11 October 2006

looking for au revoir.

last night it came into my mind in a very real way that i am leaving paris. i am moving away from all this that has in many ways (and despite what i thought was the case) become home. people ask me when i am leaving to rentrer aux états-unis -- when i am going home -- and it seems silly to use the verb rentrer, which is quite specific to going home. indeed i am about to retourner (return) or even revenir (come back), but to a city in which i have never lived., and which is more unfamiliar to me than it was before i settled into paris.

last night i ate dinner with isabelle and arnaud, two of the most amazing folks you could ever have the honor of meeting, and that's what sunk it in. after dinner and a viewing of profondo rosso, they walked me to the metro and then into the metro and then waved goodbye all the way until i disappeared into the tunnelled stairway leading to the 8 train, leading back to bastille and margaux's apartment which is filled with luggages (one of which weighs, no joke, *more* than i do), various hair products strewn about, and insomnia.

i want to tell you briefly about isa and arnaud, because they are of that rare breed of intellectuals that are not in school at all. they are beyond smart, have a beautiful living room filled with bookshelves, and possess above all stunningly astute critical-thinking minds coupled with a commitment to art and artistry. it makes me feel like cardboard, my intellect held up and sustained and pushed mostly by the unrelenting bootcamp of academia rather than my own desire to understand things (notwithstanding the amount of time i spend cruising articles on wikipedia). isa works in a bookstore and translates articles on sharks and such for national geographic and reads like a maniac and is able to put her finger on the pulse of books and ideas better than most academics, and arnaud is a pion (a lower-level highschool employee), but does so only in order to devote time to his auto-didactic art studies and his writing. a more succinct example: he reads kant's critique of pure reason every year just because he enjoys it. both of them are so admirable because they choose to be.

as i was heading back from the metro and their goodbyes, i was walking down the sidewalk and sneezed. a guy many several yards away came up to me and said, in english, "bless you." i looked up and was so shocked that it took me a few secocnds to say not "thank you" but rather stammered "merci." it has been awhile since i've been blessyoued, and i was very surprised. although you might tell your friends "à tes souhaits (ah tay sou-ay)" most folks who sneeze in public excuse themselves. to my mildly germophobic mind this makes perfect sense; why bless a perfect stranger who is actively spreading potential disease? sneezers, i think, should apologize for their germ expulsion. but both that well-intentioned blesser and especially my reaction solidified the growing realization that (a) perhaps i have after all become quite parigified and (b) i am leaving.

all this and the fact that for the first time in a long time i am no longer sharing a bed with my partner kept me up until 5am. at 4h30 or so i despaired of falling asleep and went outside to sit on the stoop and smoke, and was amazed for the first time since moving here by how quiet paris gets. on sundays and late at night, and certainly at 4h3o am after a sunday, no one's around outside. and bastille, which borders the marais (the gay and jewish and currently-infested-with-yelling-tourists district), is a pretty hopping neighborhood (except at post-sunday 4h30 am). it was so quiet that i could hear the rotating ads on the metro signs flipping, and there was no one to stare at or be stared at by, so i looked up at the buildings and it made me so sad to think that i will be leaving these buildings, and this city which i even until recently denied belonging to or belonging to me in a way.

more updates on all this dissumulating and sublimated whimsy as departure progresses.

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