Freedom, Language, and The Carefree Black Girl: The Paris Chronicles

A Week.

A week since I touched the beautiful land belonging to the people of Paris.

A week since I died and became someone new.

A week.

Every voyage feels like a death.

Each time I feel a machete tearing through everything I thought I knew. About the world, the unseen, and myself.  

There are so many new ME’s.

Limb by limb I am pulled apart and with the surgical hands of God herself I am sewn back together filled with a new breath of life.

When I arrived to Paris a train strike was occurring, at the beginning of a retrograde. Of course I laughed to myself. Retrogrades and strikes follow me with every new adventure. With the strike came train troubles and with train troubles came Becca’s lateness, so I made do. I spoke to a man sitting next to me from Mexico for a little while, explaining to him howNecesito practicar español más”. We talked about Texas and our plans in Paris and time flew along.

An hour later walks in Becca. Skin dark and smooth like sweet cacao with a face that could brighten anyone’s day. We were on our way to her place. After a few train delays and smells of fresh urine on the underground, our train finally arrived. Onto Becca’s place we continued, walking from the train station and through her neighborhood.

So much to see.

So much to do I thought as my mind raced on and on until we finally arrived. Awaiting our arrival was a cat named “Groovy”.

White with bold eyes, a soft “meow” and strong curiosity. Honestly, I don’t think Groovy was too fond of me because in my dreams that night Groovy was present and not very happy. Scratching and hissing she clawed my arm so deeply I woke up thinking it was real. Well, I decided to keep my distance from Groovy for the rest of the trip. My first morning in Paris. So much to see, to do. Call me crazy but, I was determined to be a fluent French speaker in 4 days. Not only did I miserably fail, but also I felt stupid quite frankly.

You see, one like me, a perfect soul created by a perfect creator incarnating into a world full of imperfections makes one give up quite easily if perfection doesn’t quickly follow. Practice? I hate it. A rush? I’m always in it. I want things at the snap of a finger and this trip taught me that 1) you cannot be fluent in any language in 4 days, especially not French. 2) No they will not understand your God-awful attempt at their language when you begin to practice- it’s okay.

I am ready for my day. Beret placed on top of my short golden curls slicked down Josephine Baker style. I feel her energy so deeply here. I must’ve watched “The Josephine Baker Story” 10 times before I arrived here, every time seeing she in I and I in she. My white turtleneck is placed on along with my overalls.

Shoes on.

Trench coat on.

It is time to enter the city of Paris.

On the trains into the city are sounds I never knew one could make with the mouth. Strangely awful sounds stroke my ears; at least the underground doesn’t smell like pee today. From the underground we walk up the stairs dead smack into the city. Towering above me are old buildings, so beautiful to the eye. Feelings of belonging fill every inch of my being. Those great African Americans who came here long before me to share their gifts, liberate themselves, and give expression freely are all around. I feel their presence. To me they say “ This is just one voyage of many that will bring you back through this great land.”

And I believed their words.

I believe their words. Greatness is destined for me in this land.

I walk the streets along side Becca and into a beautiful art gallery whose name I cannot quite remember. We are greeted with a very stern yet soft “Bonjour” and we both replied. Immediately the owner of the gallery recognized my accent and asked if I was American. I replied “yes” and said to her “Parles moi en Français” although I knew I wouldn’t understand a damn thing. It was really for several reasons. 1) I am determined. I cannot learn this language speaking English. 2) I really didn’t want to be the American who dare come into this land requiring all of its inhabitants to speak my language. How disrespectful of me that would be. After about 10 minutes of torture and unfamiliar sounds we were back in the streets of Paris. As we walk, as we talk, Becca teaches me all the basics.

Finally I have some groundwork.

We spend some time stopping and taking photos of one another.

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Me, Exploring.

 Then we head to the next destination,

The great Eiffel Tower herself.

After a few hours of exploring the city, we finally arrived.

The sweet scent of beauty and pride filled the air as we walked behind the building, she sits abaft.

Her grand reveal brought great emotion within my being.

Never have I felt a feeling for such a thing.

There is great life within her and those who lock eyes with such wonder.

One look and you’re forever changed.

One look and there is a freedom that escapes her beauty, into my being.

She told me I could be anything, do anything and that’s why I am here.

This is where the lovers come and the dreamers pray. This is a holy ground for the purpose-driven hearts.

Each landmark I visit is like a new piece of the puzzle being solved. Life really is just one great puzzle of jigsaws we maneuver through the best we can in attempts to decipher the meaning of it all.

My voyages are like missions and my purpose is to connect the dots.

So far my conclusion is that we are living many different realities in different bodies while somehow living the same life.

We are all simply mirrors.

Language, culture, and customs- they strengthen the argument I reckon.

