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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.

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Paul Leonard

April 2017

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