It has been a while. I truly can’t remember the last time we saw each other. Was it that time I came to visit you in Paris? Could it be that long ago? So much has happened since- Love (first for you, then me, then me again), weddings, babies, breakups (just me) and more travels (at least for me.. and you?). I’m not even sure where you live now, and I have no address for this letter.
I went to Paris for work last week. I trekked to Paris and gave a presentation at a conference. I patted myself on the back even as I agonised over a small detail explained incorrectly. I’m working in a completely different area now, more confident in myself professionally, but even still I experience shades of the imposter syndrome I wish I’d known enough about to name, way back when we were friends.
I had a room to myself and no children to disturb me (I have two children now- two small boys- you have at least one girl I think?), but the unseasonable heat of the October night (maybe it’s often 25 degrees in Paris in October- do you know?) a buzzing of a tiny mosquito in my ear and a dinner eaten too late, joined forces to keep me from sleep.
The next day a friend came to join me (you know her too, we all spent Christmas together once, Christmas day on a tropical beach), and we wandered past the Eiffel tower, stopped with the other tourists to admire the sparkling of its lights on the hour. I bought a little wooden train that spelled out my older son’s name and we watched newly-weds, all white flounces and perfect pouts, pose for photos on a bridge across the Seine.
That friend and I, we walked and talked and stopped at a cosy bistro, and talked and ate and toasted with champagne; to my new house, my new home (we live in the countryside now- I have fled the city life). We drank some wine and wandered back past the Eiffel tower, less tourists now, more rats crossing our path. We crossed the road to get away from them (did you know there were so many rats in Paris?)
Of course I thought of the last time I was there. When you lived in a tiny apartment in the Marais. Do you remember that I visited you?- it was this time of year I think- thirteen years ago now. You had known your wife some time, but only recently fallen into Love. An image comes to mind. The three of us, waiting for a taxi in the city late at night. It was raining I think. You both ensconced in each others arms. Me slightly in the way, but both of you too polite- no- too in love to think it (or to notice the rain).
Your invite to your wedding. Sorry that I could not go. I was away, I think. Travelling again, this time in South America maybe, or back in Thailand. What lucky ones we were to have had all those countries in our sights.
The freedom of it- can you feel it? Tossing a coin on St Stephen’s day in Kota Kinabalu to decide where the next leap should take us. Can you remember it? The toss of the coin brought us to New Years Eve in a strange city, plunged into darkness, streetside stalls by candlelight, children singing songs at us, as we wandered a Yangon street. A woman with a baby gifting us sweet coconut snacks at a festival. Trying to read bus timetables in Burmese script? Can you remember?
Something else. Standing on the roof of a Dublin building. Confiding in me. Moving the friendship into a new space, in this space close to the sky. Later, close to the sky again, dawn on a mountain top in Malaysia. Not the last hill we conquered together; that came later, a sweaty slog up to a golden rock.
All friendships end sometime. Even if we like to believe that a friendship will persist forever, experience tells us it’s not the case. But it doesn’t need to last forever to live forever in our memory. Independent of its measure in years, each friendship is an important piece of the jigsaw of a life.
So that is what I’m trying to say with this letter. A visit to Paris reminded me of a part of my jigsaw. I hope somewhere out there I am part of yours.