Au Revoir, Paris

April 21, 2009 § 29 Comments

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During the course of our lives, we make a lot of friends and establish many enduring relationships. No friendships, however, are as valuable and abiding as the ones started in childhood. There is something so pure and innocent about such friendships; they were established without preconditions and prospects of mutual benefits. Over the years, I have managed to retain most of my childhood friendships. Despite the fact that my bosom buddies are now scattered all over the world, I still keep very close contacts with them through letters and other mediums.

My closest childhood friend lived in Paris. I used to have a huge crush on her when we were little. Being such a terrific writer, she insisted that we correspond through letters; we did just that for nearly 7 years. Life in Paris was the most popular theme discussed in our letters. Her beautiful descriptions of the city with its magnificent architecture, scenic landscape, and of course the unbelievable nightlife were amazing. The vividly descriptive photos she sent to me were truly mind-blowing. I was so enchanted by what I saw from the photos that I promised her I would visit Paris when I have a chance, to go through the experience first hand.

We lost contact about three years ago. Inexplicably, she stopped sending me any more letter. In fact, my letters to her were returned to my address. At first, I thought it was a postal problem. After not hearing anything from her for over a year, I realized there might be a bigger problem. Through a friend, I was able to obtain her telephone number. Unfortunately, the number was no longer valid; I was still unable to contact her.

The following summer, I decided to travel to Paris to resolve the one mystery that had been confounding me. I was able to locate her residence using the address on the letters. Unfortunately, neither she nor her family was still living at the aforementioned address. The place was now being used as a boarding house for underprivileged students as well as undocumented immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe.

I tried to ask the landlady if she knows the whereabouts of the residence’s former occupants. Although the lady was very nice and quite accommodating, she didn’t seem to understand my scrappy French very well; she thought I was some American tourist hoping to rent a room for the night. When I explained that I was not there for lodging, her attitude towards me completely changed. In fact, she chased me out of the building with a broom (a little exaggeration).

For the next several days, I wandered every corner of Paris searching for my lost childhood friend. Paris was every bit as wonderful as she described. Walking pass the famed Eiffel Tower at night was a remarkable experience. Regrettably, I was in no mood to enjoy it. During my return flight, my mind was full of unresolved questions. I guess she is the only one who knows the answers to them.

[Simon N.]

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