The plane lands. I gather the debris of a lengthy trip—books, magazines, scraps of paper, sweater, scarf—and haltingly make my way down the narrow aircraft hallway. “Au revoir!” and “à bientôt!” are cheerfully sprinkled on each descending passenger.
In a fog, I walk up to the bespectacled man at customs. He looks no-nonsense, but turns out to be chatty. I fumble with answers—after ten days of awkwardly searching for the right words in Italian and French, I have trouble answering in plain English. Outside, the sky is a furious, incandescent fuchsia and the wind, after eight hours of breathing a thick, hot vapor, is a sea urchin, all aggressive needles. I feel far away. From what, I don’t know, seeing as here is home, here is familiar. Nonetheless, otherness. Days and days later, disorientation still lurks. It’s much darker in the morning than before I left. I can’t sleep, and night drags lazily on its belly towards the dawn.
Paris, so often caught on film and between the black-and-white of text and page, is difficult for me to see clearly, without the word wreaths and golden halo. I walked the Jardin du Luxembourg, Trocadéro, Ile Saint-Louis, Notre Dame; all the big names and little dead-end streets, as if sleepwalking. The brisk fall air and blue tinged light dizzying, drugging, releasing dusty moths in between my lungs and sternum. Super-saturated Technicolor, the song had it right, this is life through rose-colored glasses.