Eric sends me on my way with a metro ticket and directions to get the train out of Barcelona. Maybe he sees a lot of people hitching out of here, cos he knows the details off by heart. Somewhere along the way, Romain told me ‘Milovuiji, Te kiro, I love you’. After all the tantrums, all his cursing and screaming at the sky, saying goodbye is pleasant and painless. I sing Meatloaf to him, even though he doesn’t understand the English words, ‘I want you, I need you, but there aren’t no way I’m ever gonna love you. Don’t be sad, two outta three ain’t bad’. I go back for more hugs from Honza. I will miss talking with that vivid blue green guy.
On the bus without buying a ticket. At the metro, the card Eric gave me doesn’t work. I have change. Get the train, talk to some young guys. Montmelo is a quiet, sleepy little town, hilly. See a guy and know he will help. Ask him, ‘where is the autoroute?’ I do the backwards walking with finger out motion, to explain what I want to do. They are slow to understand. Where am I going? Paris! I say. Paris?!? They look at each other. Shake their hand like a floppy dead fish, Spaniard speak for ‘phew!’. Finally they tell me, it is a long walk. He asks me, where I am from, I am alone? He is grabbing his car keys. Drives me out onto the autoroute, stops at a big service station. Inside for a coffee, asks if I am hungry. I choose some rice, pasta sauce, cooked green vegetables. Don’t talk much. Mixed through the veges are pieces of cheese. I am not in the mood (for once) to send it back; I want to eat while I have the chance. Painstakingly I remove the cheese bit by bit. And eat the rest. Tell myself it won’t be so bad, What’s a food allergy between friends? We are on the wrong side of the autoroute and drive across. I take his picture, say goodbye. I don’t think he thought I would actually leave him and go do what I said I would. After he leaves, I wander inside. Ask for some cardboard and a pen. It is getting late. I walk from truck to truck; they are all stopped and parked to sleep for the night. Inside it is quiet. I sit and talk with a guy, he tells me to find the freezer trucks cos they go all night. (At least, I think that’s what he said. He only speaks Spanish). Speak to the security guards, they are friendly but nothing is happening. It’s dark by now; I hover around the service counter and try to judge where people are going, if they will take me. Before I hitched the first time, I remember reading about a couple that did this, approached people in service stations. The thought freaked me out so much more than standing on the side of the road. What if they laugh in my face? What if they don’t like me? Worse, what if they say yes because they feel obligated, even though they don’t want to?
I am sitting in the restaurant and a car pulls in. It’s silver, catches my attention. I look away. The guy is inside and I have a good feeling. I start a conversation with him. Turns out he has family in Australia. He lives nearby, so isn’t going anywhere. I ask if there are aubergues or pensions around here, somewhere cheap to stay. He asks around. Nope. Asks the staff if I can sleep here, Nope. Surprisingly, he offers to take me to a hotel and pay the rest of the cost for me. I hesitate. Or I can stay at his house, he says with a shrug. He understands my hesitation. This is the dilemma- we both know it is socially inappropriate. I will think about it. We drive along the road to his house, via the hotel. There is a huge industrial area with many many trucks. If I stayed at his house, he could drop me here on his way to work in the morning. He tells me there is also a bus, right outside his door. I think, if he is going to give me something, better a bed in his house than his money. And his house is nice. Wooden floors, well decorated, comfortable. He tells me his ex girlfriend decorated it. The house is on a hill overlooking a small town nestled in a valley. We sit outside, he eats pizza and apologises the fridge is empty. His father is in hospital with cancer and he has been there everyday. I thank him for going out of his way for me during a rough time. Funny how personal pain breaks down your barriers and makes you more giving. We sit up for a while and talk. He tells me how his girlfriend cheated on him, and left the day his dad was diagnosed. It was a year ago and the wound is still fresh, even though he tells me it is fine. The house has beautiful family photos, Australian memorabilia, guitars- he is a musician. He tells me, he moved here for her. He doesn’t wanna be here, I can feel that before he even tells me anything. I tell him, make a change. Sell the fucking furniture, get rid of the couches and TV she chose. Let it go, move where you wanna be. What are you waiting for? I wash off the Barcelona dirty sand and moisturise my sunburnt skin. I fall asleep to his song ‘Lullaby’.
