Tag Archives: France

About a Dream.

As the sun sets, or rather moves, from above my six-month stint in the heart of Brittany, France, my mind bounces back to my first weeks here. Everything touched with that light sting of newness and unfamiliarity has now become cradled into the buzz of homey comfort, like a hug hovering just around my limbs. When I first arrived, Fall had just begun its early September entrance, and my world was enchanted with words that had once infrequently grazed my teenage tongue. 

Now these same combinations of letters fall easily, if not wholly correct, and they have woven themselves into the creases of my mind. 

My first weekend in Rennes, after I had completed my premiere week with my English-hating charge, I landed at O’Connells Pub, hoping for a breezy reprieve from my French headache. There, I met Meg, who would quickly become my closest friend. 

She, along with her girlfriend Margot, has been such a comfort to me. Blooming our friendship over soire dinners and weekend trips to her parent’s countryside home; passing the time between laughs with our favorite Swift songs, and swimming in the myriad mishaps of English to French translations. 

At the same time, I found a true friend in Noor, another foreigner in France, with whom I bonded over the necessary iced cups of coffee she showed me where to find. Between Rennes’ Mokka coffee shop and her beautiful home in Vitre, we became fast friends. Sharing everything from French first impressions, bad experiences with the opposite sex, card games, and the waves in our mental health as we encroached on comfort in a country that hasn’t always been ours. 

Seemingly unavoidably, I’ve been on my fair share of bad first dates and a few good ones that only soured by the fourth or fifth throughout my time here. Though I am not leaving with a French beau, I am grateful to all of them for showing me their side of Rennes and allowing me to become increasingly comfortable expressing myself in a foreign language. I owe my slang to them, one in particular, who I will always think of in back-lit walks down the streets of Rennes where I stopped and asked him constantly- comment tu dis…[whatever was on my mind]?

By the last few first dates, I have been able to speak only in French, which though imperfect, has become a source of pride for me.

Besides missing the friends I have grown undeniably attached to and feeling like Victoire, my little girl, is an innate part of me, I will wholeheartedly miss the language I fear losing. 

I speak French every day, and thinking of my return, my mind edges blown by the notion of using English in the simple exchanges I use to go about my day. Ordering coffee, complimenting someone’s outfit, asking for extra water at a restaurant, passing people on the street- all these things can and must, be done in English now. Can you believe it?

These small French words in my world have crept into my subconscious and attached themselves to intimate parts of my brain. I don’t know where they will go once I return to my all-English life, but I beg them to stay. 

I don’t want to lose them, because I know in my heart, I’ll be back.

Americans in Brittany

What are you meant to expect at the crux of two selves? The hardworking daughter my parents know in America plunged into a French world that has been the 6-month payoff of all those years they witnessed. 

I expected a hang-up, a glitch, or a code-switching snag, but as they stepped forth into the world I’ve made mine, I felt so authentically me. My parents’ American accents served as a foil for how far I’ve come in my understanding of the language and culture. 

Joining me in the wet early Spring of Brittany meant we had the virtue of fewer crowds and a more naturally indicative experience of France as it exists for the French. Not the least of which was provided by the manifestations, or la gréve protests, livening the city streets. 

Avoiding the city center, for the most part, drove us to an exploration of the surrounding countryside. 

Starting with a trip to the small town of Loheac, we found an expansive collection of vintage vehicles at the “Manoir de l’Automobile.” These cars, covering more than Peugeot, BMW, Ferrari, and even Ford, told a vibrant story of racing and automotive advancement. 

Over 400 vehicles occupied the vast space with enough frames to captivate even car unenthusiests. 

A small cider bar and empty restaurant hall upstairs suggested a flooded attraction for summertime automotives; though adorned and posed mannequins animated the paraphernalia-related exhibits in the off-season. 

We spent nearly three hours wandering down and through the expansive warehouse floors and could have spent another three comfortably examining the details.

At another small-town destination, Fougeres, we discovered chateaux with its surrounding gardens. The nearly-abandoned stone walls articulated an over 1000-year-old story of battle, Brittany, and building development. 

You could feel the antiquity in the air as you stood on pilled rock and surveyed the surrounding town within the ancient village walls. 

Green grows from these same stacked stones and blooms in violet color. The sky was gray and heavy, the wind softly blowing, and people slowly swaying as they stepped over paths walked a million times before. 

We stayed for crepes and a garden walk after our self-led tour reached its end, and the quaint family-run restaurant filled us with the same quiet calm that extended from the time-worn castle facade. 

On their last full day, we began seeking something new from the Roche aux Fees in the farm village of Esse. These ancient stones were a humble site, honored as a remnant of a tribal tomb constructed centuries in the past. 

Standing in their simple hollowed coverage, you cannot help but be in awe of their structural integrity. In their presence, standing, rock on stacked rock, remaining through the test of time. 

The next chateaux we ventured was in Vitre, similarly unpopulated in the offseason and holding the same quiet gray felt so softly in Feugeres. The chateaux location, adjacent to the towns historical main road, led us to the town’s Christian cemetery and through a few token gift shops where we gained region rings and a small stuffed dog, snowy from the classic French comic TinTin. 

