I sit on the upper deck of a train going from la Défense to Saint Germain en Laye, the sun had already set on a Sunday afternoon and people and their families were on their way back to their homes to prepare for Monday.
I look down the Ground deck of the train and I see a couple that had just walked in. She had blonde hair that she tied in a ponytail, and he was wearing a grey t-shirt with the Monsters Inc. logo on the back. Both standing, he had wrapped his arms around the metal bar on the train, and she had her arms wrapped around his waist, although her grip was much tighter than his, she held on better than he did the bar.
This was usual, but in Paris you get to see each couple metamorphose into a complexe sculpture. The girl on the train had fit her neck under his chin, no space in between, and you could see the curves they formed together, and how closely they could turn into clay or solid granite in the Louvre Museum, where you see the rest of the curves and structures, solid; immobile.
Paris isn’t the city of love, but Of lovers who have found their cities and homes in each other. They are each other’s light and tunnels, their streets and their highways. They are their red-bricked houses and the bars they grip onto tightly. Paris is the place, but the city resides in her eyes, and his smile. Paris surely isn’t love, but all the roads they crossed to get into each other’s bodies, they all live in little mobile cities of their own.
If you’ve ever wanted a clear answer, this is it.
I sit in my bathrobe for a good half hour on my bed, as humans usually do, waiting for my fingers to un-crinkle and to have enough power and motivation in my body to choose something to wear as I contemplate the question.
You want to know when size matters?
When you find yourself in the shower, trying to turn as slowly as possible, arms well stuck to both your sides, hands same level as your hips in order not to accidentally hit the shower faucet and result in either abruptly turning off the water or suffering through a sharp turn in temperature. So you waddle there like a clumsy little human. I start imagining the horrifying scenarios of people who might be taller than me, they would probably bump heads with the shower head. Those who take up more space will not dare to turn. I stop imagining scenarios, it just gets worse. The standing shower is actually two small floor squares wide.
(Side note, mom, I am adjusting to this, I like it, I do not want to change where I live, I just like whining about it to people I don’t know, so don’t worry).
Size also matters when you are a meter fifty something in height, and your bed is 80cm wide. You do not take up much space it’s true, but come on… 80? I’ve seen turtles live in tanks bigger than my current bedding situation.
I shan’t go on, but you get the gist. I’ve always wanted to ask people that were living outside of France, if they’ve ever actually been comfortable and have adjusted to the living boxes they are offering us as student housing for a soft nine hundred/thousand euros per month.
Size matters. Appreciate what you have.
I start this with a very loud shoutout to GEM peeps, wherever you are around the globe, get your cup of coffee and read this post as I write and wave to you from GEM.
I came back for two days,
One very short night, and one even shorter day to be exact.
I couldn’t see much by night, the sun had already set, there weren’t many people out and it mainly rained but I decided to do the first thing that popped to mind when I got there. I went up to the third floor of my ex-student building and knocked on my own door. A girl opened the door very slightly and looked a little surprised that two people were knocking at 10:30pm. Nonetheless, we asked her for “nail polish remover” just for an excuse to maybe see my room again, she gives us what we asked for and proceeds to shut the door, I tried to talk as quickly as I could “I used to live here”, I blurted out shyly, feeling like I was talking with my heart right there in my hands for some reason.
The rest of the conversation was also done at the door, I never got the chance to see it again, but I wondered whether they would have similar memories to mine.
I had a very early rise in the morning and I got to the tram, entered my ticket because I no longer had the card, got on the tram with lime yellow bars, Tram B to those who know, and I had to travel 13 stops in total to get to Bibliothèque universitaire to renew my student visa. I got there nearly an hour before my appointment since everyone I know told me to get there before anyone else in order not to have to wait hours in queue. Safe to say I got there before they even opened, so here I am sitting on the steps facing ISSO like a lost student.
When I was in Grenoble a few months back I actually thought that for some reason, we had not been able to explore everything here exhaustively, because we only had 9 months of school, but I realized that I had been to every stop on the tram, and I knew exactly what had taken place around the corners we stopped at. Since my coming back was separated by only a few months, I was still able to hear my footsteps around the area, under the rain sometimes, usually accompanied by 10 other people’s steps since we’ve often travelled in big groups, and I could see us in every place we had spent time in, even a few minutes in. The restaurants, cafes, bars, horrible nightclubs that closed at 2am because Grenoble, even the pharmacies and mini markets. I quickly realized that we had actually travelled a lot in little Grenoble. My hands froze the same way they did and I had never felt better about it, the clouds are still exactly where we had left them, mid-mountains, the tram sounds the same and echoes throughout everywhere I went. It’s much less frantic than Paris, the tram is much slower and actually gives you time to look around as you go, the streets were much colder but definitely warmer to me, I knew them just as much as they did me.
I wonder what it would have been like to visit it five to ten years from now, I started thinking whether I would still hear everyone from GEM. It was a relief to know that throughout all the changes we went through after leaving, one place remains still, waiting for us to walk through its streets again. The round tables in GEM had already been filled with the new wave of students, case studies out and in obvious group meetings.
