Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Thing About Expat Friends

I met my BEST FRIEND (that’s capital letters, bitches) when we were in second grade.  There’s no one else in the entire world who understands me the way she does.  And there never will be.  She’s my oldest friend.  Before I moved to France, my newest friend had been around since my college days.

I’m 44.

The Louvre, Paris

In my lifetime, I’ve enjoyed dozens of beautiful, platonic, sympathetic understandings.  Work colleagues, school moms, neighbors, husband’s best friends’ wives.  They’ve all been good experiences.  But honest-to-goodness, in-the-trenches meilleures amies like The Bestie?  I recognize the tremendous luck bestowed upon me the day she wandered up to me in the lavatory line and decided the new girl was worthy of a conversation.

When I moved to Paris a year and a half ago, I had hoped I’d meet some ladies to gather into a posse.  I imagined a few, eventually, would become a regular part of my life.  But there’s a thing about friends when you get to be my age.  You don’t expect to be making them anymore.  I mean, good ones.  Life drags us into many situations, and we meet people we enjoy, and we get to know them, and we’re glad to have them.  But can they ever live up to… ::::: flashing neon pink glittery font goes here ::::: The Bestie???

She's Marion Cotillard's Twin, Tell Me I'm Not Right

Since she’s reading this, let me start with a disclaimer.  No, they can’t.

Disclaimer Numero Deux:  Yes, I recognize I’m becoming French.  Get over it.  Their culture isn’t all that bad, I mean, other than those pouty faces.  With cigarettes.  And Pffffttttssss.

But.  Today I had lunch with the first friend I ever made in Paris, just two or three short weeks after I moved here.  She happened to relocate here with her husband, also on an expat reassignment, the same exact day that I landed in this God-forsaken town with a chip on my shoulder and a bounce in my step.  She’s a simple midwest gal who has lived her entire adult life in Texas, and she couldn’t be cuter or more authentic or more mature than any friend I could invent in my wildest dreams.

The thing about expat friends is, they leave.

My Texas friend is leaving in a few short weeks.  I want to believe we’ll be friends forever, thick as thieves, copains comme cochons.  No, really, we will.  Someday next year, I’ll call her unexpectedly to say I’m pointed toward Dallas to visit my step-son at TCU, and we’ll plan a quick lunch, and we’ll catch up, and we’ll be so delighted to see one another.  Occasionally over the years, we’ll send emails, or we’ll think of the other when something familiar happens, particularly if it involves French-speaking people and really good wine.  But let’s face it.  You know.

Oddly, when my Texas friend and I sat down to lunch today, at the restaurant exactly between our two apartments where we’ve had lunch countless times over the past eighteen months, a surprising thing happened.  We were seated next to another one of my most important friends here in Paris, whom I already bid adieu (in near-tears) (for the very last time) last week at the school bus stop (while running away and mumbling something over my shoulder about Irish Goodbyes).  (This is weird, like, really weird).  She’s in Paris this week with her husband, packing up their apartment and barking orders at their movers and taking relaxing lunch breaks at the Place Victor Hugo, because everyone knows you’ll never get salmon tartare or pomme frites like the kind you’ll get in the 16th Arrondissement of Paris ever again in your entire life.

There is a two-ton brick compressing my chest right now.  Why the fuck did the waiter have to sit me next to her?  I mean, for Pete’s sakes, couldn’t he see I was already a train wreck?  And I don’t even like her that much?

OK, that’s a total lie.  I’m never a train wreck in public, and that girl (the one I don’t plan on ever offering a proper goodbye, I mean, other than the giant going-away party I threw at my apartment a few weeks ago) has been a ROCK (caps, people) for me here in Paris.  If she stayed, I’m pretty sure my son would have married her daughter.

Scratch that.  I’ve embarrassed him too much already with the train wreck comment.

ANYWAY, after lunch today, and after I consumed a half bottle of Bordeaux (I live in France, ya’ll), and after I sent my buddies, my pals, mes connaissances on their merry ways, I wandered back to my apartment where I stared out of a gigantic French window at a gigantic grey sky and I said to myself, What the fuck?  (Excuse my French).

Well merde, I still have friends here in Paris.  I mean, they’re all home in the USA for the summer, but they’ll be back.  So, yanno, whatevs.

Six months ago, I sat at my computer in my kitchen in my vacation home in New York, and I started this blog with New Year’s Resolutions, focused around my writing goals.  A few days later, I returned to Paris, the inspirational city I currently call home, and I diligently worked toward those goals.

Let’s take a look at how far I’ve come:

I completed and submitted nine new short stories to about thirty different literary journals.  I haven’t been rejected by all of them, but I haven’t been accepted by any of them, either.

I wrote and abandoned another three short stories, able to recognize when something doesn’t work.

I started my novel again, with a fresh outline and a stronger voice, a better understanding of my characters and my plot, and a more complex understanding of what moves an epic tale forward.  It’s been a slow process, with very little progress made in recent months.  That’s frustrating, I’ll admit, but I know I’ll get back to it and I’ll make progress, because I like the story and I’m determined to finish it.  Someday.

I stopped going to my weekly Writer’s Group meetings, and I stopped going to live readings.  I don’t regret this; it was a solid decision.  Six months ago, I thought these two things were helping me.  Initially, I learned a lot.  But as it turns out, they’re not adding much more to my creativity now, so I removed them from my priorities.

Last week, I returned to America for a mini-vacation.  The first thing I did was sit at a bar in Philadelphia with The Bestie and laugh my ass off for three hours straight, until I was so delirious with jet lag that I agreed it was a good idea for us to take selfies.  :::: Where the fuck are my tissues?  Do I really not have any tissues in this entire fucking apartment?  Do you have any idea the way purple French toilet paper starts falling apart before it even leaves your fingertips?? ::::

I finished a new short story on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean last week.  Some amazing literary journal will pick this thing up someday, and I’ll become a protagonist rock star.  Until then, I have a robust collection of rejection letters to remind me that I’m actually doing something here in Paris, other than lunching, and drinking wine, and taking pics of the Eiffel Tower.

The Seine and The Eiffel Tower, Paris

I still procrastinate with the best of them, and I’m still here.  In Paris.  With friends.  We’re not here forever, but we’re here.

2 comments:

  1. This is your best post yet, cause of the high ratio of The Bestie content. Love you. So sorry your buddy is moving on, she sounds perfect.

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  2. I enjoy reading you. You are hilarious and I can sense you're genuine. Living in Paris is not easy but as you mentioned it had it good things as well. Salmon tartare and affordable Bordeaux wine being some of those.

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