Paris. A legendary city, in more ways than one. I assume that if you’re in a couple, walking through the “City of Love” at night under the twinkling streetlights on the small cobblestone alleys may seem very romantic, but since I am forever alone, I can calmly say 1) keep your mushy feelings to yourself, they make me quite jealous and 2) it’s a lot scarier when you’re all by yourself and those twinkling streetlights look like they’re winking creepily at you.
When I was little I was, like most kids, afraid of the dark. Thinking back this may have been due to the excessive amount of Calvin and Hobbes that I read before bed, where the whole “monsters under the bed” thing scared the sh*t out of me. As I grew up in Normandy I slowly conquered my fear of the black void that filled the room when my mom turned out the lights. I started being able to go outside all by myself and soon discovered the magnificence of Normandy/the countryside at night, the stars shining down on me reassuringly, the dog at my side. With no neighbors, there was never any threat, any danger.
Paris proved to be a very different experience (dare I say, duh? No? Okay then). I couldn’t see the stars anymore, there were no more familiar constellations guiding me, only the cold eery glow of electricity. For the first few years I didn’t know much of Paris at night, being
occupied mostly by being awesome too young. But now, a junior in high school, I’m allowed to go out and only come back around 1 am. My family, being too busy with stuff like yelling at each other for no good reason, doesn’t care if I don’t come back for the night at all. As for coming to get me so I won’t have to make the journey alone? No way. Confronted with this apparent lack of caring, I started fending for ME and walking myself home.
Nonetheless, it’s spooky to watch all of your friends leave with their parents in safe warm cars and knowing that you have to walk all the way home, your awful (they really are terrible) self-defense skills being the only thing keeping you from potentially being mugged. And of course the only story you can think of is of the girl who got mugged on your street a few years back.
As I left my friend’s tonight, I shivered slightly even though the temperature was still high, and set off at a brisk walk through the deserted streets, trying to look (and feel) confident. I’ve become pretty paranoid, despite all of my attempts to be calm. Every person that I cross is immediately perceived as a threat, at which point I generally start running (bad idea?) only to then realize that it’s a frail old grandmother walking her poodle. Ah well. Paris is very different from, say, New York. The majority of French people go to bed relatively early, so you don’t see many humans out at midnight, though aliens abound. Even if you’re walking with someone or in a group, the atmosphere is very different, it’s hard to compare the Avenue Henri Martin in the daytime, a bustling, busy avenue, with the Avenue Henri Martin at night, tall trees casting shadows over the sidewalk, masking the faint light from the streetlamps. Night and day really are two different worlds. With sore blisters on my feet I ran most of the way back, heart pounding, clutching the bag from which I’d been careful enough to remove all valuables from. I took the trip one segment at a time, avoiding the smaller, darker streets, trying to blend in with my surroundings. When I finally made it to my apartment, forehead gleaming with sweat, muscles aching, I felt a singular sense of relief. I was finally safe.
Oh and look, my mom and brother engaged in a screaming match at one in the morning. Not so much as a look when I came in. How nice. Luckily for my insulted being, my amazing friends were kind enough to check up on me, making sure that I’d gotten home safely. I had, and I always do. Yet for some reason I get a little more scared each time, sure that I’m the perfect target. Despite all of this, I will not miss out on the wonderful nights with my friends. Whatever comes my way, I will face it, alone. And if it happens to be a threat, I will either willingly give up what they ask for or offer them a cookie as compensation.
The world is very big, and in perspective, I’m just a tiny speck of dust. As I finish writing this post, I find myself feeling more confident. To be fair, I’m also sitting on my couch, blocking out all high pitched noises with a cup of tea. Nevertheless, this small speck of dust will do anything to keep from being blown away in the breeze, and, hopefully, will grow into something like a mothball in terms of importance and influence. I now realize that that isn’t a very good metaphor, and if you have a better suggestion, I will hear it willingly.
Also, when I have kids, no matter where they are or what time it is, I will always be there to pick them up and bring them home safely.
Live long and prosper \V/
The Mostly Confused Teenager.