Rounding out the night with kebab and half a dozen rounds of pool, we felt full sitting in the sunken living room couch of Chat Noir’s converted bar. 

Experiencing my France through their eyes, I felt an overwhelming calm. I felt whole, like the person they raised is the person I am, with no contradictions worth crumbling over. Open and, as always, seeking more. 

What Do You Stand For? 

The Brittany rain fell hard, soaking darker spots in my sweater and twisting my hair into tendrils that wound around each other in heavy locks. 

The air still sat comfortably against my skin at 54º, and the wet was not a big enough deterrent for the human sea that swallowed Rennes’ Charles De Gaulle metro meeting point. The whole city, men, women, and everyone in between had shown up for the feminist march on International Women’s Day. 

I found my pink-haired friend, Margot, in the colored crowd, and we filtered through the swarm together. A few minutes passed as we took in the sights and listened to Amy Winehouse sing through four-foot speakers. 

The street was flooded with all different types of people, and it felt so good to stand alongside all these voices claiming progress. 

I felt at ease among like-minded people and led Margot to meet up with a boy I had spent the past weekend getting to know. 

His purple jacket matched the crowd with the same color purple worn by all those supporting the movement, and if only I knew what irony would soon fall from his mouth. 

Fem.

Look at me.

No, not like that.

Not like I am an exception to the rest of the female race

you fail to understand.

I am a representative. 

Don’t give me your affection 

because you think me cooler

realer

more masculine while remaining femininely pretty

more interesting

than any girl standing next to me. 

I am not any more than her.

I am not different,

I am not special,

not in any new way,

not in a way anyone else isn’t.

Look at me.

No, not at my legs,

not at my breasts,

not at the curve of my spine. 

Look at me.

Like I am a brain, and my body is an afterthought,

not the other way around.

Look at me- me

like the only differences between us 

are the things I have to say.

Not the shape of my mouth as I say them,

or what you want to do with it.

Look at me- in the eye,

and not just at the color. 

Look at the piece of soul that glints through these portals

and let my body dissolve from my name. 

A kiss on either cheek and an exchange of “ça va?” smoothed a smile across my face before his declaration that he is “not a feminist” planted a pit in my stomach. I saw the question in Margot’s eyes and felt the same one spread across my face. 

What we saw as a joyful celebration and passionate protest for equality was a mob of angry women in his eyes. As he described what he thought of as the stupidity of people’s protest, a practice he believes will elicit no real change or attention, I could no longer swallow my beliefs. 

His ignorant statements quickly turned into questions of “don’t you want your man to protect you? To make more money than you? To provide for you? To be stronger than you? Taller than you?” that fell flat on our queer ears. 

As he continued burrowing into his hole of conservative ideology, we spoke plainly, expressing our experiences and countering all the misguided expectations he held for our gender. 

I felt as if I had been transported thirty years into the past, speaking to a man who thinks he should be praised for accepting the existence of gay and trans people so long as they don’t act out their personhood in front of him. Like he should be celebrated for knowing that no means no. 

My heart sank deep into my chest, beating away any affection I held for him a mere hour before. 

Here was a man, one I had kissed and held hands with in public, telling me that men and women will never be equal, that protests are stupid and will never work, that no one cares about women’s rights, and that the world will never change. Telling me all this as if all the world’s progress in human rights has happened miraculously, without people shouting and demanding change. Telling me this as we stand amid a feminist march in a country known for its love of protest. 

Though disappointed, I felt lucky to live in a time when his statements shocked me. A time where these notions have been primarily preserved in geriatric minds and where I have reached the age of 22 without ever hearing these statements fall from such youthful lips. 

And what better way to reaffirm your beliefs than by arguing with a straight man at a feminist march? 

The third time I told him to go, he finally did, but not without asking me if I truly believed everything feminists stand for. 

Yes. How could I not? It is the 21st century, isn’t it?

Margot and I left him behind, laughing and tracing through the crowd until we reached their friends near the front of the parade. 

After feeling decades behind, the chanting protesters brought me back to the present with their demanding signs and painted faces. 

We marched on, reading the cleaver phrases in a mix of French and English, and even when they were not cleaver, they were true. 

“Je te crois”- I believe you.

“My favorite season is the fall of the patriarchy.”

“Valeurs actielles a la poubelle!” – current values to the trash!

“Mon corps c’est pas Tripadvisor. Tes commentaires tu peux te es garder”- my body is not Tripadvisor. You can keep your comments to yourself.

And the classic “patriarcaca”- I don’t think this one needs a translation.

Margot pointed out a sign next to us, which has since stuck with me. “I should not be called brave for walking home alone.”

Living in Chicago and now in an unknown European city, I am so accustomed to clutching my pepper spray close, gripping my keys between my fingers, and outwardly ignoring the men who follow me down the street yelling, “you are beautiful, drink with me?!?”

