October 6, 2015
Imagine a guy with a very soft, soothing voice with the pitch of David Beckham and a German accent saying the name Eva (pronounced Ay-vah) over and over again. “Eva. Eva. Eva, Eva, Evaaaa.” The year was 1999 and I had just moved to Paris. I would hear that melodic message from time to time after I pressed the play button on the answering machine located in the living room of our 4th floor apartment on the Rue de Charenton. Eva was my German roommate. She was the first person I lived with here and I always credit her with showing me the ropes in this big, beautiful city. The guy talking on the answering machine was Jürgen, a photographer friend of hers who lived in New York at the time. I would giggle every time I heard him leave that message. I told my brother Tim about it and he became an expert at impersonating Jürgen. When Tim would call me from California, sometimes I’d have him do the impression for Eva and she would crack up too.
We saw Eva today and she had the same infectious laugh. She wore her brown hair in a chic pixie style, comme d’habitude, and tied her red scarf around her neck like a true Frenchwoman. Eva has been here so many years now she might consider herself more French than German. We caught up over thé and chocolat chaud while Rhône drew pictures in his notebook and Jonas chased Rock around outside. We only had about a half an hour together as she was about to teach a German class nearby and it took Jonas and I forever to find the café where we planned to meet up. It was like we were back in the 90s. No smartphones or Google Maps to help us out! As we chatted, Eva and I discovered that the place where she takes dance classes is literally right across the street from where we are staying this week so she is going to stop by our apartment before we leave for Florence on Saturday. This makes me so happy as I miss her very much and I feel like we have more to catch up on.
Today was a real walk down Memory Lane. Seriously, my legs are aching from walking so much. In addition to doing some touristy stuff like visiting Notre Dame, we took a stroll through my other former neighborhood in the 1st arrondissement. I showed Rhône the door to my old apartment (snoozefest!) and then we ate dinner at a yummy Thai restaurant inhabiting a space where one of my favorite restaurants, a place called Bennett, used to be.
Feeling nourished, we began the walk to the closest metro. We turned onto Avenue de l’Opéra and I zeroed in on the glowing lights of the Opéra Garnier at the end of the street. That opera house has special significance for me. Years ago when I would travel to California to see my family, I used to be so homesick on the plane ride back to Paris. From Charles de Gaulle Airport I would take the metro back to my neighborhood and I would still have a knot in my stomach. As I ascended on the escalator, I would see the opera house with its shimmering gold accents and the feelings of sadness and uncertainty would dissipate immediately. I knew I was home.