It's my second-to-last night in France, and tomorrow doesn't really count since I'll be going to bed early in order to wake up for my 8 a.m. flight. I was supposed to meet up with a friend of mine and some of her friends at a restaurant. But things fell through. I have no credit on my phone, so I wasn't able to call her to find her. (It didn't seem worth it to buy more for my last few days here, and I've been making do with a landline and email...very early 90s of me, I guess.) I thought we were meeting at the metro stop, and I waited and waited, but they never showed up. I finally got the guts up to ask to borrow a phone from a stranger and found out that they were already at the restaurant. I got the address from her, but even though I had a map and I was sure I was on the right street, I walked and walked and couldn't find it. I was not particularly zen about the situation. I actually cried a little bit when I realized that I was spending my last night out in Paris walking alone in the rain in a less-than-charming neighboorhood. But I called it quits and was about to go home when I realized I wasn't too far away from a friend's house and used another stranger's phone to convince him to meet me.
I wasn't very close to Alex during the semester. We had French classes together and would go out sometimes, but only when we were with other friends. But the two of us are some of the last from our semester left in Paris, and since the end of classes, we've seen each other four or five times. This guy is great. He has the most articulate, composed way of expressing himself, and to get to spend time with him in this period of transition and packing has made me so much more optimistic about leaving and so much better able to rationalize this end to my year. We're both pretty broke, so we just decided to walk. Walking alone, lost and wet is so much different from walking around Paris at night in a warm summer storm with a friend.
We wound up in my favorite part of the city, and all of these Moroccans were out on the streets celebrating a soccer win. The rain was the kind of hot summer storm that I haven't been in since leaving New England, where the humidity and the heat has built for days and the rain comes as such a relief. The stupid Woody Allen movie that just came out really exploited the cliché of Paris in the rain, but it's a cliché for a reason: Paris was beautiful tonight. And really, what better way to say goodbye than to walk? For one last time, I was part of this amazing place, integrated into the crowds at the bars, the post-soccer celebrations, the architecture, the psycho mo-ped drivers, the smokers huddled under awnings, the late-night crêperies.
It's only just hit me how heart-broken I will be to leave this place. I know I will come back, and everyone I say goodbye to reminds me over and over again of that. But I will never come back to this year, to going to France as a 20-year old and plunging myself into a language that I have only the faintest grasp of, and a culture that I have absolutely no understanding of. The next time I come back here, I'll be older, I probably won't be so poor, I'll speak French with working fluency, I'll understand what I'm coming into. It just sounds so dull.
But these long conversations with Alex that I've had ever since the semester ended has made me realize how nice it will be to go home. He said something tonight about how comfortable it will be, how being in a new place --for all its excitement -- is inherently uncomfortable and difficult to manage. Life in Paris has been a series of navigating obstacles, and to go home to predictability will be a relief. And a year away from my family is hard. I can't wait to see them.
I'm basically packed. I have macarons in the fridge that I'm bringing back and my toothbrush and some general debris that I need to deal with, but other than that, I'm ready to go.