Men love to tell women that we should “take it as a compliment” that we are pretty enough to attract attention, that this is just how life works, and wouldn’t we rather be beautiful and stalked than ugly and ignored? But these men will never feel the same fear grip your insides when a tall shadow rounds each corner with you. They will never experience the panic that clutches your heart when the man at the bus stop boards the bus with you and rides until your stop. They will never have to tell someone no over and over again until they acquiesce because you finally lied and said another man has already claimed you. 

But it’s a compliment to feel that your body and life could be so quickly taken into the hands of a stranger if you don’t balance your responses between disinterest and politeness. Terrified that if you make eye contact, they will take it as an invitation, and if you don’t, they will grow angry. 

But it’s a compliment. Don’t you want to be beautiful? That is the best thing about women, isn’t it? Our beauty? 

Though I could only understand ambient bits and pieces of the speeches and chants that embodied the street, I understood enough. That in all countries, women’s rights need to be continuously demanded and fought for with both words and actions. There will always be people arguing in a crowd of protesters that this rally will change nothing, just as there will always be people ready to rise and stand together to make a change.

Back in Brittany: a musing of my mind

It is humbling to stand among a sea of passports. 

I see Malaysia, China, Italy, the United Kingdom. Across the way, a few French Bordeaux-red books line up for preboarding while the Spanish woman next to me asks which group has been called. 

My American blue book feels so small between my fingers, the whole country reduced to a collection of pages. It amuses me that the picture taken when I was 18 will serve me until I am 28.

I wonder what I will look like then. I presume the same golden hair will fall over my shoulders, and perhaps the cream I smooth under my eyes each night will preserve them. Only time will tell.

Introspection is unavoidable at the airport. So many people coming and going. You feel so small, so individual. Just an American-born body taking up seat 20E on this flight to France. 

I am pensive, boarding this flight, and more than I usually am. This flight will take me to France with a definitive end date. I will live the life I have nested into for six more weeks, and after, I will fly right back to Chicago for an indefinite timeline—an inverse of the exchange I am used to. 

It is hard to admit to myself that my time in France will be intermittently over. 

I have found real happiness here, among the language I’ve learned to love, and in the friendships I will forever cherish. I find comfort in the euhs and heins of people passing, to Rose at noon, and the smell of cigarettes wafting dans la rue. 

I dream in French. My eyes shifting under my eyelids through REM francais. My body lays here, heavy, like it knows it has found a natural resting place. Somewhere safe, away from everything that spells out comfort. 

One thing I know for certain; there is more to my French histoire. I know I will return, ready and willing to find permanence. 

Americans are loud, inconsiderate, and annoying. Yet I find myself keeping my differences with pride. 

I like standing out with my bright clothes in a crowd of cultivated black coats, hearing my voice speak their words just a step off-key, but everyone understanding me anyways. I love making small talk with those who sit and wait at the bus stop, giving them the correct directions because I know this city. I love saying no to cigarette offers and drinking my cold pint inside rather than outside with red fingers. 

I am the first to hate on everything American, but here, I feel pride in claiming this identity for the first time. Not for the virtues of the country I left behind but for the fact that it has made me who I am. I am here, a world away, and my Americaness has primed my eyes to see the little differences that mark France culture. 

It is a beautiful way to live, finding little treasures in the way other people live and embracing the parts that feel they have always been meant for you. 

Enchanted World. for my best friend, Amani.

There is no magic light that can cast away the world’s real darkness

but here, in the hallow of our enchanted world, 

we shine our light like a spotlight on the best angle of our faces.

Golden hour glow, and the sun that lives inside

the girls everyone is watching. 

There is no dissolution of sadness, 

but what comes as enchantment is the gravity of everything.

The black cat that crossed your path is just as earnest

as the woman who spoke to only you over the counter.

It is everything happening for a reason

because you know your life is just one long story. 

It is not a power, but the knowledge that everyone wants you

because they do, don’t they? If it came down to it. 

You live here with me, 

though no one else sees through our shared sepia filter.

You stay, 

saying all the things we know are more real

than the skin pulled tight over our bones. 

We stay here, two wives,

more in love than anyone who acts out the feeling with their bodies.

We are in love in the way we see the same world

through our same-colored eyes.

In the way we watch everyone watch us and whisper,

they just haven’t chosen enchantment. 

Graffiti and Concrete

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The Summer of 2021 found me tanned and studious, legs propping up my laptop by the pool, screen open to a remote class on the history and artistry of graffiti while I let the Grecian sun polarize through my sunglasses. It should have been irritating, being made to study during an astonishing vacation, the first I’d dared to embark on since the pressure cooker of COVID began. 

It should have been, but it wasn’t. Instead, I found the course vastly interesting, one of those lessons that adds an asterisk to your eye, noting a new layer of appreciation over the kind of art your vision previously skipped over.

The bold beauty of graffiti feminist pioneer Lady Pink paired with the Agean island like the fine cheese and wine I dined on. Ever since I’ve held them together. 

Now, 2023 Winter has me in Rennes, France, a student-filled city that does not dare skimp on the intersection of forsaken architecture and graffiti artwork. The air in Rennes hangs in abundance as time lags between human presence on each alley street. There is just a feeling of vacancy, like you are the only one watching, a sense that you are the sole observer of this cold beauty. 

