Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Imprisonment vs. Freedom

So, I knew when I signed up for it that this study abroad thing would change me. That was, naturally, the goal. I wanted to gain perspective on myself, my family, and my future.

I’m rather astonished by what I’ve discovered. It’s not pretty. Disturbing realizations about my family and myself have left me feeling kind of storm-tossed. Things I took for granted to be true are revealing themselves to be nothing more than wishful thinking. I hate taking risks, because I’m afraid of getting hurt, but what I didn’t consider was that I was choosing certain pain over uncertain pain. Thinking I was safe at home was a lie I told myself, which is why I ensconced myself in my room and refused to leave my house, when I should have been getting a job and looking for an apartment so I could move the hell out. Well, now my hand’s been forced: I was officially disowned last week, which means when I return to California, I will not be going home. There’s no home to go to.

Strangely, I am—at the moment—not bothered overmuch by this (it comes and goes). While I’ll admit the financial hurdles I’ll have to overcome are daunting, the truth is, I haven’t really lost anything. My relationship with my father has always been an utter mess, and my relationship with my mother is strained because of that. I’m tired of the fighting and the ugly feelings and the guilt. It’s become clear to me that this may even save my sanity (though it’s likely to ruin my credit). They can live in their hysterically chaotic world alone together; I intend to escape that. At the moment I don’t know what my plan is for finding a place, but I have some time yet, and I’ll figure it out. It’s an unfortunate theme of my life that I only seem able to grow and thrive when sorely tested. But that’s okay; I have no illusions that it will be easy, but at the same time...I’m not as scared as I thought I’d be.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dear You,

You are the reason I live in fear. You are the monster in the dark. You are the evil so evil that you infect others with it, until they become as twisted and ugly as yourself.

What must I do to escape you?

I tried running, but you found me again, you contaminate me like a black ink stain on white paper. Nowhere am I safe from you.

Always, always vigilant. Always wary, never trusting. Because of you. You taught me the pain and the shame and the self-loathing that soaks me so deep I can’t wash it away. I cover it up, big smile, act human, but inside…I am so ugly. A near-perfect reflection of you. You taught me so well.

Poisson d'Avril!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Various Shades of Longing

So I’ve been speaking to Scott, and there’s a distinct possibility he may be coming in early summer to visit. I won’t exaggerate and say that I’ve suffered every day that he’s not with me—I’m not that dramatic. But I have felt strangely off-balance and that feeling hasn’t gone away. I’ve simply learned to ignore it.

I think about seeing him again, and part of me wants to say—“You can’t imagine how I’ve missed you,” but that rings oddly to me. Barring an excellent act on his part, I presume he’s missed me as well. I would suppose he can imagine it, or something like it, though it’s not exactly the same.

Which is worse, doing the leaving or being left? I went across the world, to a new country, new culture, where I’d have to do things I’d never attempted before even in California: balance school and work, budget, remember to pay rent on time, etc. Pretty much everything was unfamiliar and scary and the one thing that always calmed me down was missing. I’m not one of those solitary travelers; for me, an experience is most satisfying when it’s shared with a friend, and I was so alone. I’d see something new that would spark my interest, but there’d be no one to tell the story to. The solitude was at times...crushing. I couldn’t stand to be left alone with my thoughts. That’s why I was always in a hurry though I rarely actually wanted to get to wherever I was going, why I was constantly plugged into my iPod, why I purchased a ton of ebooks and why I refused to write on this blog for so many weeks. Scott can’t fully understand that. I can explain it, and he’ll listen and probably understand as well as anyone who hasn’t done it can, but until you’ve lived it you can’t grasp it.

And yet, I’m sure I can’t fully understand what he’s been going through in my absence. He could explain and I’d probably understand as well as I can, but it’s not the same. I hopped on a plane and he was left alone in a world we’d shared for almost 5 years, probably wondering if I’d fall in love with a Frenchman or Paris or both and never come home again. Or come home a polite stranger who'd once dated him for a while before figuring her life out. Familiar things, our things….do they feel the same if the person you shared them with is gone? Can you stand the dichotomy between the memories of peace and happiness when paired with the terrible lack, the unassailable sense that the most important element of the experience is missing? As interesting and helpful and rewarding as this experience has been, my world hasn’t been right since I left. I suspect I’ll only be able enjoy Paris fully when he’s here with me and I can show him ten months’ worth of Scott would like that...

Sunday, March 28, 2010


You tried to tell me something that night, and I wasn’t listening. I didn’t hear the words under your silence.