In the morning, I wake late. The bed was comfortable, its lunch time. He left long ago. In the kitchen I find a note ‘Good luck Angela!! I wish you find in your travel what you’re looking for. PLEASE accept the money, a little help to arrive to Paris. Good luck.’ 60 Euro, sweet bread, jam, tea. I eat on the balcony and sigh a blessed sigh. I pack, write him a note or two. Cry, let the tears wash away the pain. And other words, about life and letting go. I hesitate to leave, and when I am outside on the road, I have narrowly missed the bus. Why did I hesitate?? I stand at the bus stop and marvel at how red brown my lower legs and feet are. Don’t think I have ever had tanned feet before.
Sit and write. The bus to Thim comes, where the trucks are. I missed the direct bus and have to change, I buy water. I have no idea where to get off. Find myself in a quiet street. There’s a truck parked, the guy is young and has a good feeling. He shows me where the autoroute is while he smokes a cigarette. Un chicka solo?! I could stay and talk but instead I start walking to the autoroute ramp. When I get there, DHL trucks are going, and a company like DHL doesn’t pick up hitch hikers. Ask a young guy if there are more trucks around somewhere else, when he understands what I need, he says he will drive me. And drive me he does…. Right back to where I was hitching from last night. I sigh, unsure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. There was such trucking potential in Thim! I approach the trucks again, and then stand with a thumb out. The thumb doesn’t work with Spaniards, you have to make them feel special and ask them directly. Some trucks are sitting nearby and watching me. They call me over, a young guy is reloading a new container onto the back of the truck; it was the older dude with the baldhead that called me over. They ask what I am doing. Going to Paris! They are going in that direction, I pull puppy dog eyes and a hopeful smile. They tell me, there are only two seats, and they can’t take me. I tell them, other trucks take me, why not?! They pull faces and try to explain something. No Entendes. The truck is ready, they tell me to get in. Then I understand the problem- both of them have to go in the truck. They point to the bed and close the curtain. Living on the edge, ha. (If one more person tells me to be safe, I will egg their house. Do you think you can prevent yourself dying by wrapping yourself in cotton wool? Do you think you have control, that you can keep the chaotic outside your door? Get outside, look up at the sky, and take a deep breath. Like I said yesterday, the most dangerous thing I have done is come overseas with a MasterCard rather than a Visa. $1500 phone bill, sleeping for a week on the beach and crying cos you want a strawberry ice-cream? Priceless.)
The trip passes with me staring at my Lonely Planet on the bed with the curtains slightly ajar. The young guy drives and is quiet. The baldy guy teases me, chatty and friendly. I only own halterneck swimmers that pull on my neck. Going without a bra was no problem on the beach, but now I wish I owned a bra. The more I talk to baldy, the more self-conscious I become of my boobs floating around under my t-shirt. As time passes I begin to prefer the guy who doesn’t speak. But it was baldy who bought me onboard and I am happy to be going somewhere. We stop at the grocery shop. I have worn the cargo shorts every day since Josh gave them to me (hence the ankle tan). I especially love them with my new baggy white undies sticking out the top (Hi mum.) Baldy points out there is a tear in the bum. He gives me some green and white boardies. We go for a drink; with my orange juice, I wear the boardies and sew my pants sitting at the bar, much to their amusement. Sometimes I am an oddity, it’s true. In the supermarket, Baldy points around, telling me to look. I choose an avocado and some honey. We feast in the truck, they just keep feeding me, tomato and salt and oil and avocado on crispy Spanish baguette, (Man I love Spanish bread. Whoever said French was best was lying), as well as garlic toasted bread, and sugary… sweet… bread like… crispy things. We cross the border into France. The truck is going a looong way, to Italy. Baldy tells me to come with them; there are only 2 beds. Umm, no thanks. Societal expectations, judgement, awkward situation. If it wasn’t for the overnight stop I would so be down with going to Italy. As the sun sets I get edgy and restless. After much agonising over the map, they to drop me at a servo outside of Montpellier. I have been near here before! And the sun is setting again. Ha. FML.