This was the moment I knew I had reached home, even when the faces weren’t exactly the same. The wind still was and that was all that really mattered.
It’s 9:15 am, I’m already late. Even though I was clearly told many times that I don’t really need to arrive in a particularly early time. No one is monitoring, but I still hurry and run past the people I see on the street.
I’m late, once again, I tell myself annoyingly. I woke up an hour earlier just to NOT be late and here I am scolding my own time-unaware existence, running through the streets of nearby Paris with an umbrella in my hand and croissant in the other. I check if my work badge is well around my neck and waltz my way on the crosswalk prudently, it’s red but we all cross anyway; prudently.
I see everyone in a similar attire with little to no difference in style or color walking at my pace. For the first time in my life I’m actually not behind, I am fast-walking, riding this wave of focused humanity flooding its way into buildings much like ships tracing lighthouses.
This stream of people crashes into the long structures, ready to ignite them, ready for labour. As we outpour onto the streets and up staircases I stop and take the escalators, I move to the right because silly you if you stand to the left the waves will literally crash into you and you’ll be lost at sea, so I hang on to the armrest belt beside me, making sure I stayed afloat. I took the escalator to take a moment to breathe and to look around me and feel how crisp and cold the morning air was even though I was mid-journey to land.
I’ve listened to music my entire life.
So have most of us, the difference is whether we were aware of it. When some of us listened to songs, others listened to people, and that was kind of the same thing, depending on how enchanting the people around you were.
There is music in the people surrounding us, and I’ve met people that echo beautiful tunes. They are both the lyrics and the chords; some of them are single voices, and others a full orchestra. Some lead with a well formed quartet while others miss a maestro, and let the instruments play on their own, with no order in particular.
Some gravitate towards the slow and emotional, while others drum beat in fast motion. And there are some that change maestros and genres with time and circumstances.
Some are scared to play their music hoping they won’t wake the upstairs neighbors, while others play it non stop and wake up the entire street.
What’s great is when you find a saxophone player when you’ve been missing one in your orchestra, and just by chance they seem to have been looking for a tenor, and discover that you ended up making some of the most beautiful pieces you’ve ever heard. And then when you get so used to the tune, they disappear and take with them all their instruments, and you realize they’ve taken a bit of your voice with them, too.
I’ve listened to music my entire life.
Basically it started when I was two, I would sit for hours in front of the TV watching (and never fully understanding) music videos of Amro Diab (an Egyptian singer, for those who aren’t familiar), and I would sing his tune again and again, until I spoke words I couldn’t spell at the time, but my little two year old self adored doing this, and it made my family happy when they heard me, encouraging me to go on, as they normally would.
What has surprised me the most is that songs tend to change meaning as you get older. There are some that stay stuck in a time when you were a dorky little teenager that had a crush on someone she hardly spoke to, to when you become and angsty little 20 something year old, still facing things that make your palms sweat.
I’ve discovered a completely new playlist, one I haven’t changed in years, suddenly describing the way things are playing in my mind. I’ve always thought that I did fully understand a song I’ve played over a hundred times on my Ipod, but you never fully do until you are immersed in that particular emotion, in that particular mindset. Suddenly the chords, lyrics-less make sense, the beats wordless form a perfect pattern. I become the chord and you pick my every tune.
Suddenly I’m scared to press play, I’m scared to listen to something I’ve been hearing for years.
What an art it is, to be able to sing heartache, and how courageous it is to face it instead of hiding it in the back of your mind. To let it swim around you and cover your body with an unsettling but usual feeling. How brave it is to be vulnerable and let go of what pains your mind; to mourn loss through music, through notes that heal you, and also be able to express and hear happiness, celebration and escape through loud voices! Loss and gain all at once, ecstasy and demise, all together in a playlist on an Ipod I’ve had for what seems like decades.
All the emotions of life pass through our headphones sometimes without us realizing it, but when we do, the hit sure is pure.
I write this on a little screen that fits between my hands and finish all my sentences using my thumbs, as my trusted laptop has unfortunately bailed on me for the last time. I don’t blame the poor thing, it did send me signals that it was nearly at the end of its tiring journey.
Nonetheless, my laydown in bed was recently interrupted by my mother who has decided to use the water hose to clean the balcony (we are on the groundfloor therefore the ‘balcony’ is a big and integral part of our home). So I agree to help her, knowing water will soon cover the bottom half of my clothes, although that didn’t seem like a bad idea in 45degree-Dubai.
Running the water over everything outside gave me a sense of change; how so? You ask. WellLemmeTellYou
As I slightly covered the open end of the hose with my index finger to harden the stream, I watched as the liquid fall on the particles of sand on the floor, now all stuck together like members of the same family, all being detached and cleared out by the stream.
We hosed down chairs that regained their original brighter colors, and big stands with plastic flower pots on them that looked close to grey, and the thing is you don’t even see their fade until you wash it away, you start noticing the difference, I made them regain their life just by washing away what was on the surface.
I wished then for my worries to be washed away in that same matter, for the colors to show and life to be inhailed deeply. I wished for nothing more than to heal from whatever dust that has held tight to my skin, knowing well that the stream will come from within, and boy will I be ready for the shower.