This is what I feel here, and I hope I do the feeling justice.

Rusted Wall Box.

The rusted wall box has no other name but this,

no friends but the crust of itself

and a gray paint that chips into deeper colors.

What do we guard but the empty room of ourselves?

Grown over by vines and teenagers,

a can-string phone line echos in two vacant halls. 

Clank me into the vibrations you understand

and maybe you won’t lose me

in the gray-chipped paint that becomes

my gravestone. 

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Graffiti Row.

No matter who levies the last lash of color, 

the acrylic blood will pool.

Dripping just off the edges 

of the most prolific overwrought signatures,

but who can make a mark without bleeding?

We are remembered for our bloodstains,

not our discarded scabs, not for the wounds we heal over.

Though we never know the difference. 

I could imagine myself overwhelmed by the organic splat of rouge

while the rest of the world’s eyes only sees a spring-wound dancer.

That tiny ballerina cradled in the two jointed pieces

of a painted jewelry box, holding the red crystal of solved wounds.

Still, these jewels must stalk somewhere,

so they do.

Framing plywood backboards with colors 

that bleed into themselves and stay.

A pierced heart sacrificed for nothing.

Grow Up.

I can play all day I am great

& I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fine. 

I am fine. Of course, I am fine.

It’s just this juxtaposition as sinew between my bones

this wanting of nothing more

then for him to hold me in the dark,

to paint over my beige body in his dark colors,

only in the dark where we can hide our faces and feelings

and all the while, I can hold the trauma he gifted me

and I can still hate him.

It’s a decision, every day,

to stand up out of the darkness, 

to stop relying on quick fixes,

to grow green over spray-paint stains

to choose yourself over and over, 

even if you are the only one.

Words are beautiful, just like his paint was,

I need to borrow their beauty

& maybe together, we can build a more permanent love. 

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Little Prince.

The little prince nuzzles my hair,

white-gold locks that mock the white of his world.

Some aristocrat made him, 

but we can’t make our makers, 

we can only remake their art.

Repackage their good message, only this time

it is meant for everyone. 

Little prince dreams in galaxies,

ones that parade around in billowed colors, soft and primary. 

Little prince doesn’t want to challenge you. 

Little prince will take your friends and paint them pastel,

any color pleasing to the eye half asleep.

He learned this from his little fox,

that all of us are made from the same array of colors. 

Some aristocrat made him,

but he can take his colors and build this world into the softest galaxy.

Little prince curls into my arms

and I can’t mock the way it feels so sweet

to hold someone’s planet and close your eyes,

to fade into someone else’s idea of perfect innocence. 

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Mind-Altering

Taking and bending

No rules line this space between

The weight of everyone

Who have found nothing between their fingers

And cruelty rings my ears

Time dulled by the puff and exhale 

The big smoke from nothing but the hot air inside, escaping

And I just want to add to my savings.

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Cold-Pressed Lullaby.

Startled into 1984 brotherhood,

these hard lines beg 

for concrete companions on the pavilion.

Rigid and cold without any contrast

like your spine bends backward

out of open eyelet window.

This attic habitat

and the frigid air that flows,

clinging to the hot puffs of breath

that sail over the street. 

Inhale this cold and let go

of what you think is warm.

You don’t need it in backbends

in the broke backs you shape into proverbial mountains.

You aren’t gay, just like 

you aren’t completely sold on men, either.

Convince yourself you are flawed in the face

so you can secretly believe you are the face

every fem girl wishes to see in the mirror without guilt.

You aren’t a narcissist because you love yourself,

but maybe you’re that self-pining flower for another reason.

You are filled with contrasting truths

only you can weave together. 

Count yourself lucky because you are. 

Call your sister. Tell her you love her because it’s true

and imagine she says she doesn’t judge

the mistakes she would never make.

No matter what she really says, you’ll never truly trip,

just break your back into a new window,

tricking a different pipe dream into truth.

Fade to Fuzz.

The men themselves cross their puffed arms at each curved corner.

The French are circles. 

It is said in every slopped rock. 

They love borders of portal blocks, 

straight edges manipulated into hooks. 

The green tea bird beaks its water into my cup,

spilling over its own lip to warm into shallow pool.

Do all these things count as something? 

Trapped in this charm-edged world,

the Ty Anna ticket will take my coins with the same clink

owned by any jar.

You learn quickly that any destination hangs foreign deceits

before you learn to weave your straight lines into its circles. 

To sip and swallow the steaming tea, 

their paint-charmed kettle chirps.

Sidestep puff-plump guards on the curve,

and side-eye, the same way Chicago taught you. 

A Day in the Life

The morning birds sing sweetly into four ears, their owners my charge and me, listening together with two words to describe the artists. I say bird, and Victoire says oisseau, but we both agree that we love their sound. “J’adore le chanson de la matin.”

Her tiny legs wrap around my waist as she takes her perch, and I take us through the slow-swung gate to school. Here, she greets her friends, Brune, Leon-Paul, et Margot, as they hold their parent’s hands and greet me with “salut la nunu de Victoire.” 