Inside to ask for cardboard. There is only one way to get from the autoroute into town to find a bed, by car. I make a sign to Montpellier. With Paris on the other side it’s double or nothing. Sit outside on the cement seats. See a girl and a guy with backpacks. Hitchers! I am so excited, but play it cool. Casually sit near them. They are having a feast, speaking in French. I start a conversation- she is a Couchsurfer and has practically moved into his house- he tells me he has told her to leave and I am not sure if he is teasing or serious. She’s from Israel, with curly hair. I offer them my honey, bread, avocado, chocolate. My favourite things. I mention I don’t have a bra and she says, I think I have one in my bag, I never wear it, don’t like the things. I don’t think its gonna fit me, but she pulls it out and it fits me like it was made for me. I bounce up and down in supported bliss. A woman pulls in and the dude automatically helps her park the van, this way, a lil more, a lil more, stop. The woman goes inside and he turns his attention back to the girl. The blonde lady comes back out and I have a feeling… I ask her where she is going. Nime, where these guys are headed. The dudes ear prick up and he is paying attention again, stands and speaks to her in French. My work here is done! The cool girl gives me her email, I take their picture and I am alone again. (I’m never alone, I’m alone all the time…). Buses pull into the servo, people pour out and it cramps my style. I can’t tell who to take the time to ask where they are going and who is just getting back on the bus. At one point I leave my bag to walk to a car, but I don’t take my eyes off it. A guy nudges his friend and walks towards it. I intercept, sit back down next to it and look pointedly at him. There is a man with a motorhome that has two beds. He is sleeping at the servo tonight, he offers for me to sleep in it. It’d be better than the bench, but an enclosed space with this guy? He seems harmless, a little eccentric if anything. I tell him maybe. The trucks are parking up for the night again. One offers for me to go with him at 6am. I am realising it will take as much effort to get to a bed in Montpellier as it will to get to Paris. Live and learn.
I move to a bench closer to the cars. A guy sits next to me, I start a conversation. He is also going to Nice. All these people going in a different direction. I wonder if perhaps I should go to Italy instead. There is really nothing stopping me. At the least, I can go with him to Marseille; the truckers said a lot of trucks go to Paris from there. He’s tired and was hoping I could help with the driving. We both would have liked it if I could, even with the other side of the road thing. We talk a little as he drives. His girlfriend studies Psychology and he is into Social Work. He is an intellectual, wears glasses. Has an intelligent, but fixed, view of the world. I share what I think about some things (?) and he isn’t particularly impressed. We stop and he buys me a tea. It is Moroccan flavoured, I’m surprised. But there are Moroccans here, so of course. Back in the car, I am falling asleep sitting up and feel bad he can’t do the same. At Marseille he tells me, he is too tired to drive all the way. His mother has a retirement house in a small village near here and he will sleep there. I can join him if I want. I want. We stop by the beach for one minute for a beautiful view of the moon, Jason Mraz plays on the radio. The house is one room. There is only a couch. He looks for blankets and says he will sleep on the floor. But the couch is a futon and I tell him, we can top and tail. His head next to my feet. Wrap myself in my Moroccan blanket and sleep.
He didn’t have enough change for the parking all night. I told him I would get up and deal with it in the morning so he can sleep. 5 short sweet hours, I haul ass outta bed at 8.45am. He mentioned he was looking forward to sleeping all day so I pay for parking until 4. Works for me, I want to wander and interweb. We are in a small bay between Marseille and Toulon. When I return with the keys, he is awake and packing and cleaning and returning everything to how we found it. Errr. I dress and pack as well. Things are a little strained between us. He asks me what I want to do, and I want Internet. I need to look at a map and send out some CouchSurfing requests to Paris. He is saying its all good, but I sense he is impatient to be on the road. He hovers around with annoying anxious energy, thankfully goes back to finish packing. An hour later I return (he thought I would get lost?) and he is sitting outside the flat on our bags. Without further ado, he drops me at a tollway. He’s a little bossy about where I should go and how to do it, makes a hitching sign for me.
I largely ignore what he says, sit down and eat some bread and honey. Cross the road to the public toilets. A Spaniard police man on a bike sees me carrying the signs and tells me I can’t hitch here. After I use the toilet, I hitch here.
