France, Part 11
I am tired.
I met today with Noemi and Antoine. I have decided that I will go to see the Catacombs and they are offering to take me when they go. There is a small bit of the Catacombs that are open to the public, but it is not much to see, they say. The remaining 99% of it is an illegally accessible ossuary of subterranean culture, a place only for the truly adventurous urban explorer.
Antoine keeps a map of the city with all the entry points he knows of. He describes himself as a “cataphile.” This means that several times a year, he and his friends–and occasionally wayward wanderlusters like myself that he has picked up along the way–tour the underground together for periods that last anywhere from one night to several days. This meeting was mostly to prepare me for what I was getting myself into and to gauge whether I really wanted to go after learning all that was involved.
I was told not to bring anything with me, no phone, no camera, no ID, no wallet–nothing. And likewise: take nothing. Despite the mild summer heat, to wear a jacket and pants because it would be cold underground, but nothing fancy because I’d get wet and dirty. They said if anyone asks for my ID, refuse. I think they were trying to scare me. But it wasn’t working.
So we are going to do that tomorrow night.
When I meet people here, I sometimes walk away from it , questioning the slice of my composite being that they were fed and wondering how the composite of slices they will get of me compares to the composite of me that I see throughout my life. That is to say in the underbelly of an old artful city, I hope to relieve myself of whatever avarice and materialism I’ve defined myself by and become more malleable to the whims of others. In a place where everyone is so constantly moody, it’s hard to not breathe in other people’s feelings, even strangers passing you by.
It’s so commonplace, no one thinks anything of it. Sometimes, I am walking… I am absorbing all the color and noise and all this energy is fueling me emotionally to grind through the fatiguing vibes pouring through my veins. I no longer make plans. Next week is just as much as a mystery for me as next month. Where will I go after France? I don’t know. People tell me they are jealous of my freedom. What they don’t know, however, is that I am just as much a prisoner to my ambivalence and when you posses as much freedom as I do, people become wary of you and treat you like the ephemeral ghost that they know you are. They are afraid to open to you, afraid you will vanish, afraid you will abandon or afraid to be the one to destroy your freedom–they feel like you represent a pair of wings that no one else was gifted to get. They are afraid to touch me, afraid to make any impact on me. And they leave me so pristine that I sometimes wonder if I am just an orphaned zombie bird, no handler, untouched, unwanted.
Sometimes it gets to me, sometimes I feel a tear hit my cheek. And the beauty is that the sun shines so brightly, depending where I am, that the tear dries before it even manages to hit my skin. The world around me is what is keeping me up. Yet one of my biggest fears is that people will see just how much they mean to me. I suppose this is the burden I have of growing up being raised to be so independent… like the rules of the Catacombs prescribe: leave nothing, take nothing.
I hesitate to tell my friends back in the US that something made me think of them, lest they know I think of them and worry that I am not okay or am not enjoying myself. And as much as I love and miss Chris right now, I can’t tell him that in fear that he’ll think I’m weak for it. I wear a giant smile on my face wherever I go because that is all I know to do to show people that I couldn’t be happier with who I am and what I am doing… without putting the pressure on others of having to know that by being here with me, by being in my life, they are here with me forever, always, in my memory, in my stories.
But it’s not so bad. I think I have outgrown my shyness. I gesticulate more. I use my full body to talk, with no regard to how dumb it makes me look. I tell anticlimactic stories a lot.
I eat lunch with Raul every day. He says I use a lot of profanity. He says that it is a very attractive “feature” of my personality, even jokes that I could land a French husband if I would so kindly put a little bit more swagger in my step. I tried to imagine a life where I am married to someone named Matthieu and all the awful fights we’d have and how I’d call him a cuntfaced cockbag and how I’d have to cook horrible things celeri remoulade… and as I’m thinking about all of this, Raul laughs and says, “You’re imagining it!” It was so horrid of a daydream.
I saw Mike later. He was waiting for me. I showed up with my headphones still on.
“What were you listening to on your way over?”
“My favorite musical group of all time, Boyz II Men. Nah, I’m kidding. Daft Punk.”
“No, I think you were telling the truth the first time. I could hear a defeated honesty in your voice.”