love being different
Part One of the short story 10 Days in Paris
“Welcome to Paris! City of love, city of light, and fashion capital of the world!”
Matilde’s voice was loud and cheerful as she opened her arms to give me a hug. Her long tan arms went awkwardly around me, just as they always have since her “ultimate growth spurt” hit at 16 and she was suddenly 6’2 while I stayed a humble 5’5.
“I’m so glad you’re finally here! I love your hair!” she said while grabbing one of my suitcases.
“I’m so happy to be here,” I replied, running my fingers through my red-brown—usually caramel-coloured—hair, and I felt the grease on my fingertips. YUCK. I followed her into the apartment.
“Wow!” I gasped. “This is your apartment?!”
The first floor, which was a large living room with a dining area that connected to the kitchen, had a twenty-foot ceiling. The largest wall was made up of a series of windows overlooking the building’s courtyard. A set of stairs on the opposite wall led up to the second floor, and it had a balcony that overlooked the living room. Matilde was already halfway up the stairs.
“Yeah! Pretty cool, huh? Your room is up here.”
“Pretty cool? Try freaking amazing,” I said, following her up the stairs and into cheerfully decorated bedroom.
“I’ve been so afraid to do anything to my hair since the ‘dye-disaster’ of ’03,” she said, putting my suitcase down next to the bed.
“I remember. Pink was so not your colour,” I teased.
She rolled her eyes at me. “So what do you want to do first?”
Remembering the grease on my fingers, “Shower and unpack!” I said.
“Okay,” Matilde replied with a laugh, “but hurry! I want to show you around while there’s still light!”
An hour and a half later, we were walking down the street.
“So this is Rue des Sablons,” Matilde said. “We are in the 16th district, which is in the west of Paris. It’s a really safe neighborhood. You can walk around late at night and not worry. This is unlike the east where you might not want to walk around alone, although the east has the best nightlife…” she trailed off. “Now, if we walk up here, we end up in Place de Mexico”
We entered a little plaza and walked to the left, turning onto a street called Avenue d’Eylau.
“And there,” she paused, “is the Eiffel Tower!”
I looked down the road. Somewhere past the end of it was the Eiffel tower.
“You live around the corner from the Eiffel tower?!” It was more of a screech than a question. Matilde laughed.
“No. I live around the corner from Trocadero, but the tower is definitely walking distance.”
“Awesome apartment. Awesome location,” I said as we walked towards the tower.
We were quiet for a while, and we entered Trocadero plaza. Walking around it, we headed for the staircase between two large buildings, continuing to make our way towards the tower.
“Is it too early to ask how you’re doing?” Her voice didn’t have the excitement it had just a few minutes before. I knew instantly she was talking about Jason.
“No.” I hesitated. “I mean, I don’t know what to say, really. It just… wasn’t right anymore.” and my voice lowered as I said this. Protectively, Matilde put an arm around me.
“Well, let’s go take a pretty picture of you by Monsieur Eiffel’s creation, and make him regret letting you go!
After dinner, Matilde drove around the city so I could ‘see Paris at night’ and look at how the different monuments were lit up. My jaw dropped as we zipped through the streets in her tiny car. In daylight it was such a pretty city. At night? It was magnificent. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it all was. Seeing it this way made it seem like the city was full of magic, and it made me feel giddy and silly.
We ended with the Eiffel tower, of course, since it was close to home and because she’d timed it so that we could watch the last light show they do every night at one o’clock in the morning.
The tower, which was lit up with yellow light, suddenly started to twinkle with white stars. After some time, the yellow light was turned off and we were left with glittering white lights on the dark shape of the tower. It was dazzling.
“Now I know why they say ‘Paris is for romance.’” I whispered. “The city itself romances you.”