A Boarding Pass
It began with a slender boarding pass, printed in fading ink, stuffed into the back pocket of my jeans. It maneuvered me through airport security and onto a flight headed for the Charles de Gaulle airport. It waited with me for strangers in an empty terminal at midnight.
I stayed with a host family for a little over two weeks, and Paris infused my heart with the desire to keep on beating. The days melted together, fused together by sunlight, street lamps, and sirens. Police cars, with their glowing red lights, were like musical boxes, spilling melodies out onto the yellow streets. After a single night, dual notes weighed down my dreams. My feet ached from walking and my silver lace-up shoes cracked across the soles, from scampering up and down flights of Metro station stairs. Walking amongst throngs of unfamiliar faces, a disembodied feeling overwhelmed and empowered me. The first week, nervous tension pounded a rhythm into my skull and my tongue tripped over itself to spit out foreign phrases. By the second week, the vast beauty of the city had engulfed me and its perseverance flowed through my veins.
On the day we hiked up to the Sacre-Coeur, an entire hillside of pearly white steps lay before me, lined by manicured hedges and tourist signs. At the top, surrounded by German tourists with cameras strapped across their bodies, and bohemian Parisians with dreadlocks and guitars, I breathed a heavy sigh of release. With the ancient building to my back, the aerial view of the city captivated me. A twenty-something boy sang a heavily accented version of the Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields’, rattling the wooden beads upon his wrist with every swipe at his guitar strings, and my lips twisted into a smile. The wind tore at my hair and I realized how similar people are. Returning to Saint Michel de Picpus with my host family, I saw an old man sitting upon a park bench. His arms lay outstretched to feed a pigeon between his palms. For a moment, his eyes locked with mine and I understood we were the same. We both had room to hope.
My high school French could only carry me so far in Paris, but it allowed me to grasp the essence of being human. Whether we speak a foreign language or live in a different environment, we all breathe the same air. Boarding a United flight back to the States, the delicious sensation of something new thrummed within my veins. And my heart began to soar.