Yesterday, I felt weightless. I felt… like my body didn’t belong to me, that I was a spectator in a movie theater with the same hopes that something otherworldly would come my way.
It was a strange night, truly. I attribute it to the simple question of post-graduation plans. I contemplated how I would react if the world came to an end in a week, sat in a giant Christmas tree by the river full of blinking lights and stared at the Ferris wheel. Afterwards, my friend Ines came to join me in the tree, and we talked about God, religion, and her hopes for the future. Then, we went to a bar called The Pale and drank beer and cider with 4 others, staring intensely in each others’ eyes as we clinked glasses (“santé”) and wished each other good health (if you lose eye contact or cross arms with someone else while clinking, you’re apparently doomed to 7 years of poor love-making), and played cards.
Originally, my plan was to walk to the bar to meet Ines there, but arriving early, I decided that going for a walk down by the river was what was needed. As I made my way to the river, I peered into restaurant windows. I saw couples–older, younger–and groups of youth decked out in their finest attire with feasts before them. Were they celebrating an anniversary perhaps, a birthday party, or were they colleagues getting to know one another? . . . Would I too be dining in fancy restaurants someday and the subject of some other foreign undergraduate student’s confused thoughts?
Or, would I be the older man out for a late night stroll by himself, hands in his pockets, window shopping?–“For who?” I asked. “His children, his life partner? His dog??”
Would I be the drunk woman that I saw sitting on the steps of a shop, gallantly singing at the top of her lungs while families walked by in mockery, having never considered, nor will ever consider, that hard times could befall them too. Families with such strong, confident, reassured convictions of how their futures will unfold that they do not have the capacity to understand that the woman whom they’re mocking on the street corner might have never considered being their either.
Coming to the end of Rue Nationale, the Ferris wheel stood before me, and behind it stood an enormous pine tree filled with Christmas lights. I had never noticed this tree until yesterday. I lied beneath it for some time, looking up through its branches at the network of lights flashing on and off, moving, pulsing, as if the tree were alive.
I climbed onto one of its branches. It was very thick and sturdy, and there were so many of them; it was not difficult to reach the top of the tree. The last time I had been in a pine tree that high was in high school when I climbed the pine tree in Matt Harrison’s backyard to avoid being turned into a zombie during night games. I remember I was level with the roof of his three-story house. I could see the tops of most of the trees surrounding the golf course that he lived next to–Red Oak, hole number 9 if I’m not mistaken. The sky was such a dark blue and the stars such a sharp contrast. I was so absorbed in what I was looking at, that I forgot the zombie apocalypse was still upon me. I felt that same way sitting by the Loire last night, staring at the Ferris wheel and down Rue Nationale where I had come from, the people I had seen earlier having most likely begun finishing their dinners.
“What would I do if the world were to come to an end in a week?”
It’s a given that I would be on Skype with my family and friends, that if the world were thrown into chaos and raiding the stores was socially acceptable, I would go straight for the dark chocolate and hard cider first and set up camp in IKEA. Second, I would try and get a tattoo. Third, I imagined myself at Grandmont climbing the rock wall. If the world were to end, I figure most college students would try and spend that last week completely inebriated, and the rock wall would be one of the only secluded places left, and, despite the world hypothetically ending, I would still want to work towards becoming a good climber.
When Ines came, I asked her about God and her future plans.
She told me that she wasn’t sure if she believed in a God. However, she did say that she was something of a religious pluralist, and I thought that was cool. Finally, I asked her what her plans were for the future, and she told me that she wanted to see the world, that she didn’t have a dream job, that there wasn’t anything in particular that she was truly passionate about. Upon further reflection, she told me that what makes her happiest is the opportunity to make others happy, and that if she could make someone else’s life better, that would be what she would call her passion. I thought that was beautiful. If the world had more people with that goal…
After shaking the branches and making bird calls for the benefit of a group of french girls below, we made our way to The Pale to conclude an interesting night. I stopped worrying about whether or not I would find a way to continue climbing, if my life would be satisfying, what I would do if the world came to an end. I thought of a quote that my friend Elise listed under her favorites: “In the end, we all die.”–Skyler. Rather than being fearful of what might or might not happen, sometimes it just takes a hard-hitting comment like that to relieve oneself of the unnecessary worrying that only hampers experience, thus freeing oneself up for the possibilities to experience.
A belated Thanksgiving reflection perhaps, but I’m grateful for: whole foods, climbing, people like Ines, that tree, and this time in France.