Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nostalgia is a drug

Our first morning in Paris, and we're sleeping in. Blissfully, hedonistically, sleeping late. Until we hear the doorknob rattle. We both scramble up, clutching the bedclothes to our chests, staring at the door.

"The maid?" says Mr. Billy.

"We have the key," I say.

In Parisian hotels, you leave your key at the front desk when you go out. No danger of losing the key, and the hotel always knows when you're in your room. No "Do not disturb" signs, but that shouldn't be a problem, should it?

The doorknob stops, and we stare for a moment before breathing, sighing, then snuggling back under the covers. The fingers of a dream are just creeping over my brain when the rattling starts up again. And then the unmistakable sound of a key sliding into a lock.

We leap into action: I lunge for the door, Mr. Billy for the safety of the bathroom.

"Nononononononon" I babble through the door, holding tight to the knob. The door opens an inch and I search the dusty files in my brain for the right phrase:

"Nous sommes ici! Nu! Nous sommes nu!"

I'm unsure if an announcement that we are naked will be enough of a deterrent, but the door closes at last, and I hear footsteps recede down the hall. Mr. Billy peeks around the bathroom door and I collapse on the bed, laughing hysterically.

"Well, we're up now. Wanna go see Paris?"

We have three days in Paris. No agenda, no appointments. We'd planned this break in the city without any ideas of hitting the tourist hot spots. In a way, Paris had been a big blank spot in my idea of our trip to France. We have no plans at all. We step out into the city, and I realize that we must not be far from the pension where I attended school when I lived here as a kid.

I use "attended school" loosely in this context. I was nine, and my dad was directing a University Study Abroad here. "School" was college classes at the pension where the students stayed. My family stayed in an apartment a few metro stops away. I completed the 4th grade via home study, and attended the college courses for fun. I got an A+ in French, but my 12-year-old brother showed me up with an A+++.

We were in Paris for less than a year, but that time was crazily overbalanced in my memory. Up until then, I was a kid from small-ish college town Provo, Utah. I could walk to my best friend's house & play in the field across the street. We could walk to school together and ride our bikes to the swimming pool, but to really get anywhere, I had to be driven.

One week in Paris with a metro map and a carte orange, and I could go anywhere I wanted in the city - all by myself. I hung out with college kids. I ate crepes made fresh from a street cart. My brother and I did the shopping for the whole family, because we'd picked up the language quicker than the older folks. It was paradise. This word has been overused, its juice and flavor squeezed out, but it was paradise in the full, fat, juicy sense of the word.

So I feign nonchalance when I propose to Mr. Billy that we try to find the pension. I don't want to make it a mission; that fear of disappointment is still strong, and most of what I want is unstructured time with Mr. Billy. We wander as aimless as eight-year-olds, pointing at buildings and eyeglass designs. We watch Parisians on the shared bicycles that belong to the city; you can pick one up just about anywhere, insert a token, and ride it to another part of the city, then drop it off.

A lot of people ride scooters. Helmet designs are particularly attractive here.

We wander, and we stop to eat hot crepes on the street, and we casually glance at the maps that are all over the city. I laugh when I see we've been walking in exactly the opposite direction from the pension.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Geo said...

More, more, more, you nakey.