Saturday, December 8, 2007
So I just finished watching a wonderful and beautiful movie called "Paris Je T'Aime." It's a love letter to Paris disguised as a film, with eighteen tiny movies for each of the neighborhoods of Paris, all done by different directors. I had heard good things about it, but mainly I rented it because of my love affair with Paris, which began the day I set foot there for my semester abroad. I knew that with the movie I could gorge myself on images of narrow streets and stone apartment buildings and the gleaming Seine in the moonlight, all of the things I miss a great deal.
And of course it made me cry. The second the credits flashed over the sparkling Eiffel Tower I was a goner. Because I ache for Paris. I always will. It's why my room is covered in photos from the time I spent there, why a tiny post card of the Eiffel Tower at night hangs in front of my computer so I can see it as much as possible. And I guess it's a weird thing, to surround myself with all of these images and memories that make me ache. I rented the movie tonight knowing it would make me sad. But if it makes any sense, it's sad in a good way, aching in a good way. We all do it. It's why people look over photographs from childhood or take home videos. It's saving letters and cards, even the insignificant ones. Humans are weird creatures in our desperate, stubborn, incessant need to remember. If we were driven only by reason we would shed our memories because memories are illogical things. It's grasping at objects that are no longer there, reaching out, despite all common sense, for a place or a person or a feeling. And always, we will come up empty handed.
Yet as we grasp, for a moment it's there. I reach back in my memory for Paris and I get a second of Sunday morning in the Marais, flower and oyster stands on either side of me, motorbikes buzzing by, Orthodox Jewish men rushing past, people walking with falafel, tables set out on the sidewalks for Sunday brunch. And of course the second waivers and ends. I'm no longer in Paris but in my apartment in Charleston. I blink and then I ache. But it's worth it isn't it? Remembering is the most exquisite kind of pain. Because to miss something so much means that you once had something that great, something worth missing. I had Paris; for four beautiful months I had Paris. So for the rest of my life I will watch movies about the city, look at my photographs, buy pretty much anything if it has a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it, and as I do these things I will probably get a little sad. But sad in the best, most necessary way.
I can only hope my life will be filled with experiences that will one day cause me beautiful pain.