fries and cheeseburgers. And my cherished belief was then broken.

I thought about this on the tower when Beth’s beautiful, curious laughter broke into my memories politely, as if tapping them on the shoulder, “Are you still here?” I floated back to now, a moment where upon everything fell a rosy glow, and the world appeared unfettered magic. Together we watched the twinkling lights grow brighter and brighter, and we snapped photographers of them and of each-other, pressed against the rail with the now dark blue sky hanging lovely as a picture in the background.

 

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