I woke up to rain pounding on the skylight above me. While there was no elevator in the ten story building, being on the top floor had one deliverance and that was the skylight. I could have reached up to open it while still laying on the bed. Allowing the water to permeate that glass barrier would have made me feel something, perhaps. Instead, I watched each raindrop materialize on the window, just to be destroyed by a new one, and then the next, and the next, until they seemed to be at war with each other. I grew hungry but I knew I wouldn’t be eating today. I felt the death of love and too many of the fibers in my body were working to mend my heartache. They wouldn’t have time to worry about food.
On September 12th, 2018, I woke up in Paris with a broken heart and my first desire for a cigarette. I had never smoked before, but the deadly fumes that penetrated the Parisian airs wafted into my apartment that morning, and in a whispering voice promised me an escape and a temporary high. I declined.
Paris became a paradox to me. I fell in love here, but not in the conventional way, not in a way that the movies had told me I would. The night before, I had been watching the Eiffel Tower glisten from the tenth floor of my apartment while my heart was simultaneously breaking. My brain and my heart were in slow synchronization with each other. Every throbbing pulse of my temples was in unison with the thud of my chest. Paris, a metropolitan wonder, a site of heritage and culture, a historical haven, became the city that orchestrated my peaceful solitude. Paris had changed since my arrival because it had become the space where I would begin to learn how to love myself.
That day, I walked through a famous cemetery, not realizing the irony at the time. My heart was anguished, in the city of love. And I walked through a cemetery on a day in which I would begin to truly live.
I hope I can explain the following concept properly… Paris, to me, is like a backwards echo, as if you could first hear the remnants of the source, faintly calling out, in the distance, until it gets louder and louder. Paris was not the source of this call to love myself, it was just the backdrop.
I realized I was at the source of this shout, desperately trying to convince myself that I was worthy of love. Paris simply provided the spatial dimensions for this to happen.
At first, however, I became disenchanted with Paris after having my heart broken, until I realized her truths.
As Sartre said, “Like all dreamers, I often confuse disenchantment with truth.”
And the truth was that Paris was just another space for me, or anyone else, to experience heartbreak, confusion, love, existential dread, rage, or to laugh. It was a place to which I attached certain emotions. And I am recognizing now that to Paris I attach the following:
- A space where self-awareness is born
Paris, as a mainstream concept did not compare to my personal experiences. Rather, it marked a commencement ceremony into maturity. The same streets where “La déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen” was written, where people fought against an oppressive dictatorship, against Nazi regime, where great thinkers questioned human existence and timeless art was created, also marked an incredible life change within a single soul. How many others, then, also regard Paris truthfully, as what it really is, rather than a place that is enchanted, and thus distorted, by dreams? My story is not linked to the official history of France, but the city of Paris will forever be attached to my spiritual growth and the shaping of who I am today.