When words travel over internet and telephone and flutter to rest before me here, I am amazed. I collect them slowly; they feel real! I turn them around like precious stones and feel their edges, their roundness, until I have convinced myself that the words fell from someone standing before me. The heartbreak comes sometimes when I look up, still clutching one, words forming on my lips to question whomever dropped it for me. That’s when reality sets in, when the two-dimensional limitations make me hear the flat resonance of my voice hitting a screen. Then I’m back here, knocked over sometimes and wondering where to go or who to talk to. In a country where hugs are unheard of, where instead la bise is expected and hand shakes rarely given by females, physical contact is oddly foreign to me. Sometimes it takes a gym class, a metro ride, a “you have something in your hair” moment for me to remember that, yes, I am real, yes, they are real, yes, we are here together, it’s up to me to feel contact. When I’m in a daze, it’s hard to snap out of it. Or to know whether snapping out of it is the right direction to choose.
For now, I find myself grateful for sunlight, April, easy conversations, kind friends and the family that reaches beyond screens and crackling cell phones to hold onto me here if I can muster up enough courage to ask for it.
And of course, I’ve been having some dinners because there’s something about a roomful of good people and the steam of a warm kitchen and a command-grip on a solid frying pan that makes me feel really, really good.
We have galettes, then we have other kinds of galettes, then there’s always the galette des rois: and so we have at least three different definitions for ‘galettes’. These particular ones fed five of us; just a formality before a bowl of melted easter eggs for use with the discount (but why?) pineapples that have been lurking around in our grocery stores for a few days now. Easter is such a flexible holiday.
Sometimes we even have place settings, and tables to eat at! What lovely ladies.
Other times, Marlis chooses to get up and leave her hot chocolate; I started playing with it because it was an Italian hot chocolate, which means it was truly chocolate, just – hot.
Then sometimes, life happens and it’s incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever showed anyone this picture– this is in Barcelona with my friend Santiago, where he’s signing some papers to submit his novel for copyright. He invited our friend Ben and me to go with him because it was a big day, the culmination of four years of traveling and writing. We were both honoured to have been included and we composed a victory song to sing to him in the elevator on the way down. The security guards clapped on the way out.
Today I am locked in my house imagining what it feels like to do real homework once again, and I’m having trouble really visualizing this process. So in the meantime, I’ll visualize the excellent trips I’ve been on and work at reflecting on the legions of happy people I’ve met since being here. Day by day, sometimes time passes slowly and I allow myself to get frustrated with little things like advisors, classes, and the guy on the metro with the german shepherds who didn’t like me. Overall? How lucky to be here, to be used to, not just part of, a life here. It’s April!