Last night I dreamt about Paris again. Unlike the previous night, this time I actually got to walk around the city. I woke up with an intense feeling of excitement and awe. A sense of incredulous eagerness hung around long after the dream had passed.

This is how I feel when I think about Paris, when I remember living there. In that city it seems like a grand surprise awaits you around every corner. You might wander into a deserted inner courtyard with ivy draped over 200-year old window sills, you might come upon a Chinese fish and poultry shop replete with curious knick-knacks. You might just read about a sound and light show happening…yes…tonight, in the Parc de la Villette, and you just might hop the next RER and go. When I lived there, when I visited, joy followed me wherever I went. And how could it not when you constantly expect to run into something wonderful, magical. There, even the gray rains of autumn are lovely. The frisk coldness of February mornings as you hurry across the Seine are punctuated with a sense of historicity. To think – people have rushed across these bridges for centuries, beholding the strict outlines of the Louvre and the hollow curves of St.Eustache. So many mysteries, so many treasures.

Still under the effect of last night’s dreamings, I climbed into the car. I was puzzling over why Paris and the French language have such an allure for me when I absent-mindedly turned on the CD player. From it the melodious, nostalgic tones of French song legend Joe Dasen brought me back and I smiled. Yes, this may have *something* to do with it.

Our family has listened to Jos Dasen ever since I could remember. His recordings played on our old record player, and sunk into the very depths of my unformed identity. In the critical days and years of my childhood, the simplicity of mornings, the warmth of evening tea with the winter winds howling outside, the strong love of my parents – all mingled with Joe Dasen. His soft French pronunciation, the lovely melodies, the happy songs left a powerful impact.

And so it is no wonder that I came to love the French language, that I took classes in French starting from 7th grade when they were first offered, and by the time I had graduated from high school, had visited Paris twice. During the first visit I made a promise to myself to return in five, six years, to live and study there as a college student. I did return, and that year of my life was like no other, before or after.

Judging by my dreams, my love for Paris is as strong as my love has been for the most important men in my life. The dreams are almost always tinted with longing, with excitement at the prospect of a reunion, with a powerful sense of loss. It’s as if Paris was the lover who died at the height of our romance. Now I look for it, yearn for it, miss it. But it is nowhere to be found. Most dreams end in frustration. I am in Paris but cannot wander around freely. I am stuck in some shabby corner of a dilapidated house, gazing out at the Eiffel Tower but unable to come closer. If I do walk around, I invariably get lost. I discover dank passageways, strange people beckon me to come closer, I lose my bearings in a labyrinth of rues and avenues. Eventually I wake up and make mental notes to explore those parts of Paris that I dream about more fully next time I am there.

Why does it keep coming back to me? I have not been back in 7 years, and yet, it’s as if I just left. Maybe I had not stayed there long enough? Maybe its influence on me was so powerful, that the aftershocks are rocking me still. I came there in the fall of my third year in college with my boyfriend, ten months later I left a married woman, pregnant. The man I married was not the boyfriend I came with. Maybe the drama surrounding those ten months is what’s causing my brain, unconsciously while I sleep, to continue sorting and resorting through the collateral damage.

But I think it’s more simple than that. Hemingway summed it up best when he wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

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