It is very sunny and I am already burnt all over. Spend time admiring all the strange tones of my skin, like my hips from when I was shovelling, my feet, and the stripes across my chest from my bikini. My hair is lighter too. I apply sunscreen; two young girls stop. They are going the other way, worse luck, could have been nice. They give me a map of France.
Travel for a short while with one man then stand back in the sun. An older man in a golden car stops and we drive for hours. I nod off to sleep a few times. He seems to yabber a lot, I am so tired and he speaks to me loudly in French. Maybe he thinks yelling the words rapidly in my face will make me understand. Not exactly relaxing. I have the urge to get out a few times, but he is still going in the right direction so I stay. At the servo, finally honour the urge to get out. I buy a tin of Ravioli and hope there is only a small small amount of meat. Near the counter my eyes fall on a bright purple hooded jumper. With white string. Put it on. Love at first sight, baby. I didn’t own a jumper. This one is 25 Euro, which comes from the man with the jaded hearts money. Outside I am bouncing and happy in purple goodness. The man I have been driving with seems concerned about my future. There is a car and he says the number plate says Paris. He approaches and begins to talk to the driver and I think, Oh god if I leave this in his hands the driver won’t take me! Run interference: Cute bad french time. Bon Jour! Je voux alley Paris… Tu alley? She says. The driver is young and nods.
In the car with Ben. His English warms up and I don’t need French so much. Way back near Barcelona, I bought 5 lighters with cool designs. He smokes and I offer him one of them. It’s red with a chicken turning into an egg and back into a chicken again. I think he likes it.
He puts some strange bubbly music on that I like. He works in TV, and so do his 2 housemates. We have a nice vibe going on; he mentions he has a girlfriend called Valentine. I don’t believe him- be my valentine! She calls and he motions for me to be quiet. The sun is beautiful today, slanting through the clouds. He asks where I am staying, I tell him I plan to CouchSurf but don’t know where. He has wanted to try having people surf with him, offers for me to be the first one to stay in their new flat. Perfect. He calls his flatmates, speaks in French. When he gets off the phone he jokes that they didn’t want me. Maybe he could tell me listening closely, stranger things have happened.
We drive for maybe 6 hours, in the van. I am chatty; he asks me why I jingle. Honza had a bell around his neck, I liked it and when I told him so, he put it around my neck. Just like that. So now I am laughing and talking and pulling faces and jingling in the car with Ben. In his apartment, we are worn out from the journey. The sun is setting over Paris, behind the Eiffel tower. They live on the 27th floor, impressive view. I meet housemate Julien and his girlfriend Natasha; they don’t speak to me much. His other housemate Anna seems nicer. Softer, more human than Natasha and Julien. They are beautiful, maybe they know it- they are aloof and a little distant. (Also, Anna has fluent English and that makes a difference- the French’s relationship with English can be grating. They don’t like speaking it or don’t like that they can’t speak it.) Anna, Natasha, Julien and Ben work in TV and live in Paris. I feel so awkward in my trucker shorts and 3 Euro shirt I have been wearing for a week. Until now I loved this new outfit, but now I am painfully aware the Barcelona dirt still hasn’t entirely washed out of my skin. In Barcelona, I had cold beach showers and didn’t have to be clean. There were no mirrors to look into, but when I saw one, the sunburn made my eyes look even greener. Now I am awkwardly tiptoeing around. We eat dinner in silence (I have heard the Parisians can be cold). Julien has cooked curry rice with coconut milk, it’s good. They make a bed under the window with the view of the Eiffel tower. Anna is nice, gives me her keys and writes the address in case I get lost. I shower and I can feel Ben is still awake. He leaves his door ajar. I sit on the end of the bed, confused with the vibe from him. He has work tomorrow, I ask to borrow his internet. Excuse myself and stay up late, facebooking, looking at maps, looking at CouchSurfing. I want to book a flight to Israel.
