I arrive in Paris on the morning of Friday, November 13, 2015 after nine years of absence. The Air France bus runs in front of the 44 avenue des Ternes where I lived in a beautiful apartment with roof terrace. I have lived in the 6th. 8th, 12th, and the 11th arrondissement. I have been Parisian and European, lived in Germany, Italy, France, England and the six unforgettable months in Turkey. I visited the families of Europe, from east to west and north to south. I mostly go ahead in life but now I am experiencing the return on a scene from the past. I observe everything. Even the sound of the subway brakes makes me smile. I recognize sound and smells.
A friend meets me at l’Étoile. With its architectural policy, Paris is the same and I love that. One difference attracts my eyes: the number of people in the streets. People everywhere. The population of France is doubled each year with the visiting tourist, on holidays and in the streets. The apartments are increasingly smaller, to house more and more people. Then not to forget, “there is also all the smokers who are now forced to go out and smoke in the streets “
I look forward to a good night sleep that first evening and leave Mimi to the football match between France and Germany at the Stade de France. On my phone, La Presse of Quebec informs me of an attack in Paris: 3 dead. I inform Mimi but he hears little, France is winning. I go to bed. I am meeting friends and will have to get up in the morning despite the jetlag. Has the word attack become too common? While I sleep, Americas follow what is happening in Paris.
I wake up to 120 + dead, all young people. How could I sleep when I had to be so awaken? What will Paris be when I get out? Can I go out? Yes I can, fear was never invited in my travels. All goes smoothly on the bus from the 7th to 6th arrondissement. I see no soldiers. I ring rue de Bucci. I know the door for four decades. My friends have phoned their relatives and every one is safe. We breathe, we speak of events, we do not understand what can cause a person to do such a thing but everyone keeps his anguish. “We’ll know more this evening” they say. Life goes on, we have a decade to catch up. We are happy to meet again. The lunch is good.
I visit and dine with friends. I have the impression of having lived more intensely the killings of Charlie Hebdo. I am touched by the messages I receive from outside of France, from those who know where I am and who care. When in the outside we include all of Paris in our mind. Here the events are in the 11th arrondissement. I think of the time I found myself in countries, where life continues because war is west, north or south.
I have difficulty in being in this normality. Sunday I go to rural Picardie with Francoise. I take in the green as one takes a glass of wine. The house is from 1622. To get an idea of what happened that year, I search the computer. I read: “King give priority to the war against the Huguenots. The highlight of the campaign is the battle of the island of Rie, where the King Rié personally command his army to crush the Protestants.”
I am tired. Jet lag has always been difficult for me. Sleepless nights. The brain is heavy as his the heart facing the history of wars.
Throughout the week, information spreads like an ink stain, a bloodstain. “Charlie Hebdo was the press, it was political, but this is us.” All those encountered, knows someone who knows someone. Even I do: The children of a friend, who go to Bataclan several times a year and who regularly, eat at Petit Cambodia. The friend of a friend who lost her son, and only received the information late on Saturday afternoon This way I learn that, for many, the stress of waiting to know lasted for many long hours.
I was told: “Your generation has experienced the freedom. It is been taken away from us.” Is it freedom? Innocence? Carefreeness? We look for a word to describe the loss. A profound change has come. “No, we will not fear, we shall not bend to hatred. We will not lose our small happiness of freedom and fraternity.” A scar has opened and may have much trouble healing. I compare the pain as a great heartbreak. Life goes on, we go out, we laugh, we eat well and with pleasure but with an indescribable pain within. Then after several heartbreaks, it becomes more and more difficult to love.
The traffic areas are calm but not Tuesday morning. I come from the nearby countryside and am at Gare du Nord, early morning. Seeing the crowd at the train station, I wonder if the numerous commuters feel safe. When we say fear is not really there, the brain reminds us that this may not be true. “I have changed my seat and wondered if changing e seats could save my life.” “I wondered if taking the subway arriving or if waiting for the next one could make a difference.” These stories carry me through the streets in Lebanon, Hebron, Congo and with all those who every day are wondering if fetching bread can mean life or death. Peace in my heart is linked to peace in all hearts.
The streets are emptied. Tourists have changed their minds and went to ther places on earth. Smokers smoke more. I leave happy that I will come again early May. Paris is too beautiful to turn our back to her.
I was told that on December 6, India, I will go to a meeting where the Dalai Lama will be. I will dream of a world without religion and a new spirituality.