Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nothing but Everything

Last Friday I met an old friend from high school in my neighbourhood’s new organic market.  She was with her eight year old daughter and buying a tub of kale salad for lunch.  Her husband hovered nearby and when introduced, we both pretended that we remembered meeting before.  My friend looked exactly the same.  Same sweet, smiling face and comfortable as ever in her jeans and tank top.  I teetered over her in my nude high heels, sweating in my summer scarf, and digging around in my Longchamp tote for a business card.  I apologized for buying roast beef sandwiches.  Nope, still not a vegetarian.    

Standing next to her and her beautiful daughter, meat in hand, I felt nothing short of vapid and insignificant. 

What I had been doing for the last ten years?  What I had been doing while she got married, had a daughter at the recommended age, and bought a house near her parents? 

My six trips to Paris flashed through my mind but I ignored them and talked about my husband, my job, and living downtown.  I "borrowed" my best friend’s daughters, talked about how well they were doing, trying to add another dimension to what I can see being perceived as my 35 year old nothingness. 

These conversations are becoming all too common.  Yesterday, from a distance I saw another old friend, waddle-walking from pregnancy, and I ducked into a Starbucks to avoid another nothing conversation.  I am running out of my enthusiasm for pregnancies.  I am running out of different ways to say that we, Chris and I, are not having children.  I am running out of ways to make our dream of living in Paris sound legitimate and not just something we are doing to be different.  Paris is not reactionary, it’s not a statement against the norm, and it’s not because we are bored.  It’s simply because we can’t figure out a way to live without Paris.

We can’t figure out a way to live without Paris.  Even writing that, I understand how ridiculous it must sound when compared to almost anything else.  It sounds stupidly romantic and quite hopeless.  We should get over ourselves, get over Paris, and just live our lovely lives here.  If only it were that easy… 

What do I say then when I come face-to-face with new babies, complaints of no sleep and 25-year mortgages? 

Nothing.  I say nothing because I don’t want to be the bitch who is going to Paris for the seventh time in three short weeks.  So instead I say….  I am married, I have a good job, I am a terrible cook and a lapsed runner.  You know, nothing.

But really my life, my life with Chris, in between trips to Paris and our stolen weeks in Paris is everything.  It's that we speak the same language, Paris, and that no matter how frustrating or impossible it seems, we keep believing in our ridiculous dream.

Everything is our small, shared sacrifices at home that lead to Paris.  It’s the butterflies in my stomach when the plane descends into Orly and I get my first glimpse of the Paris skyline.  It’s walking 12 hours a day in Paris and never failing to see something new or heart wrenchingly beautiful.  It’s eating chicken breasts for 10 months a year so we can feast only on bread, cheese and chocolate in Paris.  It's the fall boot collection at Galeries Lafayettes. It’s throwing away my yoga pants in favour of black dresses, scarfs and ballet flats.  It’s reading every book I can on Paris to make it seem less faraway.  It's being full from saucisson sandwiches.  It's silent walks through churches.  It’s shopping the GAP clearance rack so I can pay full price in Paris.  It’s driving an extra 3 miles to the only grocery store in Victoria that sells Badoit.  It’s spending too much time and money trying to find a Pierre Hermé macaron substitute (nothing even comes close).  It’s being angry that terrible baguette costs $3.50 here yet in Paris, an Eric Kayser baguette, still warm from the oven, costs about $1.50.  It’s looking forward to buying groceries at Monoprix.  It’s plotting my French disguises so I am hopefully mistaken for a Parisian.  It’s sunsets over Trocadero, café crèmes in Luxembourg gardens, and roast chickens and flowers from rue Cler.  It's our first kiss, again and again, at Place de la Concorde.

Paris, it's our everything.