Saturday, January 28, 2006

I hadn't slept for two or three days when I landed in Paris. I had spent the whole night imagining different scenarios: Fanfan and I walking through Paris, happily. Fanfan and I cooking dinner together. Fanfan and I finally kissing each other.

It was the last one that made me nervous. Not for the reasons that other people get nervous before kissing someone. I kept thinking, "Do Taiwanese people kiss like Americans?" I know it sounds stupid, but what if Taiwanese people think French kissing (or just "kissing" when your in France) is gross?

After Angers, I had studied Asian history on account of what a Vietnamese friend of mine had said one day. She had asked me something about the revolutionary war. After I answered her, she asked me just out of curiosity if we studied Asian history in school, since they study American and Western history.

I hesitated with the burgeoning realization of what had just realized.

"If we were ever at war with you," I said, "we study that part of your history." It's true, at least for my generation. In our history classes, we talk about the Vietnam War, the Japanese in WWII, the Korean War, but we don't study Vietnamese, Japanese, or Korean history.

So, when I came home, I took a class that was specially offered just for that semester on pre-modern Asian history, and it was one of the most fascinating classes I've ever taken. I learned about everything from Zheng He, the incredible pre-Columbian Chinese sailor, to the origins of the Kamikaze when the Japanese were fighting the Mongols.

I didn't learn anything, though, about making out with a Taiwanese girl. It's so unfair too, because everyone in the world is constantly inundated with clips of American "culture," so she at least had an idea. Meanwhile, Americans have to search to find foreign films, music, etc.

As I was standing in Charles de Gaulle Airport, I was feeling utterly attached. You see, I often get this feeling like I'm the only person in the world. Like everything is swirling and pulsing, and I can just sit back and watch it, completely independent of its movement. When I was in Croatia, I sat in a bar called the Troubadour, and soaked up the jazz and watched the people surge around me.

My friend Will, he's the one who takes part in it all. He was wooing an Irish girl, though he was quickly getting to drunk to make anything of his courtship. The jazz played. I tried to take pictures of it, but the Scotsman we had met that day who was playing the sax with the band of Croats wouldn't stop moving and he was always blurred. He loved playing though.

I'm not trying to give the impression I'm always in dark corners, watching people. It's just that, I periodically like to separate myself and watch things happen. My mom told me I was very observant when I was quite young, and I think I always took pride in it, so it stuck.

Standing there in the airpost though, I couldn't separate myself. I was standing on the large platform smattered with conveyor belts. Bags were sliding past me at an ungodly slow pace. To my right there was a low partition, about ten feet high. I kept staring at it, because I knew that on the other side was Fanfan. She was right there. After months of waiting, she was right there.

Days of not sleeping and my heart was racing. I watched the crowd around the conveyor belt thin. A toothless man with dark skin rolled my guitar out on a cart, but my bag was the very last to lurch out of the huge steel mouth of the conveyor.

I picked it up and walked towards the exit. My heart was racing. I pulled the ribbon out of my bag that I had stolen from my mom's box of present-wrapping supplies and stuck it on my head.

"Woh ay nee," I said to myself, "Woh ay nee."

I turned the corner, and she was standing there. I can't explain the feeling of seeing her. It was was like something clicked, though, and finally made me see that it was all real.

I was an hour later than I had said I would be, but she smiled and ran towards me. We hugged awkwardly. She felt the ribbon and stepped back and laughed when she noticed it. We hugged again, and I kissed her on the cheek. Then we kissed quickly on the lips, both red-faced and nervous.

"Attend. Attend," she said holding up her finger and turning around. She rustled through her purse. With her back to me, she put something on her head. She turned around with a baguette in her hand, wearing a beret.

"Bienvenue en France!" She said. I smiled, red cheeked like she had downed a glass of wine. I pulled her close again.

We took the bus into Paris. Both trying to act natural, we stuttered as we spoke to each other. We talked about everything we weren't thinking: school, internships, the weather, etc.

Her apartment in Paris was a tiny little yellow room with a bathroom. It had a bed, a kitchenette, and an armoire. I sat all of my bags down. From there, though, I don't remember exactly what we talked about or did. I just remember how nervous we were. Some time later -- it could have been 15 minutes, it could have been an hour -- we were on the bed, lying next to each other looking through a photo album. Talking about beautiful places in France, talking about her host family, etc. when we started kissing.

From that moment on, I was certain that Taiwanese girls kiss like we do.

