Paris was another first for the both of us.
The trauma from the recent tragedies in the city were still palpable. Even as normal life ensues, the bitter taste of mourning still finds its way into conversations and interactions. I could feel that in Paris.
I have only personally befriended one person from France outside of this trip. I wish I remembered her name, but time has fudged that detail away from my memory. I spent five days alone in Jerusalem in 2014, where I stayed at a hostel with ten other girls sharing a room. She was the rogue roommate–sleeping all day, scurrying around at night. We would all whisper and make hand motions when we got up in the morning so as not to disturb her, and would shrug at one another during the day when she was still sleeping and we popped in from our travels around the Old City.
I managed to greet her upon one of her waking hours on a hazy Jerusalem afternoon, and after striking up conversation, decided to get some pasta from the market together. She held dual French and Israeli citizenship since she was Jewish, but grew up and lived in France. She was visiting Israel on business of some sort. In her thick French accent she recounted to me stories from her days as a Bedouin man’s lover in Jordan (no joke), her experiences with anti-semitism in France, her pride in being French, and the fears she held of how inevitably what was then a current situation–the bombing of Gaza–would inflame hatred towards Jews abroad.
I listened mostly and spoke thoughtfully to my French friend. We had very different world views and understandings of customer service, which I discovered during our pasta outing, but her honesty, realness, and earnestness made an impression on my heart. And as Mulch and I explored a mourning Paris under tight security, I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in the city of Jerusalem, full of tension and fear, that I love so dearly. Which is maybe the reason I really loved Paris too.