Published: March 27th 2009March 6th 2009
Speaking of last year/memories/nostalgia/the like, I thought I should mention something that happened to me last night. I walked a friend to the Lille Flandres train station and waited until her train left before I left the platform. When I entered the main hall, I saw a TGV getting ready to leave. There are only two TGV platforms in the Lille Flandres train station. They are side by side, and one is reserved for the hourly TGV that runs between Lille Flandres and Paris Nord Station. I suddenly stopped, immobilized by nostalgia. As the Paris-bound TGV pulled slowly out of the station, I remained motionless, watching the beady red eyes of the train until I could no longer see them.
Without ANY conscious effort, I saw the entirety of last year flash before my eyes, just like how we always say it must occur right before a near-death experience…or before we die. In what must have been a matter of seconds (but felt like full, saturated minutes or even hours), I saw names and faces and places and streets and bars and statues and trains and Euros. The park with the red fence, the white futon-bed from Ikea, la Résidence Béthanie, the black flats I finally threw away. Scotland Fire, Network, Coming Out, Drugstore, Café Oz, l’Irlandais, MacEwans. Marie-Chantal, Ludi, James, José, David, Virginie, Leo, Lena, Meredith. Ecole Paul Bert, the tram, metro stops (Eurotéléport, Lille Grand Palais, Rihour, Lille Flandres, Epeule Montesquieu), boucy, rickety buses. I thought about the commute I made to Paris at least once a month - David, Meredith, Jean-Christophe, Jean-Paul, Benoît, Mathieu, Anthony, Mariam. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Montataire - the épicerie du coin (corner store) and the kind)hearted woman who ran it, going to the bigger supermarkets (Auchan, Leclerc) for one thing and struggling back with way more than we could carry. The Christmas tree, movies to which we already knew all the words, unmarked oven knobs and the inevitable guessing game that came with operating them, a proper shower with good water pressure and a shwoerhead that actually was hung up on the wall, orange candles. American Crew hair products, a white Paris metro ticket here and there, the distinct smell of the apartment building, the broken dining table, the window at road-level, the red pillow. I thought of countless late nights out in Paris bars I won’t name and with people (some of whom) I CAN’T name, where we could sleep at various friends’ or aquaintances’ houses if we didn’t stay out all night and catch the first train back to Montataire (well, Creil… Creil. Ici, Creil). All these things and several more that I am certain I am forgetting came barreling at me all at once. I had not thought of these things; rather, these memories had found ME.
It all happened so suddenly and so surprisingly that when I finally snapped out of the trance-like state that had overcome me and shook my head, I realized that tears were STREAMING down my face. How strange that these memories were now MEMORIES - that they belonged now to some abstract thing that is The Past. And yet this was my life. How fleeting it all seems when you are caught in a moment like that. The tears continued to roll (and I only realized it later) as I realized what this moment meant. This year would soon become the same thing - some blur of select, altered memories, that it would cease to be reality. Six months from now it will already be just that… and five, ten years from now it will be reduced simply to “those few years I lived in Lille.” How strange, how sad, how terrifying in a way… mais c’est la vie. Ceci dit, j’ai également realisé que je ne suis PAS DU TOUT prête à partir. Ma vie est ici. Lille est chez moi. J’appartiens à cette ville et cette ville m’appartient.