I woke up to the sound of a cat screeching, a siren wailing, and my high-pitched ringtone coming from somewhere under my bed. It wasn’t exactly the blissful first wake-up call in Paris I had envisioned. Still half asleep, I fumbled under my bed looking for my phone. As soon as I found it, it stopped ringing. I had 15 missed calls. That’s what I get for forgetting to call my parents to let them know I arrived safely. I sent an apologetic text to let them know I was safe and that I would call them later that night. My first day in Paris was waiting.
As I looked around my sparsely furnished studio I realized I had nothing to eat for breakfast. There was probably a supermarket or a kiosk around the corner; I could go pick something up and return to clean my apartment and unpack. Or I could indulge myself in a delightfully stereotypical French day and go out for a café au lait and a pain au chocolat. It was a tough choice. Ten minutes later I was out the door and googling “best cafés in Paris”.
I took metro line number 9 and soon found myself at Champs-Elysées. It was breathtaking. At one end I could see the Arc de Triomphe, and if I turned around I could see the Eiffel Tower. It doesn’t get anymore Paris than that, I thought to myself. I walked along the Champs-Elysées and was soon greeted with the smell of freshly baked pastries. I followed the smell to a small café a few metres aways. “Un pain au chocolat”, I heard myself say, “et un cappuccino s’il vous plait”. “Ça fait 7 euros”, the woman said. I did a victory lap in my head. I had just ordered my breakfast in French. I guess all those long nights on Duolingo and Babbel had paid off.
I took my pain au chocolat and my cappuccino and sat outside facing the street. As I sipped my coffee I looked at the people walking by. Some seemed in a hurry to get to places, others were casually strolling down the street. I wondered if that would be me someday, casually strolling down the Champs-Elysées as if I belonged. I definitely didn’t look as if I belonged now, sitting with my coffee and staring at everyone, trying to picture what their life was like. Did that girl with the stylish hairdo and the Michael Kors bag have a boyfriend? Did that businessman in the Armani suit have a family? It suddenly dawned on me that I had no one. There wasn’t a single person in this city who knew me, who would be there for me if I needed somebody. I suddenly regretted not calling my parents back this morning. I finished my cappuccino, gobbled down my pain au chocolat and started heading home. One day I would walk down the streets as if I belonged, but today I was headed home, to clean, unpack, and most importantly call my parents to let them know I was okay.
By Elena S.