We were together, and together we were completely apart from the world. When we were in that little yellow room there really wasn't anything but us. No light came into the window because of where it was, so there was no night and no day. There was no time. When we wanted day, we turned on the lights, when we wanted night, we turned them off.

We stayed in the apartment for days at a time, until one moment one of us realized, "How long have we been here?" We were in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but we didn't care. There was nothing they had out there that we needed.

I want to stop here and say that I know a lot of this sounds corny, but it's true. It's hard for me to say a lot of this, because I'm not that good at expressing my feelings (you know, all that Southern macho stuff), but I feel like I should.

"La vie est bizarre," I said to Fanfan in the dark. She told me not to say that. When I asked her why, she said it sounds bad to say that life is "weird."

"La vie est curieuse," I said. She sighed and kissed me on the cheek. It was dark in the room, but I don't know if it was day or night.

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December 27, 2004

Ma petite jolie folie, I got to thinking about it, and I said to myself, "Maybe next week I should just go sing for her in Paris. Why not?"

I'm not joking...

I just bought a plane ticket to Paris. It arrives in Paris a week from today. I'll fly home the week after.

I've never done anything like this before, but I just happened to find a plane ticket far cheaper than I've ever seen between Atlanta and Paris. I bought it without thinking, because I knew if I
didn't someone else would. I wanted to call you and make sure it was alright, but I left your number at school.

I hope it's alright.

I love you.

Your carrot.

(Translated from French)

I didn't sleep the night I wrote that email. I don't sleep most nights, but that night I was happy not to sleep. I laid there thinking about what I had just done. Just a year and a half before, I had never left the country, I had never spoken another language, and I had never had a conversation with someone far away. Now, as I lay there, I was waiting to go back to Paris to be with Fanfan, the Taiwanese girl I had met when I studied French in Angers the Spring before.

At four in the morning I went back downstairs to see if Fanfan had gotten the email. There was nothing, so I emailed all of my friends in Europe who had her phone number and asked them to send her a text message telling her to check her email. Normally, I wouldn't have worried about her checking, but she was staying with her family in Angers for Christmas break, before going back to Paris. So, she wouldn't be checking her email as often.

Shivering in my boxers in front of the computer in the dark of morning, I sent emails to all of my friends in Europe who had Fanfan's cell phone number and asked them to call or text Fanfan to tell her I was coming.

I went back upstairs to try to sleep a little. I laid awake until about six-thirty, then jolted awake at eight. I ran downstairs and passed my mom in the kitchen. I had left the printout of my plane ticket on the counter, with a note saying, "I hope you don't mind. Thanks." I had spent all of the money they gave me for my birthday and Christmas on the ticket (not the kind of thing my father likes), along with quite a bit of my own money.

My mom grimaced. I just smiled and sped past her.

"You're crazy you know," she said behind me, in the sarcastic tone she uses when she wants to show that even though she's not happy about what I did, she's not upset either.

"I know," I said sitting down at the computer.

I had told my parents flat out that I would use any money they gave me to back to see Fanfan. I just think they only half expected that I would. They didn't understand how much this meant to...

There was an email from Fanfan. My mom kept talking, but none of what she said sunk in. Fanfan wrote (in French):

No. This isn't happening!

I screamed when I read your letter. I'm truly going crazy right now!

This is the most incredible present that anyone has ever given me.

She then wrote "Thank GOD!" in English.

I'm starting my internship in Paris the day you arrive, but, either way, I'll be there! Paris, and Luna also!

I love you I love you I love you!!! I'm in heaven right now!

I'm going to hold you tight like the ribbon on your present!


I was the present, and I liked the idea of her wrapping herself around me.

My mom walked up behind me. She saw that I was smiling and wanted to see what I was reading.

"She's happy I'm coming," I said to my mom.

"Well, that's good," she said, "It'd be a shame if you bought the ticket, and she didn't want you to come."

Six days later, I packed all of my stuff in the car and drove it all from Charleston to Clemson, where I would be finishing my last semester of college. I didn't even try to sleep that night. I unpacked all of my stuff and packed my bags for Paris. I played guitar for a while. Then I walked around Clemson, which was deserted because school wouldn't start for another week. When I came home, I searched for how to say "I love you" in Chinese.

I sat by myself in the empty apartment, repeating "Woh ay nee. Woh ay nee," trying to get the tone right.

At seven in the morning, I put my backpack and my guitar in the car and left for Atlanta.

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