and then it was fall.
new york’s summer heat has faded into a brisk autumn breeze and brown and orange leaves line prospect park. everything is pumpkin flavored.
i’ve settled into that sunny park slope apartment and finally have the calm that comes with unpacking and decorating.
now that i’ve reclined into my subwayoffice routine it seems easy. most weekdays zip by as i float between edits and emails, a whole mess of thankses and bests, and sometimes even a thanks-in-advance if i feel so inclined. i take a walk on my lunchbreak; my daily dose of manhattan. everyone seems to be jewish, but carts selling halal meat line every sidewalk in town. there’s a fruit vendor near my office and in the morning i hand him a quarter for a banana — we don’t even talk about it anymore. he’s the quiet type, and i’m always late.
over the weekend i took a ferry from red hook to manhattan. the boat dropped me off in the financial district, whose empty saturday streets made the gargantuan buildings seem even more colossal. i was the smallest little creature in a place that hardly seemed like earth, staring up at angular metallic giants. i walked north toward tribeca and the buildings calmed down but everything seemed far away, lofts and brunches and vintage stores that sell five-hundred dollar jackets. when i walk around lower manhattan i want to eat, drink, and buy everything, but i feel like i’m not allowed. i didn’t get invited. when i look at all the people in the streets i wonder how many of them feel that exact same way, or how many of them are wealthy enough not to.
paris has started to seem far away. thinking about it recently provides the same sensation as reading fiction: my imagination informs vague scenes of elsewhere. the colors are off and edges are soft, like i’m dreaming, but shapes aren’t convoluted and i understand what i’m seeing. i’m imagining something that no longer exists in real time, and i only see it in fragments, but i know it’s real. when i think about the last two years i don’t have a cohesive picture but snapshots of street corners: walking up rue faubourg poissonière towards barbès, where faubourg saint denis hits rue des petites écuries. walking past le sully and waving at the barman with the long dark hair — he had really nice hair. thick and straight and brown.
two weeks before i left i didn’t know that i was leaving. it was hot, and i had my first of several interviews for my current job. i paced across my miniature studio in striped pajama shorts and a blazer drinking a glass of rosé out of a yogurt pot (a time-tested skype-interview-preparation technique).
i felt that the interview had gone well. i swapped pajamas for jeans, returned the blazer to its untouched corner in the closet (oh the days when blazers occupied untouched corners in closets), grabbed my headphones and ran down my stairs. i stood in front of my apartment and assessed my options (left or right). which way would rue saint sauveur take me.
i walked up faubourg poissonière and winded through the ninth arrondissement until i found myself on rue des martyrs. i had energy. i walked up and up towards sacre coeur and turned before tourists might swallow me. just days before i had walked those streets thinking i was going to stay, and now, energized by a seemingly successful interview, i balanced the idea that i was going to leave.
i kept walking. fast. i lingered momentarily in front of a building on rue pigalle where i had visited an apartment, a studio on the 1ère étage vu sur cour, to move into in september. i thought i was going to stay, i had accepted that i was going to stay. the interview left me feeling triumphant but less grounded than ever; i thought i could recline but i had to stay on my toes.
i turned back and started walking home. i wanted to cry but i didn’t know what about. i walked down faubourg saint-dénis in the middle of the street, vaguely perusing each side. and then i ran into Sari. the owner of au chat noir, my favorite café. i ran into him in my neighborhood. it was like seeing your teacher at the grocery store when you’re a kid — a misplaced and vaguely unsettling reminder that people exist outside the context you’ve assigned to them. Sari belonged at au chat noir, or at least in its immediate alentours.
we fait’d la bise. he offered me a kurdish sandwich. i gladly accepted. we stood in front of the kurdish sandwich shop eating freshly baked bread filled with ground meat and spices; Sari, a kurdish man in his mid-forties who lives in the apartment above his café and gives unlimited gingery shots and peanuts to the group of lush 25-year-old girls who frequents his establishment, and i, perched outside of the sandwich shop, devouring our wraps as much as we were the whole scene. i told him about my interview and that i might be moving to new york. he told me to go. paris is great, he said, but new york is new york, after all.
we finished our wraps and parted ways, i by foot and he by bike. it was a new bike, he said, and he had recently quit smoking. sometimes he just liked to go ride for hours, up past jaurès, and all along the canal de l’ourq. helped him make sense of things. ain’t it the truth.
paris is great, but new york is new york, after all? i’m still trying to figure that out. brooklyn feels like oakland with better-funded city planners. a project in charming gentrification that you’d have to be lying to say you didn’t like. everything is pumpkin flavored, and all the babies have nice strollers. everyone seems to get along, and all the coffee tastes good. park slope is all smiley, and nice. but i’m not sure if it’s more than that.
it might not be more. chances are it’s not. and so it occurs to me that i’m residing in a place that can’t be unpacked, that lines its streets with all it has to offer. restaurants, bakeries, and cafes adorn park slope’s bustling avenues.
i’m not sure if that upsets me, or if it’s okay. i like the restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. i want to purchase the things they sell. i might not be looking for more than that in park slope. i left my paris glasses at charles de gaulle. now i see things with my own (myopic, literally) eyes, and they’re just fine, but not much more than that.
manhattan might be a different story, but i won’t find out for a while. the good news is that the wide-eyed-ness that colored my first encounters with paris informs my every glance in manhattan. the bad news is i haven’t had time to indulge. so far manhattan just seems like the life’s dirt that tarnished paris. or maybe it’s that i’ve graduated from that dirt-free period of life. i think it might be that.
today something happened. i relaunched a war with my french bank, from afar, disrupting the dreamlike fiction paris had started to become.
i spent too long talking to yannick, my conseiller-en-ligne, about how he couldn’t provide me any of the information i needed to access my account, from which i am blocked. i patienter’d several times but malheureusement it was 19h45 in paris, and my agence closed at 18h. i’m going to need to call back pendant les horaires d’ouverture.
and this is where i expose myself. because as frustrating as my exchange with yannick was, i secretly enjoyed his company. battling with bnp paribas–a cornerstone of my parisian experience–filled me with chills of nostalgia. but it also made me feel less far away. like part of me (albeit in the form of thousands of euros in a bank account i currently can’t access) still resides in the glorious 75, as if my bureaucratic dealings from afar someway indicate that i haven’t officially left.
i felt rather flustered by the end of my conversation with yannick. i wished him a curt bonne soiree, partially frustrated that he could not address my needs (though not surprised either), but mostly confused by the longing i felt for 19h45 in paris. that perfect parisian time, nearly an hour into apero, streets glossy with rain. that’s the nostalgia i’ve avoided thus far. and now it’s all over me.
why is it that, as yannick explained that i should contact my agence directement pendant les horaires d’ouverture, images of rue andre del sarte, where i once sublet a room, flooded my brain? today it’s rainy in new york but all i can think about is rain on rue charlot.
the knowledge that 19h45 paris time still exists in my absence is clouding my vision, disrupting my bests, thankses, and serial commas. yannick just uncovered a bout of tucked-away queasiness that’s about to envelop the rest of my afternoon.