I generally pride myself on my affinity for descriptive language, but I find that in this city it seems to fall short. Why even try, when so many have done it already, so beautifully, so completely. Instead, I make small, disjointed observations—miniature musings that ride alongside me on the metro, or brush against my arm on busy street corners.
Even Parisian dogs are elegant. They’re aloof and dignified, crossing paws as they recline under brasserie tables, unperturbed by cigarette smoke or the steady flow of surrounding foot traffic. French dogs have an air of nationalism about them—they know they’re French and take great pride in it.
I decide to walk to the Luxembourg Gardens—a forty-five-minute trek from my tiny studio apartment in the 11th. I feel like the Michelin man, bulkily carrying on down the street clothed in layers and layers of wool and cashmere to protect against the cold. The tall buildings flanking Boulevard Saint-Germain turn the wide street into an icy wind tunnel—I lean forward with each step, my somewhat solid build finding a worthy adversary in the brisk current of air. It’s unpleasant, but not impossible to withstand.
The park is busy, alive with huffing, chuffing joggers, friends, lovers and families alike. I make my way to the circle of chairs surrounding the fountain and take a seat—the sun has emerged with a blinding severity, cutting through the clouds and urging my shoulders to relax from where they’ve been stationed up around my ears for the last few miles of the journey.
I find it difficult to sit still usually. My self-diagnosed, technologically-induced attention deficit disorder makes it nigh impossible to quiet my mind and enjoy the scenery anywhere without finding my trigger finger itching to open up an app and resume scrolling. I make a concerted effort to set the scene for myself, putting in my earbuds to play some John Coltrane, lighting up a cigarette, and tucking that accursed phone away in my coat pocket.
I watch two girlfriends take turns snapping photos of one another, posing with stiff backs and chests pushed forward, like fluffed-up little birds. I’m tickled by the seriousness with which they do so, the shorter brunette barking orders at her tall, curvaceous blonde friend in a faintly posh British accent, as she adjusts from angle to angle, presumably fighting the glare from her subject’s mirrored sunglasses.
Great clouds of dust rise up with each gust of wind, dancing and swirling high into the air around the dirt path, like playful spirits. It’s a near-perfect scene, if I may say so, but I can’t stay long. The cold is too biting, and the device in my pocket feels hot and heavy, urging me to plug back in and carry on my way. I was able to sit still in service to the present moment for a whole nine minutes—a victory in my book.
The walk back home is uneventful—longer strides with the familiarity of previously trodden pathways and one pitstop at the pharmacy for some provisions. Upon my return, I try to write but find pleasant, continuous interruptions in a steady stream of calls from friends back home. I laugh and long for them, even after just a few short days, begging each and every one to quit their jobs and responsibilities to join me in running away from home. We engage in moments of fantasy together as I weave dreams of hideaway restaurants, bustling bar rooms, and the thunderous heartbeat of sexy nightclubs.
“I’m going to try.” They all say, indulging me. I choose to believe them because yearning is romantic—it keeps the heart perfectly sore, like that nearly pleasurable feeling of fatigued muscles the day after a very long, arduous walk. So here I am, sore with yearning and shin splints alike and grateful for the little pain of both.
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