“Bonjour,” I say, “vous etes pret pour l’ecole?” 

“Oui oui,” they say reluctantly, slipping out of their jackets and reaching high enough to stuff their scarves into their cubbies. 

I give Victoire a hug and an “au revoir, I’ll see you later,” before I leave her, waving once more through the window, then I am all mine again. At least for the next six hours. 

At this nearly nine am moment, I always debate my immediate future. The promise I made myself at seven to return to sleep seems less important now that the sun has risen. Perhaps yoga, a happy medium between the meditation of sleep and the rising crack of tired bones saluting the sun, will take its place. 

It is this peace that I missed during my time in America. This soft entrance of sun passes through my window and yellows the wooden floor under my pink-striped mat. 

Downward facing dog folds me into two sides of a triangle, then a chaturanga into an upward-facing dog pulls my heart through my planted hands. 

A few warrior flows later, I bend over my folded knees and press flat hands into each other for a namaste. 

Now it is time to check the bus intervals, which one arrives in which ten minutes, and I pack my ambitions into the yellow side bag my mom gifted me for Christmas. I choose my French workbook, throw in my Virginia Woolf, laptop, and notebook.

Trust Issues

Arriving in five minutes

and the station is a three-minute walk

but does that mean from my room and down the stairs

or from these floating coordinates to the next

and by that time, will the bus be passing or stopping

in this delicate interval.

Like the negotiations of a love affair

I don’t want to be too early, too desperate, 

left in the cold, waiting.

And what if it doesn’t come?

Or it stops too long at a different stop, 

and I look a fool for counting 

on the virtual promise it tells my phone.

I can’t trust anything behind a screen.

What lies my apps believe.

What time stamps pass with minutes ago that never came. 

So when I dress and bundle and pose, 

and the wide window winds the corner

I sign in my cold relief

and raise my hand to say- take me!
Yet my chest still tightens 

until the doors stop rolling and open

just for me.

I flow through a dozen or so pages of Mrs. Dalloway as the bus rolls through the twenty-minute ride, and as always, I jolt up at the last moment when I realize the mass of people descending past me. 

Republique, the center stop of Rennes, swells with the crowd and observes bursting flocks of birds that fan out like open arms and circle above.

While this crowd walks in universal black jackets, I miss the bright orange puffer I left in San Diego. Today I don my yellow race jacket, the left breast labeling me correctly with “Maxwell” under a yellow car patched over a neon orange stripe as a callback. 

It may be conceited, but I cannot help but derive pleasure from the clinging looks of passers-by. I suppose that is my downfall, wanting to be seen in a crowd, yet I also believe it is my power. Without this desire, my life across seas would be exponentially more frustrating. 

There are plenty of people looking when I settle in and open my French workbook.

They say that when you begin to speak another language, you start to develop an alternate personality. Not entirely, of course, but you are not quite at ease as you are in your mother tongue. Thus, you pay more attention to what you say and what others say; you don’t act and react with nothing but that single and between them. You pause, think, digest. You speak, however incorrectly, with more intention.

A friend of mine tells me she likes her English personality more; she feels sweeter, more endearing with her words. For me, speaking French means experiencing social anxiety for quite nearly the first time. 

This foreign feeling hovers around my lips as I speak a word, and worry I will not be understood or seen as rude for the words I blurt out unexpectedly. It is a strange one, this feeling, and one that I am grateful for experiencing. 

Before entering France and trying to live among the French comme ca, of course, I was sympathetic to the plight of immigrants and foreigners, but it was the type of sympathy that hollows without understanding. Not forming into arrogance or disdain, but in a dismal overlooking of the intricacies and everyday difficulties that face those living in a country that speaks their second language (or third, or fourth).

Since arriving here, I feel the gravity of every interaction. I notice conversations in a way I never have before. I appreciate everyone who speaks with me with love akin to that I feel for my friends, even if it is simply the girl at the bus stop asking me if her bus has passed or the person sitting next to me with a tattoo I can compliment. 

I feel like a child, and everything is brilliant and bright; it can be glaring sometimes, but it fills me with an unquantifiable wonder. The whole world extends beyond my fingertip in colors I have forgotten vibrancy in.

It is a new world, unlocked inside me just as much as it is out. 

I only wish my love for the language meant I could learn it faster, but alas, the world is still the world, and my intelligence measures the same in France as in America.

The World our Mind Conceives.

Are we infinite in quantity, and

is it in quality that we deplete?

Are we thus lessened by our lessons

the lectures we copy through eyelids, and 

do the synapses snap ancient electricity

trading the colors of that one unimportant Fall,

for the words that make this one

in parallel life. 

Tell me if it is true, 

that memories pixel from HD to SD

each time we take a new face

and hold its picture inside.

And if this is true, are we different models?

Do some of us come with more storage?

And as babies, we lie there,

crying because all we have is empty space

and we are hungry to have enough to choose what we keep.

But then, do we have a choice 

what has and holds us?