I’m sorry. I have regretted it, bitterly.

But I’m listening now. And if you’ll take just one step towards me, I promise you, I will walk a thousand miles for you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Plant Sex

Cherry Blossoms (1)

Spring is finally coming to Paris. After the coldest winter any Parisian can remember, the sun has taken pity on us and is beginning to show up with an exciting regularity.  Little green buds are appearing on the trees and some have broken out in riotous spray of pale pink blossoms.

That, and I sneezed 4 times in a row yesterday.  Twice.

Cherry Blossoms (6)

Yep, spring has definitely arrived.  And I am going to need some anti-histamines very soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shopaholic, or: Relearning Optimism

“In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I bought myself three umbrellas.”

Thus began my confession to Lily about the shamefully spendthrift behavior I’ve fallen into of late. I’ve always been a terrible cheapskate when it comes to personal purchases. I just don’t see the point in buying expensive clothing, makeup, or personal products when I can find comparable items for less elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how to spend money. I just hate dropping a lot of cash unless I know that whatever I’m buying is worth it. This leads to problems with wardrobe and other personal items, as you can imagine. I’ll wear a favorite article of clothing until it’s in tatters, I’ll use a beloved pair of sneakers until they have holes. Last year I had to have the straps on my black purse repaired because the leather finally gave out. I couldn’t bear the thought of looking for a new one, because I’m terribly picky.

All of which only makes my present behavior all the more puzzling—although it has a strange kind of logic. I’m just tired of having to go on an epic search for a new coat/wallet/purse once my current favorite has bitten the dust, especially when I happened upon something last month that I would’ve liked but didn’t buy because I “didn’t need it”. I would blame Paris for turning into a mild shopaholic but I suspect the change of attitude has been longer in the making.

Strangely, I’ve been attracted to bright colors lately, and it reminds me of high school, when orange was a regular part of my wardrobe. Maybe it’s all the black that everyone wears in Paris, maybe I’m recapturing that feeling of optimism that I had eight years ago, I don’t know. I’m just tired of feeling like an old woman, which is why I felt I needed a yellow sunflower umbrella in my life (in addition to the purple one with ruffled trim and the clear plastic bubble umbrella I’ve wanted since I was a kid). I’m kind of sick of being practical. I’m always practical, and it’s terribly boring. I have the rest of my life to be boring—for now, in my last three months in Paris, I’m damn well going to be silly and have fun. And I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I promise myself I will bring this feeling back home with me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Love on the Metro

The couple hops onto the train just before the doors close. They laugh at the near-miss, their smiles private and conspiratorial. As the train jerks into motion, the young man cups his hand around the girl’s elbow, steadying her. She puts her hand on his chest as her feet inch closer to his. She looks up, head slightly quirked to the side, a quiet smile flirting with the corner of her lips. He tilts his face towards hers, unconsciously mirroring her movements. Their noses are almost touching.

The watcher observes them discreetly. She has seen many, many couples in the nearly seven months she has lived in this city, but few interest her as this one does. Most she finds annoying, because they talk or giggle loudly, or worse, make out like as if they’re auditioning for an x-rated film. Personally, the watcher thinks that tongues aren’t really meant to seen by the general population, and that while in public, they are best kept inside their owner’s mouths—as opposed to down someone else’s throat.

But this couple is…quiet. Restrained. Yes, that’s the word, restrained. And somehow, through their restraint, they manage to convey more tenderness and passion than all those other giggling, tongue-sucking couples. Like most Parisians on this blustery day, they’re bundled up head to toe in various shades of black; only their faces and their hands are visible. Their hair is mussed and windblown in that romantic way that only a lucky few can pull off. They talk and laugh quietly, an oasis of calm in the bustle and noise of rush hour. Around them, people listen to blaring MP3 players, have loud conversations on cell phones or with companions, and attempt to solicit spare change from the passengers, but they don’t seem to hear any of it.

The train comes to a particularly abrupt stop and the girl wobbles. The young man shifts his hold from her elbow to her waist, and she in turn lifts her ungloved hand to the pole he grips for balance. She makes sure to set her naked hand on the back of his. His brows furrow slightly, not with annoyance but with concentration. What is he thinking? He looks at her as if he’s memorizing the color of her eyes, the curve of her cheek. What would it be like to be the object of such unwavering focus?  His gaze seems to glow with warmth.

The doors open, and they step out, her hand lightly cradled in his. The watcher’s eyes follow them.

She feels just a little jealous.