When three years pass in the same place, same room, with harshly the same people, we can easily imagine things stay the same, that nothing has essentially changed. Yet, when I was sitting across a girl on the train heading to the center from the airport, with a huge suitcase, a filled backpack, a beret, and a book about the dream city in her hands, while I was returning from celebrating Christmas with my family back to my new home for the third time, I could see that something has indeed changed, slowly maybe, imperceptibly, yet persistently.
There is a certain profundity that links you to the city, while dreams are transforming into a reality, while you’re less and less a stranger and a visitor, a simple spectator, and more and more connected into this web of its core lives. You are not only observing it, flying over it like a bird, peeking in here and there, searching for loopholes, but crushing open the doors and opening the windows, diving right in and swim through all the rocky waves. Some magic curtains fall while you’re slipping into a routine, yet it is then you can start to see far and wide, to see the whole through all the street corners and little neglecting details. It is when you start to love and hate the city at the same time, you really know what loving it means, when the images of it multiple on the whole spectrum of the good and the bad, and eventually steady on a fragile balance in-between.
Your little room, remember getting it was a little triumph in itself, one of the happiest moments of your life, finally having your own place and all, this little room you are now so used to you’re getting tired and sick of its thin walls and bruised furniture. The people who were first just faces coming and going, nodding and cheek kissing out of a habit you learned to imitate, that now make your weekdays and your Sundays smile, and have the power to hurt you, move you. These everyday worn out streets with worn out people you cruise around, that anxiety to get as fast as you can to your destination, running late, forever running late, catching the train the last minute, rushing to get the metro. Yet, at the destination you’ll relax with the colleagues who became friends, have a glass of a Côtes du Rhône red wine and try to get all the subtleties of their favourite phrases they keep repeating – on est bien là, non! – you’d think they’d empty them by now, but you laugh with them and eat some peanuts or cheese…
Still, I think that was what I was aiming for in the first place, not to break a certain illusion and smash the charm, but to break into a reality of a place unknown to me in its truth, the ordinary minus the extra. Not the images, not the expectations, not just the clichés (though some of them are true), not only the postcard views (yet, to some you keep going back to), not the they-said-it-is-sos. More of the I came, I saw, I heard, I experienced, I lived in it all, and still I was conquered! So, I choose to stay in this mess of a city, because lovely it stays, even after a trillion of reality checks. Maybe, it is just that it is me now, creating loopholes in its favor.