What haunts us in new dreams we remember

in faces that burn into our brains?

Does it take us til 80 to run out of space? And for some

is it earlier? And only then there is too much

and we record over parts of ourselves,

sacrificing our grandchildren’s names 

for our father’s smile, but starting 

with an x over yesterday

and a perfect transcript of prom. 

Or, somehow, is the mind simply a home 

filled with furniture we’ve built or inherited,

creaking frames that sound but remain soft,

warm and known as we sink deeper.

A cafe, latte, and croissant later, I have scrawled my mind through more than my diary and close my eyes to the headache my French practice invites. 

Before long, it is time to return to school and my Victoire. The 3h35 gate opens with a hum, spilling forth with children hungry and excited to return home. 

Victoire asks me again to carry her home, and I say yes because she is a free weight at the gym I conceive through my day. 

We walk through her day, coloring between stenciled animals, carrots at the cantine, and cache-cache with Leon-Paul while I pair her sentences with their English counterparts.

She asks what I have done, and I continue this balancing game, finding the quality of English she will learn without crying and nodding through the exchanges we have that live on one side. 

Thoughts Over the Atlantic

Here I am, post-Christmas, post-New Years, post-America. All over again.

The complimentary Cabernet Sauvignon bitterly minces with the dry American Airlines pretzels that are currently clinging to my gums. Dégoûtant- Je sais. 

I am always so ambitious on airplanes. I am going to write a blog post, finish my french workbook, crochet a sweater or arm warmers, read a few chapters of L’Age de Raison (a translated version of Bridget Jones Diary)- but god are these pretzels stale, and all I am doing is rambling over a page. 

So, if I am not to unfurl from seat 14B some gorgeous musing on my time in America and my gracious return to France, I’ll simply line my thoughts for you. I’ll cue my (surely devout) audience into 2023’s perspective. 

So here I go.

I am ready to re-embrace the city that I grew so used to calling home. It is strange how much it feels like I am flying home right now, hands itching to retrace the corners and crannies of the attic sanctuary I have learned like another limb. 

I miss leaning backward out of my slanted and screenless window, the sharp breeze that used to crisp my cheeks pink. Angled lines and the swelling sound of ambient words too far away to understand. 

Cesson-Sevigne has oxidized into my heart, and Rennes has seeped into my skin. Tight runs over bare knees peaking from side-swept skirts. A pause before placing my order. Spilled coffee on tote bags. Home. 

It is home. I have lived here for three months and I will for another three. Though undeniably exciting, my life no longer feels like a free-for-all adventure, which means nothing more than I am comfortable. This time, this comfort does not coincide with an excess of funds. 

Thus, my next adventure lies in the discovery of a job. It’s time for me to put all this practice to good use and actually get paid for my writing. 

Whether I start working freelance, tie myself to a marketing firm as I have in the past, or find some new box to fit in will all be made clear in the next few months. Unfortunately, this needs to be my priority. 

That is not to say that I will not continue my posts and collections, for writing is the same as breathing. However, I can no longer tackle NomadicThread as the main project in my schedule.

It is with great sadness that I admit this change, but still, I look forward to the posts I will inevitably discover in my last few months in France. 

Much love to those who are reading this, and don’t worry, you’ll still read me around:)

A tout a l’heure: Nuit à Paris

C’est le dernier jour de mon grand voyage depuis que j’ai tout laissé derrière moi. Je suis tellement heureux que cela ait été possible et je suis toujours excité pour mon retour à Rennes dans la nouvelle année.

Ces derniers mois, j’étais en Allemagne, en Autriche et évidemment en France. J’ai appris le français au lycée, mais vraiment je n’aurais jamais pensé que je serais ici. C’est un rêve incroyable à réaliser. Malgré les montagnes difficiles des barrières linguistiques et la communication avec la famille et les amis, je suis ici et je poursuivrai mes études de français au-delà de l’école. J’aimerais être parfaite dans la langue mais je sais que j’ai un long chemin à parcourir.

Aujourd’hui, j’ai dit <<au revoir>> à ma famille française, et elle va me manquer. Ça va parce que je vais voir ma vraie famille et ensuite je vais rentrer en France. Il me reste trois mois dans la nouvelle année.

Je ne sais pas ce que je vais faire à la fin de l’année prochaine mais je sais avec confiance que je serai bon.

L’Allemagne me manque, c’est vrai, mais je pense que je préfère la France maintenant. C’est peut-être parce que la langue est plus facile pour moi. Quoi qu’il en soit, je suis en France et j’ai tous mes rêves.

A Paris, c’est trop cher comme toutes les autres grandes villes. J’ai trouvé un bar qui s’appelle <<La Robe et La Mousse>> et je viens de m’asseoir. Les murs sont turquoises sur des morceaux de vieilles pierres. Les lampes sont circulaires et montrent leur éclat dans de petits mondes de lumière.

Je suis content de la vie que j’ai dessinée ici. Tout dépend de moi, et calme quand je le veux. Mais d’un autre côté, c’est excitant quand je le veux.

