Key West to Paris, Premier Fois
After seven years of life on my little island wrapped between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the day came and it was time to go and to leave the place that I had once longed so dearly for. The place that I had made home, raised my son, married again and where I had a usual life. Now married to one of the most well known residents had always meant that my life was a bit on display but no one except a few close friends really knew that it was as much of an act as my husband’s evening performances. My coworkers and friends stood on the steps to bid me farewell that morning while breakfast was still being served around the pool. My son had left for college a few days earlier and my soon to be estranged husband was, as usual, off sleeping in his RV at the marina.
I climbed into the airport shuttle van with my little poodle Pondicherry while my friends loaded the luggage in the back. We drove out of the circular drive way and I saw the Curry Mansion for the last time for a long time out of the front window. We drove through the narrow streets of Key West and quickly we were crossing the bridge out of town. As we drove across the Cow Key Channel I looked at the back of the RV sitting on the banks the channel knowing he was sleeping there.
Pondi sat in my lap as we rode up the Keys, stopping for gas and fried chicken with the other passengers. It seemed so easy, was it?
After the three hour trip we pulled up to the terminal and climbed out with our bags in tow and sat waiting for the Air France gate to open. At long last we found ourselves on the plane, in the last row in a plane full of lively Cuban’s going to Paris for vacation. All through the night their laughter and Spanish conversation filled the cabin. We felt as if we never left home.
Pondi hated the flight and spent a great deal of effort chewing at her crate under the seat in front of me. When we had finally all settled down, I let her out and under my blanket and we flew in the dark and quiet night over the Atlantic and to a life that I couldn’t imagine.
Welcome to Charles de Gaulle Aeroport…Our bags arrived quickly and then we were on the van with just one other couple…American’s on a holiday…
Our stop was first…15 rue St Denis, a narrow one way street near the Seine on the right bank of Paris … the driver was annoyed at my heavy baggage so the man who rode with us helped me get it to the door… For 20 euros I was able to persuade the panini maker downstairs to carry my bags up the winding 6 flights of stairs…as I sat in the apt, just grateful that I was able to unlock the complicated French door I could hear his dismay…For the longest time after that I could barely make eye contact with him when I went past his shop. After Pondi and I sat just looking at the luggage and taking it all in, we went down rue St Denis and had a Chinese lunch, sitting at a table on the sidewalk like the Parisians we were to become.
The trip overnight, the Chinese lunch and the overwhelming reality of it all enveloped us and we fell asleep late in the afternoon in the little apartment at 15 rue St. Denis. When we woke up it was past 10p and I could hardly believe it but it was still light outside…something I had not known about this latitude…but the light was faded by 10:30 and we went back to bed…
The apartment was furnished, the very best thing being a large, almost wall size old mirror…it’s frame was painted a soft creamy beige almost like the wall and the glass of the mirror was the old type and was peeling from the back creating lots of dark stormy spots…so your image was faded and spotty…this made me like it even more…There was a chaise in front of mirror and during my time here I repeatedly covered it in different fabrics and changed it’s angles…it was a royal blue upholstery, a color that was never mine…nor were the rest of the furnishings in the apartment, but I knew that it would be only temporary…the furniture at least.
Every morning we would get up and look out our little windows and see the sun and feel the warmth that led us down the 6 flights of stairs and out onto the street below for another day of learning…all summer we walked day after day, rue après rue, we learned to ride le metro and the buses…we listened to conversations all around us and we began to know Paris and to feel that we were home and believe that we would never leave…we would see the planes flying overhead and feel sorry for those unfortunate enough to have to leave Paris. The summer days and nights passed under the skies of Paris and under the zinc rooftops of our apartment on the rue St. Denis.