10th July. Next day I sleep until lunchtime, wash my clothes, then Internet again. I find flights from Belgium. It will take all my money, but I can feel the clock is ticking and it’s now or never. Do what I am reluctant to do- ask Dad and Jules if they will give me a loan. I am fantasising about going home, and collecting receipts. One hell of an insurance claim to make! Actually looking forward to it. The parentals don’t have cash right now, apparently we have a new driveway though. Dad tells me, book the flight and we will do what we can. So I book for the 12th, return on the 17th. I had heard from Ariel’s brother that I should tell him when I am coming- I have emailed once with no reply and now email him again. Natasha has been out, when she returns she raises an eyebrow that I haven’t done anything all day. I find I am explaining myself. Apparently she does speak English, in a crazy strong American accent. After some nice bonding moments in the kitchen, I dress and leave to explore. I am wearing my new purple jumper- lucky I bought it when I did, perfect timing. Crappy Paris weather. There is a pet shop with German shepherd puppies in a glass cage, not impressed. Look for a bakery, buy a nectarine. Natasha and Ellen recommended places to visit- I head vaguely towards the middle of my map. Get out at Château, there is a pretty fountain. I like the trees and water in France. In the subway I noticed Ads for a dance performance- I am now standing in front of the theatre where it is being performed. The lady at the desk tells me, it is sold out, but I can sit in rows at the side for 5 euro. Sweeet! I have 5 euro. It starts at 730- while I wait I find a supermarket which will accept MasterCard, buy some lentils and a thick, pure fruit smoothy. Sit on the edge of some trees; a small bird eats my bread while I dip it in the vinergar-y grey beans, surprisingly delicious. (NOTE: I think this was my first serious encounter with lentils).
A black youth (and friend) are across the street from me, all clad in bright purple, I love it, and stare unabashedly while the police come and fully search them. Because they’re black? Or because they are lingering suspiciously?
I am happy I am watching some American Dance Theatre in PARIS of all places. I am sitting behind a pole but lean forward around it, and then sit on the stairs. In the second half, I fall asleep for a few moments. Then everyone is on their feet applauding, the curtain closes and opens again, the dancers move forwards and backwards, the lights go up and down again and everyone is still applauding. The dancing was good, but not that good. It seems so prerehearsed, the whole encore thing, I don’t really want to participate. It invalidates the whole process! If you do that everytime, what is left when a performance is actually special? The poster had some stunningly toned half naked brown men jumping around in the air, unfortunately I didn’t get to see that- maybe if I had, I would be on my feet clapping as well. I leave the theatre and to my surprise, the sun hasn’t gone down yet. I don’t have any change and decide to walk (instead of Metro) to the Eiffel tower. I can see it in the distance and walk in the general direction.
Half an hour later, still walking, and I could swear I am almost there… Almost there… Almost there… It’s getting bigger and bigger above my head and I keep thinking I will arrive any second. But I have SERIOUSLY underestimated how big that thing is. So I keep walking and walking. I walk along the river, over the river. I offer to take a photo of a guy making a movie of a big barge, lit up and pretty. I stop on an island near the Notre Dame Island. There’s grass flowers and trees. As I walk along the river, there are boats renovated and permanently moored as restaurants and party venues. A couple walks past me towards one such boat, her in a dress and him in a tux. I get the feeling of being really outside of things, acutely aware of my aloneness; there are parties I am not invited to.
I sit near a large ventilation fan on a brick wall above one such place. Beside me I find a small souvenir fan ‘Paris’. Someone has forgotten it here.(I wanted to buy a pretty red one in Spain). I start walking again. Someone is drumming on the other side of the river. Tourists point, take photos on the bridge. The sun is low. I am thinking about Dom, back in Australia. I am thinking of the past, of what we had between us, of what I have heard from him lately. I realise, what we had is gone. I feel like I am single, like I do not have another half, another person holding me in their heart, for the first time in a long time. It scares me for a minute, I spend a while walking in melancholy. Then I realise: Now I am free to create something new. I begin to compose in my head a list, to paint a picture of what I would like in a partner. Of what I wish to find. Warm skin, like Romains on the beach in Barcelona. Slightly taller than me. Listens to me while he traces lines on my skin. Looks at me with an amused glint in his eye when I am being impossible. Wisdom without a struggle, honest. Toned soft brown back. Eyes as amazing as Honza’s. Interesting history, stories to tell. Brave, resigned to face things. Sense of humour and irony. Devoted, anchored with a steadfast core (the words to The Script sing in my head, I’m not moviiiin…). He doesn’t need to know himself, because he just is himself, this man. He expresses his anger, he listens and takes advice, he is affectionate and seduces me at least once a day. With the realisation that this is entirely possible, I feel a little more hopeful, a little less like I will be alone forever more.
