On Feeling Less Like an Island, A Salute.
You do not speak much English, yet we have managed to become friends off of my broken, slow, French and your unending understanding. I didn’t know anyone, and happened upon you one day, perchance, at your work. I had come alone in the pursuit of discovering new things, and you two made me feel right at home, inviting me to a fête the establishment was having the next night. I returned, and you treated me like your friend, and we conversed about our lives, and slowly we became closer.
My friend was visiting from out of town, and we happened to run into you two at a bar on the other side of the city, where you happened to know everyone. You mentioned thanksgiving, and upon our explanation of the occasion-you offered there on the spot to have a thanksgiving with us. You offered to make a turkey, for us, complete strangers, and proposed we work together to make a feast, each person bringing something to enjoy. You wanted to welcome us, and to make us feel comfortable. So it was there, in your generosity, that layers of Paris peeled back, the clouds opened, and strangers became not so strange anymore, but familiar.
You cared, and mentioned that you knew what it was like to be far from home, a little disoriented, and that you wanted to be friends.
We discovered mutual interests, and even a mutual acquaintance in New York. We discovered we like the same movies, same actors, and that we share a mutual passion for supreme coffee and both had a dream of at some point of being an awesome bartender. No, we don’t speak the same language—yes, we grew up worlds apart, and will continue to live across an ocean from one another. However, you will always be the ones in my mind who broke the cold shell of Paris, the acquaintances that became friends, that reminded me that no matter who you are, or where you’re from—we’re all human…Strangers are just friends you haven’t gotten to know yet. Not all strangers, of course, yes there are creeps, and one should always be on the lookout for fear of getting taken
—but largely, as you showed me, people are people…we all feel, breathe, and exist.
Thus, I pause for a moment of reflection and thanks for you two—who invited me to meet your friends, dine with you, let you teach me things, and let me tell you about my life at home…You made my mornings on subway cars full of strangers more cheerful, aware of the fact that even across our differences we are all, just here, and that we don’t want to feel alone. Thank you for that, and here’s to you, Parisian friends. You will be what I miss most about my life in Paris, and one of my regrets for not staying longer.
All the best.