Paris: City of Love!
By Amihan del Rosario-Tapan
We have this funny little idea that romance completes things. I had this idea while studying abroad in Paris this summer. And when romance didn’t magically appear I decided to look for it.
I was fourteen and studying in Paris; I had settled in the new city and was looking for the final piece to complete the trip: boys. All of the students in our study abroad group were in agreement. We wanted to meet French kids our age. This was most repeatedly expressed by Esteban, a senior, who respectfully said he wanted to meet French teenagers when we all knew he really meant French girls. We looked subtly during our touristy excursions, before curfew, and on the streets. But after one week of being in Paris, they didn’t magically present themselves. And so we decided to hunt for them ourselves.
My French pen pal told me most kids hung out at Invalides, a park in front of the old grand Hôtel. Esteban had done his research too, and confirmed this, which is why I ended up scanning the grass with my roommate Cece. We got along fairly well, both experiencing very different New York cities: me being from the city, while hers was one I originally thought was a suburb.
The fields were arranged in a two-by-three grid in front of the palatial hotel, which was currently undergoing construction but managed to keep its glimmer. Directly in the middle, splitting the two sides of the fields, was a large road lined with old, electric-powered lamp posts. The road connected this part of Paris to the rest of it, meeting a car-trafficked bridge that reached across the Seine. The line between Paris and New York sometimes blurred; from the jaywalking and graffiti on the streets to the make-eye-contact-at-your-own-risk lectures from adults. But as we consciously searched for boys, surrounded by the elegance of the old Parisian architecture and French chatter, I was undoubtedly in another world.
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We walked carefully, with the tourist effect of feeling like everyone’s eyes were on us. The challenge we faced was age… that is, nobody there was our age. And although we knew the French started drinking before they could walk, with the full face of facial hair and the post-pubescent maturity they carried themselves with, it was apparent that nobody there was under eighteen. Esteban had said that I could be “however old I wanted to be,” even if it meant being sixteen or eighteen or twenty-five. He said it with good intentions, though looking back, I realize that I didn’t need to say I was older than the fourteen I already was—men would choose to see me as however old they wanted to in order to justify their desires.
The longer we retraced our steps, the more it grew on us that the excursion was a failure. There would be no life-ruining summer fling, only gazes of creepy old men, and ignorance from hot college guys. We hadn’t come prepared with drinks or a blanket, so Cece and I just laid there, side by side. She was two years older than me, but everyone knew NYC raised me quicker. We were laughing at ourselves, the ridiculousness of the whole idea, both swearing we would approach a boy if he presented himself. The sky was completely clear, save for the hints of nighttime coming; the shadow of a half-moon in our peripheral vision. I turned to look at her and she laughed, her jaw tipping up at the changing sky; the sole piece of jewelry she wore, detailed silver hoops, glinting. That night, she took the best pictures that exist of me. Even now.
The metro on the way back was crowded, and we found ourselves standing in the center of the car. Holding onto the pole in the middle, we suddenly realized our two hands shared the pole with two others; two boys who couldn’t be any older than sixteen. One of them was tall, with brown curly hair, and from the mask above, exceptionally attractive. I stared. Well, we all stared, grabbing each other’s eye contact, then breaking it and looking at our friend, smiling with awareness. We all seemed to be in acknowledgment of what was happening: two guys, two girls, all looking at each other. We opened Snapchat, letting small laughs escape. My attention was directed to the one diagonal from me. Aside from the Nike tracksuit he had on, he was perfect. (And since he was French—I saw a text message on his phone, definitely French—his style could be easily fixed.) I opened my phone, clicked “New Contact,” and began to seriously consider handing it to him. Until the train stopped. And the boys got off.
I wrote this piece with the intention of writing several more, all taking place this past summer in Paris. I chose this moment by writing a list of all of the moments, then picking one that I thought would be a good fit for the anthology. It was a lot of fun to write. I learned that, by writing it, I relived it. I used old photos I took as a reference for descriptions—going back to a sunset, in the summer, in Paris.
Amihan is a writer and artist from Harlem. She spends her free time creating art, singing and playing guitar. She’s written pieces on identity and societal change. Over quarantine, she’s been spending time with her family and puppy in her vacation home on a lake.