At last I arrrive at the tower, soon it will close for the night. Underneath, two security guards are wandering around holding big ass guns. Is that entirely necessary? I crane my head backwards and try to take a picture from underneath, but it is too big to fit in the picture.
I wonder if they accept MasterCard. I am exhausted; just want to go back to bed, It’s 11pm and I haven’t been in contact with the people back at the flat. There is a minimum purchase of two tickets for MasterCard, I ask the guy behind me if he’ll give me his cash and let me pay with card for him as well, double win because now I have cash on me. There is a wait for the elevator and the people cram in. I do a lap around, take a picture, and make a movie.
In the city of love, visiting the Eiffel tower alone, couples everywhere, sigh. Use the loo, refill my drink bottle, cram back into the elevator. On the way to the Metro I stop at a pancake stand. Smeared batter in perfect circles on a hotplate, spread with Nutella and banana. Ariel used to eat Nutella. Of course it is laden with milkiness. To my delight, this guy also has WAFFLES, which are dairy-free. I get one with banana, it is 4 Euro!!! 8 dollars for a fricken waffle, just because I am standing near the Eiffel tower. The waffle is amazing. It is so delicious I can’t believe it. Outside the metro, I buy a glass statue of the Eiffel tower that lights up, as well as an Eiffel tower keychain. It takes a while to get back to the block, and a while longer to figure out which building. All the apartment blocks look the same. Inside the flat, Julian is sitting on the couch in the dark drinking a beer. I speak to him, explaining where I have been, when he hardly responds I remember he doesn’t speak much English. He tells me Ben has only just gone to bed; I go in to talk to him.
I chat with Ben for a while, tell him about my day. Getting weird vibes again that I don’t know what to do with. Eventually excuse myself. Sleep and wake up at 1030. Dip the leftovers from my stick of bread in some jam. On the bus, the driver won’t take my note. Look at Band-Aids (for my blistered feet) in the pharmacy. Buy a packet of lollies (candy, sweets, whatever you call them). With the change, back on a bus going up and around the north of Paris. I am vaguely heading toward Porte De Montmartre, both Ellen and Natasha mentioned it. There is a semi-circle of soft couch-like chairs up the back of the bus, and small children sitting opposite me. I don’t want the lollies anymore, and offer them to a small girl on her grandfather’s lap. She looks at him and he shakes his head and tells me no. Ahhh I am offering candy to a baby. I get it, but am upset at him for telling her to say no to something that is actually quite safe. Upset at him for teaching her to be afraid. The bus ride is long and uneventful. I change buses. When I arrive at Montmartre, there isn’t much to see. Hear from Ben, he is coming to meet up with me and I decide to head towards the Louvre. I walk south, through increasingly busy streets. I see a statue made entirely of clocks. Spend a while choosing and buying a magnet of the Eiffel tower to add to my growing collection. Have Quick, I love it! The dairy-free hot chocolate fudge, 2.95. Sit upstairs, Ben calls and I start walking south again. There’s lots of grass and hedges made into a maze. I think, the perfect spot to be with a lover, and next thing I am looking at a couple making out, tangled around each other, affectionately in each other’s necks. They are not young. I love that about Europe, that passionate love is for all ages. I can see the river and a big wheel lit up (similar to the London Eye); the Louvre should be here somewhere. I ask an old lady, she takes me by the arm, walks me around the corner, and points. Very sweet and endearing.
Today, I am singing. I walked under a bus; I got hit by a train. Keep falling in love, which is kinda the same. Sunk out at sea, crashed my car, gone insane, and it felt SO good, I wanna do it again…
So there’s the big famous glass pyramid and lots and lots of buildings. Walk through a very posh cafe, act like I belong there, use the loo. (My phone rings while I am in there and I sit on the posh couch). Lie on the edge of the fountain and wait for Ben. He arrives, I am happy. He has brought with him an old camera and takes pictures of me as we walk through Paris. There is an Andy Warhol exhibition; I remember that Erin used to love him. Ben pays the entry. In the Czech republic, the museums never translated to English, thankfully they do here.