C’est parfait pour moi, mais quand même, je n’ai jamais de contentement longtemps. Je ne l’ai jamais fait.

Je suis allé à Paris plus de cinq fois cette année mais je n’ai jamais eu le temps de voir la ville sereinement depuis 2019 où j’y suis allé avec mes parents. C’est très différent maintenant et plus libre, mais je suis hanté par les ombres des souvenirs de notre temps ici. Je vois encore et encore le même restaurant.

 A ce bar maintenant, je peux voir que le serveur n’est pas francais. C’est très bizarre quand je sais les différences de parler tandis que je ne suis pas française non plus et que ma française n’est pas bien. Mais je remarque et je pense que c’est un bon signe pour mes études. 

Ce restaurant est bon, il n’y a pas beaucoup de gens et le serveur est gentil. La seule chose que je n’aime pas est mon chapeau rose. Je ne suis pas confortable comme ça mais il n’y en a pas beaucoup pour moi a fait. 

Bientôt, je vais aller à San Diego et le froid sera derrière moi. 

j’ai peur de perdre mes progrès en français mais j’ai décidé de continuer à lire, écrire, et étudier pendant que je suis là. Une des choses qui m’excitent pour les Etats Unis est le changement de mes vêtements. Le style est important pour moi, la mode est tout. 

Pendant que je suis en Europe, j’ai choisi mes tenues dans mes deux valises. C’était terrible, mais ce n’est pas la fin du monde. Quoi qu’il en soit, j’ai hâte de choisir parmi un placard agrandi. Ce sera une sensation incroyable après tout ce temps.

De même, j’ai hâte de manger de la nourriture mexicaine. Cette cuisine se sent toujours comme à la maison. C’est vrai que j’adore la cuisine française, mais vraiment mexicaine c’est mieux.

Ma famille et mes amis m’attendent à l’autre bout du monde, mais je serai là tout de suite.

Après tous mes voyages, je ne suis pas prêt de dire <<au revoir>> aux autres pays. Je vais dire <<à plus tard>> mais je reviendrai. C’est une promesse.

A plus tard France, tu vas me manquer ainsi que toutes les personnes que j’ai rencontrées. (Et désolé pour les mots que j’ai mal compris, je vais réessayer.)

Tout mon amour,

Caroline

Marche De Noel

The crowds swallow the street in tufted beanies and wound scarves, hands plunging deep in puffer pockets while chins tuck into the wrap of their necks. It is cold, but there are presents to purchase.

Wooden stands make two wide isles in front of the white-painted Ferris Wheel and mingle pottery and jewelry with sugar-stuffed churros and vin chaud. I look over the artisan spreads next to everyone else with an open mind and a closed wallet. I have neither the space nor spare change to pick up stray beauty, but it’s fun to hold rings and ceramics to the sky and play into pretend consideration, isn’t it?

(I won’t lie to you; I did give into a bright pink beanie. Though, in my defense, it was cold, cheap, and cute; a kryptonic trio.)

My crew shuffles through the wide eyes flitting between passing fancies on our way to the imposing wheel. Five euros each buys us a place in a small box car rotating three times slowly before the inevitable dismount. 

From this angle, the city expands, but away from Rennes’ central buildings, there is not much to see beyond the bustling market immediately below us. The nearest intersection sighs with the crude exchange of cars and exhaust, hot tufts in the air. Clashing against the cold, a shade or two denser than the warm breath that escapes us. 

Feet on the ground once more, we take ourselves to L’Arts de Fou Marche in front of the Rennes’ Opera Theater. Here, artisans of tactile art line a long loop of sculptures, jewelry, bowls and cups, and installation pieces. All these leading softly into a tented pavilion for the quiet consumption of wine and beer. The art relies heavily on animal shapes and nature’s form broken from the canvas of raw rock. 

Impressive in every sense of the word, but expensive and regrettably reserved for the high class. The only place I can picture these pieces is in the grand and cold entryway of a mansion inhabited by whisps of white. To be looked upon and appreciated by everyone but its owners. 

Just another three minutes away takes us to the most Christmas-heavy marche in front of Rennes’ parliament building. 

A larger-than-life Christmas tree stands, somehow, dressed decadently in red bows and reflective globes. This pop-up center sticks to the food side, selling crepes, churros, and pastries alongside metal pots of vin chaud and hot cider. 

With my hot cider in hand, we crowd around the handmade tables of stumps and logs that surround the larger sapin. It tastes of cinnamon and closed-eye inhales on Christmas. Gloves are replaced by the heat of our paper cups, and we look at each other through the steady wisps of steam that rise from the rim. 

The cider settles over the lunch we shared before exploring these marches. This morning we met at a restaurant called Avec, a fairly unassuming name though it still subtly begs the question, with what? 

As I entered the surprisingly American warehouse structure, I realized they worked with every auxiliary business they could fit into their overwhelming hipster aesthetic. Don’t get me wrong, the turquoise and burnt-yellow shaped furniture and displayed motorcycles cradled an atmosphere that was anything but tacky. 

