Monday, June 10, 2013

Raw Paris

Paris June 2013
No, this isn't about Raw Food.
This is about my raw insides.

My brain, washed out with French and phenomenology.
My ears, confusing what's familiar with what is unknown.
My mouth, atwist with mixed French and English.
My eyes, overfull with fields of perception.
My nose, blank after days of Paris smog.
My skin, hot and sweaty on the outside, pushing to get out on the inside.

Paris renders me sad. 

Yep, I think this is pretty much a given. Something about the French language and my relationship to it. Is it a capricious lover I may never be "good enough" to earn? Is it so tantalizing to taste but then I get too tangled and can't find my way out? I want to consume French, eat it alive and drink its blood. But sometimes it feels poisonous in my system - a fault of my own allergies, not of its nature.

I want, like so many people, so much from Paris. I want it to be fascinating, accommodating, entertaining, amusing, enlightening. It is all of those things. It is also frustrating, exhausting, irritating and exasperating. At times.

I have so many memoir stories buried here. Most of them I haven't even been able to write about yet. They course through me - even though I am staying in an arrondisement I never stayed in before last year - haunting Les Halles, beautiful view off the top of Beaubourg, skin rashes and lovers spats on Ile de la Cite and close to the Gare du Nord. Seeing their names on the map, seeing the stops I have associations with, I wonder what it would have been like if I'd chosen this city instead of Aix-en-Provence to study abroad in. What would be different now? What would be the same?

Every other moment I find myself vascillating between love and hate - wanting to learn as much French as I can, get it back, force clerks to speak it with me if they won't, force my ears to cram it all in and somehow, plugged up with French, I will understand again. Then I find myself, like a spurred, or self-spurning lover, wanting to never come back to France or French, sell all the books, push it out of my life.

Does anyone else feel this way about their second, third, fourth languages?

An ex of mine, one with whom this city is inexorably linked, used to say that cities (for her) were like lovers - a place you are enamored with, then you get used to, bored by, re-excited by, then leave for another. Perhaps languages are like this, too, for some people. Only like with all my other relationships, I am really at heart a monogamist, so the idea of cheating on English with any other language makes me feel a bit cheap.

Is there room in this brain for more words? Is there space enough for vocabulary to re-expand and handwriting to adjust and the synapses long asleep to re-awaken to the sweet sounds of French?

On verra.

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