dix-huit ans

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It’s odd to me that in America you’re consider an adult at 18 but you can’t drink legally. In France, you are raised drinking with family even though the legal age is 18. That magical age always seemed to represent freedom. The time when you leave home, fall in love, and start chasing our dreams.

 

I saw La La Land this week. American films are released later than in the states and they always have French subtitles since they are foreign films. It recounts the stories of two lovers in the time of life when they grow into adulthood. That magical moment when the world becomes real comes. There is a bit of melancholy to the film, and I like that. It makes it more real.

 

Anyone with a broken heart can attest to the realization that the fairy tale life we imagine isn’t going to happen. Like all good romantic films the illusion of Paris is dangled like a carrot promising to deliver. The ending could have been candy coated, but like my stories, it isn’t.

 

I grew up this winter when my heart was broken by the reality of Paris. The town I live in is different than the one so many visit, and I came at a time of year when it was winding down to slumber for the winter. Not at the awakening and rebirth when the girls wear pretty clothes and strappy shoes.

 

True to form the puppy love I had for France has developed into a marriage. I stay faithful to my vows thru good times and bad. It is the hard times that test a relationship, and I have great hopes as the city wakes from the grey cold hibernation, our love for each other will blossom.

 

I used to listen to a radio station on my commute to Los Angeles when I worked for Warner Brothers Studio’s, a married female DJ used to announce her crush of the week. Her husband knew this was just a girlish thing, and not to take her seriously and on occasion I too will choose one.

 

Romance today came in the form of a flower. Now that I live in what is arguably the most romantic city in the world, what do you Parisians consider romantic? That my friend would be Italy. How can it not be? A country of passion filled with butt pinching dark haired men and glorious foods to satisfy the soul. A gondola ride in Venice, yes indeed it is indeed a wonderful place to fantasize about.

 

Keeping consistent, Mondays class revealed a new cast of characters in class, and with the losses of last week’s Spanish Girls band lead by Charo, we had room for new arrivals to what we jokingly call, The Bermuda Triangle. Our class has developed into the land of the lost for many students, and we never know where they go off too, but enjoy the evolving soap opera.

 

Olga, the young model who has been in several magazines came from the Ukraine to make us all feel fat, short and old. Her lacking need for makeup and superior French skills make me want to hate her but she is just too beautiful to commit that crime. She loves Paris and comes often and wants to be able to speak better with her boyfriend and his friends.

 

I don’t like the word “hate,”: therefore, I choose to use “strongly dislike” instead. I “strongly dislike,” Olga and it has everything to do with my desire to be her. Mary Jo came from Guatemala and is a successful business owner at 35 with several fashion stores and wishes to find love and a new store in Paris. I “strongly like” her.

 

Arrington, is a pregnant artist from Florida. Just here for 3 months with her French husband and sounds to me like she is already fluent. I think that the admissions office is purposely placing advanced student’s in the class to torture me.

 

Freya is an Australian who also speaks very well, and also lives with her French boyfriend. I’m not sure what the problem with French women is, but there seems to be a pattern at school. I understand that it is natural that a large percentage of the students come to school for that reason, but is not much fun to be a statistic. I also worry that we foreign brides are not seen in the best light with our horrible language skills and desire to claim the handsome eligible French men.

 

Finally, is Gianniluigi a hotelier from Italy. He owns a hotel in Urbino where the famous Renaissance artist Raphael was born and painted. Besides Juan Marcos, he is the only other male we have had in class. Thankfully he was older than me and Ana our, teacher making me feel like a normal student rather than a parent volunteer in my child’s class.

 

For an Italian, he seemed a bit timid to me, and on the first day of joining the class, I motioned him to join us in the café during the break where we were eager to learn more about him. No one knows if he speaks any other language because as we began interrogating him, the teacher came to wrangle us back to the room.

 

On the second day, the break we were given coincided with several other classes making the line for coffee drinks triple in length. I was desperate for something warm and waited till it was my turn. Seeing Maeve and Gianniluigi at the back of the line, looking defeated, I motioned to them to join me. I’d just order for the group and figure out the finances after.

 

Gianniluigi shook his shyly and left the café, but Maeve and I ordered for him and brought it to the classroom. He tried to pay me the euro, but I told him a room at his hotel would work instead. He nodded vigorously before we were required to focus attention on the teacher.

 

Class ended with Antonia and I having to stay late to go over a joint letter of protest we had composed to a fictitious company that would not grant us a refund. The Subjunctive tense was killing us both and from the corner or my eye I could see him hovering in the hall as if waiting to thank me properly.

 

When we were finally dismissed he was gone and when we returned to class the following day, he was missing. We discussed him at break and the fact that we had hoped he was well and would return. We worked as a group on the corrections of another tortured assignment when we were interrupted by a security guard from the school and a visitor.

Ana our teacher disappeared into the hall and retuning with an armful of individually wrapped red roses. Enough for each of us and a note from our Italian explaining he had forgotten his school id card and was not allowed to enter. That he was leaving shortly for the airport and appreciated his time with us.

 

Thus, the flower and the crush of the week are revealed now. His brief time in class with us will be a memory that will last longer than the rose. Maybe Paris is the most romantic city in the world, were near strangers buy you flowers and you connect with travelers on your same path.

 

I almost told an older man how handsome he looked on the Metro the other day, but I stopped since I knew it would come out the wrong way. The romance of Paris was steeping in me and maybe that cold winter love affair was thawing and my desire to see the passion of Paris was coming out.

 

Antonia told me how she moved home with her French boyfriend to Cypress a year ago. Her start in the city had been a bit rocky as well and they thought it might be a good idea. She had been in London prior to that for several years and after a short time she told him they needed to return to Paris. She said he was adjusting well to her homeland, but it was her that couldn’t seem to fit in after being gone.

 

She said the most beautiful thing to me. That’s after she left her country and lived abroad, she changed. That we all change. That in starting this new life, we become a citizen of the world. That home was no longer that for her and that she had taken on the new life in the city that adopted her. It was like she was living as an 18-year-old in those days taking a leap of faith into the unknown and being rewarded after a few speed bumps.

 

Spring promises to come soon and I was delighted to walk home in freezing weather today since it has 10 below for the last week. Claude has assured me that he will be submitting vacation dates for March when we will travel briefly and see something new. I look forward to seeing the city waking up from the long sleep.

 

The flowers promise to bloom and spring in Paris is written about in a much more flattering way than I have painted it so far. The winter was rough, being sick and studying so hard has been more than a speed bump or two. Finding freedom and love around me after school ends could be the next new chapter in our relationship. Maybe my crush of the week will be Paris in the Spring.


2 thoughts on “dix-huit ans

  1. I’m glad the winter you are experiencing is starting to thaw and I’m not referring to the weather. Like all love affairs, as you noted, they all change in time, some deepen, some take different paths. France is clearly taking a path, unrealized. Springtime isn’t too far away.

    Carry on and work on your artistic side.

    Oh, be thankful you’re not over here (U.S.) with Mr. Trump in charge. The spoiled rich little kid is running around, unsupervised…… and it’s not going over very well with the rest of the adults.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I cried when I read your blog. I know how you are feeling far more than you realize. I have not only felt many of your feelings, I am your mother and your friend and our blood runs together. You are strong and smart and brave and I have always been proud of you. I adore you, my baby girl.

    Liked by 1 person

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