Yet, including a tattoo parlor, barbershop, merchandise shop, and auto-moto workshop in their bare metal restaurant undeniably draws the image of a 2014 man sketching graphite over his black notebooks, sipping teaspoons from small cortados. I could almost see him among the crowd with his nondescript face, which did nothing but bring an amused smile to mine. 

Avec’s food and beverage side mixes cocktails and burgers for brunch before offering an ice cream bar for dessert. I inhaled my homemade fries and burger without guilt; it is the holiday season after all. Besides, I might as well take that first step back into American culture. 

I’ll Be Back Tomorrow.

There are the smart ones.

The ones who know themselves enough 

to choose the longterm

the inevitable. But 

there are also the ones like me

who’ve woven enough lies inside,

who’ve wound their lines so small,

who say- just that.

I only do it like this. Just a little bit.

You see, I don’t know how to enjoy it.

So I’ll be back tomorrow.

Cesson Saturday Marche

and the beauty of saying goodbye.

No Feelings Involved.

As soon as it touches my tips

I’d do anything for it.

Just another wisp of that feeling.

Not feeling- that flavor of feeling.

The nudging more

unfurling blank white maps

under the nearest pen. 

That embrace, embrace me,

push more of that cyclical urge

give me more of my closest vice.

Crash whichever wave can burrow a rabbit hole,

dealer’s choice.

Drink on that beating music,

that bass that thinks 

“Am I only two letters to you?”

Fall into the fragile and feminine feeling.

The simple word

I’ll say it a million times

because it never stays that same shade of same.

Close, but no cigar.

I don’t see lingering smoke

not quite like the fresh puff

the starting spark

the way I drag my hand across the page.

Red pen, bleeding, even though you prefer blue.

Maybe because you like to keep it inside,

so do it again,

oxidize it. 

Each Saturday, vendors by the dozen drive their trucks and trailers to Cesson’s old town center. They open their pop-ups to the waiting crowd of weekend shoppers that disperse, filling each row in the Church parking lot. 

Families stride along the older generation’s wheeled sacks with paper cups of espresso and the tin foil that rounds galettes. This Brittany staple is my first objective upon entering the colored maze. 

The rye flour crepe is flipped and wrapped around a saucisse with your choice of mustard or ketchup. I opted for mustard, obviously, and exchanged two euros eighty for my breakfast. 

It only took a few minutes before my gloved hand was unwrapped and replaced by the warmth of my galette saucisse. 

Biting through the layers, I wandered shop to shop, quickly realizing that though the market certainly covers the expected assortment of vegetables, fruit, bread, coffee, meat, and your other weekly necessities, it also hosts a vast array of ulterior vendors. 

These sellers propagate their stands with everything from locks to scarves and a/c units to handmade cutlery. 

I walked, in wonder, thinking about the assortment of lives that must exist behind each tent and trailer. 

Each Week

We do the same.

See the same,

Talk the same,

Breathe the same.

The same people greet us, don’t they?

With the same assortment of coins. 

I wind violet scarves around dainty necks

and these pale-faced women reflect

pretending like they want to take them home

this week, or maybe next, though really, they shouldn’t.

I stuff their husbands with stuffed sausage,

stabbed samples in not-quite-the-same size,

and they act like an absence of splinters would change their mind. 

We do the same.

Stop breathing the same.

Choke sounds the same,

The same eyes fade before mine, don’t they?

When I’ve sufficiently stalked the most interesting perimeters of these pop-up shops, I cross the slow-moving street. Opposite the market’s occupation of the old church parking lot grows a lush garden of flowers, even in this Winter’s early days. 

Pink bursts in roses and green vines wind their way down the manicured maze that tracks visitors through each end of the garden. I let my eyes wander this landscape, pausing on purple and fluttering over yellow flowers. I found my favorite space nestled in the marriage of two stone walls, just beyond a row of trees that break for a full view of the garden’s expanse. 

The wind’s lagging gusts set the pace, and I finish my saucisse slowly. Despite the cold, I am in no rush. I only have one more Saturday market before I break from this French alternate life and return to my America for nearly a month. 

It is bittersweet, splitting my heart between what I know and what I’ve come to know. I don’t know how it will feel, but I do know part of me will stay here—nestled among the fleurs and arching arbres of this French fantasy. 

Coming Home.

It’s so exciting, isn’t it?

Laying your new silhouette over your old outline. 

Seeing what parts of you still fit.

Maybe you will feel the same as you always have. 

Too big here, too small there.

To everyone else, you look the same. Beautiful, even.

But you’ve outgrown this box of beauty. 

The word means something else now. 

You know too much about yourself,

because now you know nothing. 

You know too much about this place,

because each minute change slaps your skin

like a new floater on the glass of your eye. 

Everything hovers, holding same 

by holding the nature it never quite stays.

Like a city can get botox, 

self-tanner on the same performative parts,

Angelina’s leg buffed and bold. 

You see this now, as you saw it before

and the same sad sticks to your wave-washed feet

salt for the wounds of constant summer. 

The sun reds your nose rather than the burn of snow

and there is just something about the way

you could change forever

and still come home.