Six years ago I was living in Paris and working as an au pair. It feels like a lifetime ago. As I read through my old blog entries (once public) to help with my guide book, I'm flooded with memories. I'm amazed at the young woman I was. Yes, I'm still a young woman, but it's interesting to read my teenage self, to remember just how honest and open I was about my feelings. Some entries are extremely raw. So raw I'm impressed I put it out there for the public, my family and friends to read. These days I'm a little more censored. Some posts, like this one, are less raw, but I love to be reminded of the images, smells and sights of my life at the time. Here is a weekend in Paris six years ago. Early Friday night I’m sitting at the dinner table with the kids having a singing contest. I keep losing and apparently don’t take the singing seriously enough. I run out the door after dinner, and promise the young girl I’ll practice all weekend.
A couple of hours later two friends are in my shoebox apartment as I attempt my first cramped dinner party. We sit side by side on my pull out couch, plates on our laps, and dig into the sweet salmon, baked zucchini, and feta salad I’ve prepared. They smoke Lucky Strike through the bars of my window, and I make hot whiskey in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day.
Saturday afternoon and I’m walking the rue de Passy admiring store windows and the summer fashions that have finally come our way. I try on flowing tops and light jackets, buy nothing, and dream of the hotter days to come.
Saturday evening and I’m walking up a street in Montmartre with a bag full of avocados, tortilla chips and wine. The sun has just set and all the small restaurants are setting their tables. Waiters smoke outside, and a chef walks out of a restaurant and up the street in checkered pants. I try not to smile at the young men who hiss at me as I work my way up the hill.
Soon after I’m making guacamole in Lauren’s kitchen. Her and her Italian roommate are throwing a party for their new apartment, which is soon filled to the brim with Americans, Italians, British and French. I fill myself with white wine and guacamole as I go from French to English, describing life as an au pair to strangers throughout the room. I finally get to meet Coquette-the charming celebrity blogger and fashion journalist-as I try and teach a Frenchman to say “Corkscrew”. “Where is zee cork scru?!” He screams.
Later Saturday night and I’m trying to catch the last metro home. I get half way there and it closes. Soon I’m standing with a bunch of young teenage boys in straw hats. One has a portable ghetto blaster, playing a catchy song that feels like background music to the movie of my life. He tries to show me where the nearest night bus is, while his friend force feeds him gin and tells me I’m “magnifique”.
It's turning into Sunday morning and there's no night bus. Every taxi is taken. I find a ritzy hotel and eventually steal a cab. My driver is kind and takes me home under a large moon, and I have enough to give him a small tip.
Sunday afternoon and young boys are skateboarding at Place du Trocadero, the Eiffel tower glowing behind them. Music starts playing from two large speakers behind me, and I continue walking aimlessly, then sun holding me all the way.
Sunday night and I’m in my friend’s Turkish restaurant in Montmartre. A rowdy group of men sit at another table and stare me down. When I get up to leave, so do they. I sit back down, and so do they. My friend’s father insists he’ll drive me to my metro so that they don’t follow me. He tells me they won’t eat there again. “We only like good people in our restaurant,” he says, “I have no problem kicking people out if I don’t like them.” His face is intelligent, honest, and he tells me he’ll send me to Turkey with his wife and daughter next summer.
The scenes keep unfolding and I can’t tell if I’m taking part or just observing. Life feels unreal these days, and my whole body feels lighter as the air starts to warm up. I walk these streets knowing my life here isn't permanent, and with this in mind, the romance comes back. The scenes unfold, foreign, unreal, and everything glows under that sudden sun.
March 19, 2006