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[personal profile] paulonleave

Well, I've shed my first leaving-Paris-tears.  Four days before I get on the plane, this afternoon, I had my final English lesson with Richard.  People who read this blog regularly will know that I met him last fall, and since then, apart from his or my trips out of town, we have met at least once a week for what we call an English lesson, but which is so much more. 

We usually start with a general chat about what we have been up to, filling each other in on the latest news of our partners, friends, and families.   Richard somehow got the idea that I like French pastries, so this part of our "lesson" is usually accompanied by coffee and delectables from an excellent bakery near his apartment.  (This is one of the reasons I am steeling myself against the inevitable shocked expressions of my Toronto friends when they see how fat I have become.)

Then a bit of grammar, or vocabulary, discussions of the linguistic traps of English for French speakers, that sort of thing.  [For example, the French word store means "window blind", whereas the English word "store" means magasin.]  Then Richard reads aloud and I comment on his pronunciation, or explain idiomatic expressions in the text.

Anyway, I have "ever but slenderly known [my]self," so I never know that I am on the verge of tears until I actually cross that verge.  Today, Richard just said "What do you prefer, coke or water?" when my eyes began to leak.  What prompted it?  Probably the characteristic accent and intonations in his voice as he asked me this routine question, so familiar yet soon to be so distant.  I don't know.  I pulled myself together and we went ahead with our lesson, but now, a few hours later, the tears are back as I sit in my tiny room, typing instead of cleaning.

My leave-taking is turning into a more complex process than I anticipated.  Last Friday, I had my farewell dinner with Jeffrey -- but I'm meeting him for a drink tomorrow night.  On Sunday, I had my farewell dinner with Alain -- but I'm meeting him for lunch tomorrow, and dinner on Friday.  Yesterday, I had my farewell dinner with Chris -- but I'm having dinner with him and his partner Fabrice on Thursday night.  Tonight, I'm having my farewell dinner with Richard -- but I'll see him briefly on Friday afternoon.  I'll see Guy on Friday at Alain's, and then again on Saturday, and he has volunteered to drive me to the airport on Sunday morning.  Guy met me at CDG when I arrived, and I am grateful and delighted that he will be with me for my final moments in Paris.

When I began to plan this year in Paris, I had a lot of ideas about what it would be like, how I would spend my time, and so on.  I did not imagine that I would meet so many people and come to care about them so much.  In addition to the men I have already mentioned, there is a much longer list of new friends and acquaintances in Germany, Holland and here in Paris.  I always think of myself as a very lucky guy, but I feel my good fortune even more keenly than usual as I say my goodbyes.

Date: 2005-07-27 04:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're a lucky man, indeed.
I've known people who've spent long periods in different parts of Europe and met no one at all. They came back feeling torn by their experience and feeling that they missed something they could not completely name.
But you're experiences have given you that something, that only you can name.
Thanks for sharing some of it.

Date: 2005-07-27 04:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think it's wonderful that you made so many great connections. As the above commentor pointed out, people expatriate themselves all the time and never form any meaningful relationships. Now you have people in your life upon whom you can call again, and who will be happy to see you when circumstances blow you back that way.

Date: 2005-07-27 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Don't be surprised if the leaving-Paris tears continue when you get home. In my own experience, they come up almost aggressively unexpectedly after I've left. Almost anything can trigger a memory of a person, a place, a smell. This morning I woke up thinking I needed to open the shutters into the courtyard. No matter how many times I leave, it never changes; if anything, it gets more pronounced. I guess I'll have to move to Paris permanently (thinking about trying to buy a place; searching for the missing money).

Date: 2005-07-27 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dang! Untangling from a place like that, the way you have been there, and with the people, has got to be rough. I'm thinking of you, Buddy ... .


Date: 2005-07-27 09:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Paul, your departure will also generate tears locally...

Date: 2005-07-28 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
While we are discussing sad topics, I've learned that The Barracks is closing next week.

Date: 2005-07-28 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Does it help to know that your leave-taking is also a return that will elicit tears as well? I'm not the only one who will shed tears of joy; and others, as you know, will cry with relief. You are returning safely, with a bounty of new experiences that ignite your memories, enliven your present, and enrich your future. While only you can feel the full poignancy of this transition, many of your friends and family appreciate its significance: and some of us register its impact on our lives not with sadness but great happiness.

Date: 2005-07-28 10:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I found myself tearing up as I read all of this--odd, isn't it? When Jorge and Felix died, they had a long period of saying goodbye to friends, and so I think I now associate goodbyes with death and with grief... can't help it.

But the news about the Barracks is most shocking of all!
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