September 28, 2013

Ending summer in Paris


When the train brings me back to Gare de Lyon, I need a moment to breathe. I have only been gone a month and a half, but it feels like a lifetime. Two days ago I was watching the sun shining above the river, and now I am here, in the crowded deluded heart of the world. Leaving my mothers house I left behind as many things as I could, finding peace in the lightness of my suitcase.

I meet my niece and her mother at the apartment over the Canal Saint Martin, where I am staying for two weeks. Their skin is tanned and their hair is mingled with sunlit locks. I sleep in the living room and every morning am woken up by the sun filtered by the wooden louvres and the noise of the firefighters barrack below, on the other side of the water. Giulia has grown so much since I last saw her. There is nothing left in her of the baby I remember squeezing into my arms. She is tall and slender and fierce.

I go to get my ears pierced again, two holes on each side, and watch in the tiny mirror the metal entering my skin, while a drop of scarlet blood escapes and descends my neck like the mouth of a lover. I wear my earrings like a piece of armor.

The days are long and the summer seems to be stretching forever. I indulge in the yellow light of the afternoon, finally seduced by a city that it not mine anymore. Strangely, it feels more welcoming now that I dont live there. So I walk the paved streets, anonymous, like the stranger I am.

One night I am left alone with my niece while her parents go to see a movie. At some point, she wakes up and starts to cry. I cradle her in my arms and speak to her softly to soothe her, but she wants her mama, and my heart aches not to be able to make her feel okay. When her angry tears dry out she falls asleep again, and I watch the little face wet with sadness being all quiet and content against my chest. She is like a hurricane, but the winds do not leave their trace on her. The moment floats away, an emotion is replaced by another, and she is always new, always feeling what she feels as if for the first time. This is a quality that we often lose as adults, so I cherish it in her.

The last day before I leave, I pick her up from school and after lunch, I bring her back. Shes wearing her red coat, mine is yellow. The light rain that has fallen all through morning has become pouring water, so I lift her up in my arms to keep her shoes from getting wet. Shes holding the umbrella askew and the rain drenches my hair and my face, but I dont mind. Shes laughing with joy, making her little hands dance under the raindrops. I hurry down the street, her weight on my hips, and she leans towards my ear and whispers between two laughs : « I wish you would stay with us ». And my heart feels so full with the love shes secretly sharing with me.

The next morning, I carry my bags through stairs, lifts, subways and buses, and I find myself waiting in the departure hall of the airport without knowing exactly how I got there. I watch planes take off through the window-bays, I always loved to do that. Now, a new city, a new country, a new adventure. Bring it on.

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