We wander around, split up and reunite as we make our way through. It is the first time I have been to a museum exhibition! After all this time in Europe, unbelievable. The museum is closing as we get to the end; I am taking my time and get irritated at Ben when he tries to hurry me along. The ushers are waiting for all the people go. Ben’s sense of politeness kicks in- once he told me that he apologizes when he coughs even if he is alone. Outside, I slide down the railing; we sit on the grass near a pond for a while. He wants a smoke. Anna calls, she is ready to meet up. On the way, Ben asks how I am. I tell him I am letting go of my love at home, because I think he has moved on. I tell him I thought I would have babies with that guy. We stop to use the McDonalds loo on the way; the line is as long as if it were a nightclub. At some point, I trip on my thongs and rip them; they wont stay on anymore so now I am barefoot. (Still the same ones I bought off the front cover of a magazine in Barcelona). When we meet up with Anna she is horrified I am barefoot, gets all concerned and motherly on me. I am not overly bothered, but when we meet up with Natasha and Julien as well, I am painfully aware of my own dagginess, next to his suit and her perfectly put together outfit. The shoe stores are shut by now, we find a 7-11 and buy a sewing kit. I roughly sew the thong back together. Ben and I are hungry, there is a store with a huge amount of different salads and cooked veges with a Greek feel. Turns out Natasha, Julien and Anna don’t wanna eat. I do though! Get the feeling Anna maybe doesn’t like to eat much. Once my belly is full, we visit a place their friend has recommended. It is a strange pub, an open warehouse with art on the walls, it’s quiet and I love the music, makes me start dancing all over the place, attracting attention even though I am restraining myself. Unfortunately it is closing soon, we sit by the river. I ask if anyone ever jumps in and swims, they are horrified at the suggestion, apparently its quite polluted. Plus, they are dignified Parisians. As we sit and talk, Natasha starts teasing me more and more about Ben, she is hinting he likes me. Anna starts chiming in as well, it isn’t right, he has a girlfriend. I like the attention, it entertains me, but I am saying, Wow guys, nothing has even happened, I haven’t done anything! And it isn’t my responsibility what he does or does not feel. I move away from them for a minute, to get some air of my own. Now a lady is asking me if I want to play Pétanque. You see it a lot in France, similar to boules in Australia but you can throw the ball in the air. There are some young men, plus a really old bloke who is one of their grandpa’s (really). A strange bunch under a bridge near the river, I play a few rounds with them, perform okay in one round then lose dreadfully in the next. It is fun and when I rejoin the group I feel better. Tell them I just played with the oldies, I love how random it is. Natasha and I want to dance, Anna and Julien want to go home to sleep. And Ben, well maybe he will go where I go. The bunch under the bridge are going back to someone’s place to dance, they invite us, we could go. We start walking and I go into a club to use the loo… and dance in the bathrooms. The music is good, nay, great, makes me wanna move my toosh. Outside I nudge Natasha and tell her we could go there. She doesn’t have money, neither do I, (growl in the general direction of MasterCard) so we have to convince the boys. Julien wants to sleep, Anna gets in a cab home, then Natasha caves in too. Over red rover. I want to sulk, I am disappointed! I am in PARIS and I wanna dance.
