Maeve Gately Photograph


Office of Admission
315-859-4457 (fax)

Shifting into Third

April 4, 2011   Last night, the light from the full moon shone, blue and shockingly bright, through the flowery drapes and onto my burgundy sheets. I climbed out of bed, opened my curtains, and stared through the foggy windowpane at the giant, shining orb. I later learned that it was a “super moon,” the closest it has come to the earth in nearly two decades. It came at the end of the very first day of spring, when day and night were finally equal for the first time since September. All astronomy set aside, however; it was still magical. I stood at my window for several long moments, then made a silent wish, and climbed back into bed. 

Three months down and two to go, and time seems to mock me as I struggle to figure out if I am counting down or living it up, but I guess weighing homesickness with reverie is just another wonder of life here. Given as I am to moments of reconstructed recollection, I want to take this milestone as an opportunity to look forward and back, to capture my Parisian life in a series of images, vibrant and fleeting. Forgive me if it is incomplete or even nonsensical; try as I might to sum up the past three months in a sweet and concrete vignette, I am left, at best, with something beautiful and half-finished. 

For me, Paris is the dizzying, spun-around dash to Rebecca’s ballet lessons on Wednesday mornings, how she halts at street corners and speaks to me in Franglish, before skipping across the intersection in her tutu and laughing as I turn the wrong way, yet again. It’s the calculation that if I leave Reid Hall with Emilia after class on Tuesdays, and ride the line 4 to Barbes-Rochechuart, I can change to the 2 and have exactly enough time to play “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” on my iPod before I reach Ménilmontant, how Sara and I walk down Notre-Dame-des-Champs, dancing silently to “You make my Dreams,” how almost every other song reminds me of Michael. No matter how much I try to wear black and smile inwardly, I will always inevitably match a blue skirt with green sneakers, and mouth the lyrics to Kesha’s “Your Love is my Drug” on the metro ride to school, attracting stares from my fellow passengers. 

Paris is the tangy, hot bowls of Pho that Anna and I inhale after Art History, chopsticks in one hand and spoon in the other, the watery crunch of bean sprouts and slippery strands of rice noodles the perfect anecdote to overdoses of French cheese and heavy sauces. It’s the way Camembert gives when you press down on it, the clamor of the Hallal butchers on my street as they load their windows during my morning walk to class, the smoke from the roasted chestnuts sold by the street vender next to my metro entrance. The almost painful smell of French bakeries, and how I make myself go into them anyway, picking out pain au chocolat and brioche with Rebecca and Eva when I get them from school on Thursday afternoons. 

The black, pocket-sized moleskin journal Michael gave me before I left, which I fill with logistical details, metro routes, the best place to find Confit de Canard, and every random observation from how women in fur coats still ride the metro, to the fact that taking the 68 bus (which runs from Montmartre to Montparnasse, and passes right through the Louvre museum itself!) is the best way to cure homesickness. Paris is the moon over the Seine as Bateau-Mouches flood the river-banks with light, the way the half-cooked egg yolk breaks in the center of my crêpe as I cut it with a knife, how I never get tired of looking at the Eiffel Tower, from every angle, at every time of the day or night. How I wait for the beam that circles the sky, how I pretend it’s looking for me. 

My Paris is the day I managed to navigate the metro without getting lost; the first time I tasted a salted caramel macaron; the first lecture I truly understood in my university literature classes; the day I first laughed like a dying seal on the metro, holding my sides and half-suffocating with suppressed spasms of laughter. It’s the realization that I could leave behind everything I knew and everyone I loved and somehow find myself, in narrow grimy metro corridors and along wide open boulevards, more independent and just a little bit quieter, but still resolutely, eccentrically myself. 

The next few weeks will find me out of my new home for the first time this semester. After finishing my first literature commentaire (an experience which is bound to leave me over-caffeinated and under-slept!), getting my hair cut (sure to be an adventure!), and packing my bags, I will board a plane for Berlin Friday morning, and embark on our two-and-a-half-week spring break, with Kylie, Han, and Emilia. When I get back, it will be nearly May, and exams and visits from my parents will speed along my last few weeks more than I would like. Until then, however, I know the next few weeks will be an adventure, and, when I get back, that my new city will be waiting for me.