This is where I am. Tucked away in the corner of some European city watching a couple of fellows dressed in velour tracksuits and puma kicks knock a football into a crowd of tourists. Is this not the scene people dream up in storybooks? Wrought iron chairs sitting atop cobblestone that stretch out into city squares where people gather around fountains to throw their wishes in the water. Even a celiac would trade in their piece of gluten-free toast to feel the warmth of a Parisian pastry on their tongue. I came here because the world told me Paris is beautiful even though I know the fields by my house, which no one comes to gawk at, are more beautiful to me anyways.
I’m thinking about how this moment might be construed as a truly moving Instagram moment But as I chew angrily on the end of a croissant in one of the most beautiful places, I wonder why, with all the treasures of the world at my feet, I still do not feel happy. My ass has imprints from the wrought iron chair and the women beside me are talking mindlessly about their friend Tiffany and her anal tendencies towards only buying things in teal. Worst of all, my stomach is starting to cramp and I feel I might vomit because I am, after all, a celiac. What the hell, I think. Five years of constructing the perfect Paris Pinterest board and it’s already shot to shit. What’s the big deal about this place and its cold metal tower that everyone claims to be worthy of printing on every tea towel sold in North America?
This is where I am. Staring at the Mona Lisa, whose face is actually smaller than my thumb, wondering why everyone looks at things from behind cameras the size of elephants. If you held a magnified glass up to the tiny painting you would see how beautiful she is. But my mother’s face which melts and folds into my own when I hug her. My mother’s face, whose wrinkles I know are my own doing, is more beautiful to me anyways.
I am bitter I know. But so is the man sitting beside me on a couch in the lobby of a hostel waiting for his phone to charge or his life to start (I do not know which one).
"Never come to Paris after breaking up with your partner," he says me with a gaze so serious my only response it to nod. "You’ll only feel over come with sadness," he continues, "from having so much beauty surrounding you and no one to share it with".
Perhaps beauty is best when shared, I think. But macaroons, I can say with certainty, are best when not.
"You are brave to start over," I tell him.
"No", he replies. "Just stupid".
And maybe he was, but really who cares? Fresh starts are overrated anyways. No one ever finds what they set out to discover anyways. You’re never going to find yourself in bottom of the Trevi fountain or atop Mount Kilimanjaro and you won’t ever have some mind-blowing epiphany as your plane takes off from Tibet. You don’t go places to find yourself. You get out of the grind to forget about the whole stupid notion of having a self or finding that self and once you let go of that your eyes open for the very first time to all of the colours and the spices and ocean breezes you never allowed to seep into your veins when you were at home watching Netflix.
I wish I could go back and tell him that I thought he was brave to stay in the in-between— the dark part of the tunnel where you can’t see a flicker of light—without panicking, without breaking, without turning back.
This is where I am. Far away from all the wonders of the world and all the spaces someone’s pretentious gaze has deemed worthy of an iPhone flash. I am sitting in the lobby waiting for my phone to charge or my life to start (I do not know which one) watching a pianist play Yiruma. The pianist’s gaze, fixed intensely on the keyboard, would lead any onlooker to believe that he only breathed piano. But I know, from sitting behind him and watching his eyes discreetly glance to the side at his iPhone which is streaming a live feed of a baseball game, that anyone who says their heart burns steady for only one thing is a liar.
This is where I am. In a house that is not my own listening to numerous people tell me why real estate is the best place to put your money. As I stand on expensive pine floors I silently wish that all the people evaluating the speed at which my life is accelerating knew the quiet pleasure that comes from meeting someone who has passed you at a red light. It’s time to get moving, it's time to get growing I hear them yell to me from outside the tunnel of the in-between. As if trees need to twirl in circles in order to spread their roots.
This is where I am. In a hair salon listening to girls gush over men who feed rings through their fingers and call it kindness. But I’ve seen the kindness he shows me when he leads me into the bathroom to show me how to use his shower. Because as everyone knows there is nothing more disconcerting than trying to make sense of a foreign shower handle in the nude. And that’s the type of kindness I like anyways.
This is where I am. In a house in the middle of fall with the windows spread wide to let all the leaves, a feverish blend of red and orange and deep purple, flirt with the soft pine floors. It feels like the world is letting go a little bit tonight. The trees are shedding the weight of all the summer romances turned sour. All we are left with are bare branches. All we are left with are bare bones.
This is where I am. Feeling the weight of expectation puncture me with every hit of water bursting from the nozzle in the shower. I stand here thinking about the very strong possibility that I may be in the in-between for a while longer. I am unsure how long I can stand here in the tunnel without panicking, without breaking, without turning back. I think I can feel good things growing here but I cannot be sure. I cannot see through the darkness.