I am leaving Paris for two weeks. I’m going to California where I lived for most of my adult life. It is a beautiful day today. The sky is blue, the Seine is peaceful, sparkling and the Bateaux Mouches have begun their daily trips up and down the river showing tourists the sights along the banks.
I have been grumbling about the weather most of the Fall. It seemed that we went from summer to winter without passing Autumn. In fact, we have had a couple of beautiful Indian Summer days and this seems to be turning into one of them. I’ve turned the heat off in the apartment and I’m looking forward to a walk. My iPhone says that the next week will be sunny and much much warmer than it has been.
However, I’m leaving for Charles de Gaulle airport before the sun comes up tomorrow morning. And like most of my “last days before the trip” Paris seems lovelier. I seem to see it all much more clearly. I look around my apartment as if I will never see it again. I held Bijou, the cat, so close trying to make a physical memory of her furriness, her sweetness, the way she will suddenly look up at me with loving eyes that completely melt my heart. I don’t feel this way about going anywhere else in Europe. But California and another life seems worlds away from Paris and this life.
Last January, when I took my trip to California, terrorists had just bombed the Brussels airport. We had heard, though it hadn’t been confirmed, that the Brussels airport was second choice to Paris. I had no idea what to expect. I felt very matter of fact about it. I called my lawyer and asked if I wrote out a makeshift will in pencil about all my belongings in Paris, would it be considered legal. He said yes then added to please not worry, nothing was going to happen to me. He couldn’t possibly know. The truth is, a place where terrorists have just hit is probably one of the safest places in the world.
I’m not worrying about terrorists. I look forward to these long flights to California (but not to the jet lag). Once I get to the airport, get my bags checked, get through border control, I’m in No Man’s Land. Soon my phone won’t ring at all, I won’t be able to receive any texts. No one can bother me or demand anything of me. I can watch five movies in a row and not feel guilty or lazy. I can daydream or read a book or write.
But that’s tomorrow. Today, I’m walking around looking at everything as if it’s the first time and the last time. I don’t feel anxious. I don’t have a word for it. It’s a feeling I’m sure everyone gets at some time or another. Of wanting to imprint something in my memory that is stronger than just a memory. I want to be able to touch it, feel it, take it with me. When I’m sitting in my living room in Oakland, I don’t want Paris to feel so incredibly far away. The memory I always default to is sitting in my armchair that I have facing the window. The window that looks out on Quai des Grands Augustins, the Pont Neuf and the river Seine. It’s an amazing view of one of the most beautiful parts of Paris that I look at every day.