Earlier today Ben mentioned to me, Julien feels like he can’t sit on the couch and scratch himself in the mornings with me sleeping in the lounge room. Anna thinks that I should sleep in her room, because of Ben’s girlfriend, Ben suggests I sleep in his bed. Personally, my bed with my Moroccan blanket is just fine- but I don’t handle feeling unwelcome very well. I don’t wanna ruffle feathers. I shower and sit on Ben’s bed. There is this talk of his girlfriend, but she doesn’t call, I haven’t seen her in the time I have been here. Odd. He says, they have been together for three years and he pretty much feels it is over. He tells me he likes me. I am silent for a long while. I tell him I am happy around him. This much I am clear about. He kisses me and his kisses are perfect. Almost too perfect, like they require concentration. He apologises at one point, when his kiss isn’t up to scratch. I hadn’t noticed. He doesn’t sleep with me, and we don’t sleep much. (At one point I remember what he is doing, when he is kissing me and mentions her, it makes me feel a little sick). Next day, I feel uneasy facing the firing squad. Natasha smiles and nudges me when she sees me, but Anna isn’t speaking to me. I am fairly sure she has a thing for Ben; this isn’t about the girlfriend at all. Ben’s friend has planned a party at their place tonight, now I wish they hadn’t, I don’t feel like company. We stay inside all day (yes even though I am in Paris). Ben cooks for me, (finally, I am starved by the time we eat) and he is good at it. Delicious. We easily settle into a close relationship. He’s a Gemini. When we were eating lunch, he snapped the lip of the laptop in front of me shut and I saw the edge of something I didn’t quite like. (The light and the dark, the good and the bad.) Next thing, people are arriving. Anna has had words with Ben and becomes civil to me, she is making Spanish Mohito’s, they’re strong and not really like the ones in Spain, but with plenty of sugar they go alright. I make polite conversation. I talk to a pretty blonde girl for a while about my travel and she gets all inspired. Love having that effect. We are all pretty drunk, I am in Ben’s room for a while to sit off some alcohol, next thing we are kissing me again. The kissing is heavy but the clothes stay on. Somewhere along the way, he tells me he loves me, the words just fall off his lips like he didn’t quite intend them.
Sunday 12th July is the day I fly to Israel. Time to walk where I want and need to walk. As always, I don’t wanna go. I see the path, and I plan the steps, and then as I begin, I get scared. It’s time to go and say goodbye to Ariel. I wake up, curl into the foetal and start crying. Once at Lotus in Wollongong, a girl had started crying and I had gone instinctually to her to hug her. My boss had said to me afterwards, never do that. Never comfort someone with the intention of making them stop crying. If they need to get it out, give them the space to get it out. Now when Ben puts his arms over me and asks what is wrong, I understand exactly what she meant. Me being upset distresses him. But I have grown used to crying when I want to cry. I get out of the bed and into the shower, I don’t explain myself. I slowly gather my things, a little hung-over. I find the ring, one of the two that Dom and I had given each other. Since I have been in Europe, every day, I put it on religiously, with an awareness of my connection to him. Yesterday, I couldn’t find it, and I didn’t really try. Now it is back on my hand. Ben and Julien fetch breakfast, but come back without strawberry sorbet. (A girlfriend, can’t handle me crying, and now, no ice-cream?! Strike three and you’re out.) I don’t realise it, but perhaps I have left him feeling powerless when I didn’t speak this morning. I was angry with him for not realising what I needed. So now as I pack, as I write down phone numbers and send emails, he tells me to hurry and we are miles from each other. I still haven’t heard back from Ron, but I am going with or without hearing from him. We get the metro and I refuse to rush. At the train station, we have only minutes and we run. He prints off the tickets as I hold the train. With perfect timing, he hands me the tickets, says ‘I love you’, and the doors close. He paid for the train ticket to Belgium, so that I could stay longer with him, so that I didn’t have to worry about hitch hiking. It is first class and a stewardess brings me food, complete with a refresher towel. I’m like the cat that got the cream. When I change at Brussels station, I stand in line at the Quick for 20 minutes to get more hot dairy free chocolate fudge. I am flying from Liege airport on a new carrier, Jetairfly Belgium. On the train between Brussels and Liege, I make friends with a little boy. This train is less flash then the other one, and I chase him up and down the aisles, my neck jingling with the bell Honza gave me. (I wear it every day without fail. Makes me smile.) I make brief conversation with his parents, he is cute.
As we disembark, they watch me approach a cab to ask how much to the airport. The cab driver tells me there is no bus, and the man tells me there is. Pause. They live nearby and tell me they will drive me to the airport. Fuck I love this life. I love people. I love travelling, I love luck. I love when things flow effortlessly. He gives me a coke and I drink some of it to be polite. Not something that happens often. As we pull into the airport, it starts to bucket rain. Once I am inside, the sun returns. A tiny airport with no Internet. I sit on my suitcase in the check in line, something I haven’t had to do before, I am usually later than this. It is obvious this plane is going to Israel; there are men in big top hats and long black coats. To a Jewish country I will go, for the first time. I stare a little. They have short hair apart from next to their ears, where they have curls, which they must use a curler for, little ringlets hanging next to all their ears.