We all want love, family, purpose. It goes on and on and the sooner that we realize this, the closer we come to a global consciousness, an eternal vibration of love.

How can looking at a simple landmark make one feel all of these things and see the many mystical wonders within? If you want to discover what can make one think so deeply and feel beyond all realms of existence then please, go see her and you will see the very thing that I see.

She grows larger to the eye as we walk closer, through the crowd. “S’il vous plait Mademoiselle” shoots through my ears from every direction as merchants peg for my attention. As my mind wandered a young girl and her mom approached me with a clipboard asking if I spoke English. Before I could get the full “Ye-“ out Becca quickly snatched me away alerting me that they were scammers.

They almost got me.

By now the day is approaching its end and somehow I feel even closer to my dreams than ever before. For some, a vacation is just that. A trip is just that. For Tai, me, a vacation is pure ecstasy. It is spirituality and a whirlpool of self-discovery. I am completely pulled apart and put together again simply from being in the presence of a land apart from that of which I was born.

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Day 2 has arrived and I am more ready than ever before. No evil cat dreams, a good sign. I can feel my feet dissociating from my body screaming, “Please don’t make us walk.” I’m sure I have 100’s of blisters from hours of walking the day before. Luckily I cannot hear their screams over the joy howling from my innermost being. Back out into the city we go. This city that I cannot seem to comprehend by language whatsoever, however how deeply I understand the feelings all over.

Off to Notre Dame we go, ready for all that awaits. A Kiss T-shirt tightly hugs my skin up above the navel, covered by a thin green jacket. Around my head is a “Bitch I Know you Know” hat courtesy of Becca. I am entering one of the holiest churches in the world; an experience of a lifetime sits behind those magnificent doors.

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Off with my hat as I enter and deep breaths as I observe.

Colors, stained glass windows everywhere. Images of white Jesus and the white saints pierce my eyes as the offering candles distract me from such historical inaccuracies. I light my candle met with a soft prayer. We see a line down the middle of the pews leading to this unknown object, so we stand in line. One by one by one by one many kiss this unknown object. They lay their hands upon this unknown object that is placed itself upon this velvety purple pillow. One by one by one until I see an item placed in a circular frame encrusted with gold. In this frame is a mystical wonder known as “The Crown of Thorns”. I place my forehead on this magical item, receiving my blessings.

I was sure that it couldn’t be, indeed it was, The Crown of Thorns.

A blessing was brought upon me. Who would’ve known that we would come here, to the right place, right time and I would share this beautiful experience touching the relics of my redeemer.

To dinner, a French dinner we go where a night full of confusion awaits. 3 Native French speakers, 1 English. My phone is my only escape from the asininity I feel within. Of course I am okay with them speaking French because I will not be the American girl that makes everyone else speak my language. The words I hear all around me sound like nectarous vagueness because although I am picking up on these words and new sounds I am still completely lost. So I simply observe. 2 years until our food arrives it feel like. In front of me sits a plate of grass clippings and a side of potato pudding called “French cuisine.” To the taste is the fresh salt of the earth. It wasn’t anything fancy although the prices were of some sort. I would’ve rather had take out.

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Finally, conversations in English emerge though I cannot seem to get much out. My words seem to be swallowed by the introverted soul I possess. No matter how hard I try, holding a conversation only lasts for a brief moment.

The friends of Becca begin to dig into this introverted brain of mines asking about my “oh so” American thoughts on culture in the states, in London, and most importantly-Freedom.

The night ends with the bitter smell of cigarette smoke and French kisses. Another night has reached its end and more revelation has seeped its way into my soul.

I awake on my final morning with a sadness, knowing my final day has arrived. Knowing tomorrow morning I will go back to the foreign lands of my new home. A place I am still getting to know.

This place, my new home is filled with gloomy skies and cloudy streets filled with the smoke of cigarettes. London, my new home, oh how I actually miss you.

To our last destination we arrive. Full of tourists from all over the skies. I hadn’t thought to much of my blackness here quite honestly, but even in this land of escapism are the peculiar stares of those who have never seen such a thing, a thing known as a “carefree black woman.”

I’m not so sure why this freeness is seen as such strange.

Maybe it’s the confidence in my walk or the strength in my talk, in English anyways.

Up the stairs of the Sacré-Cœur, Paris we go as the stares continue. “The world is my home and I will be free wherever I go, no matter who is watching” I think to myself.

Up the stairs we go where the city can be seen in total. It truly is quite the sight to see. I have another leisurely feeling of ecstacy and disbelief that a life like this has been chosen for me.

I am a long ways away from the ‘Land of the free, home of the brave” where I felt shackles around me so tightly, paradoxically.

Here, despite the stares and confusion of the “carefree black woman” I can be whoever I choose to be simply because I can.

I can say whatever I choose simply because I can.

Judgement? Maybe.

Shackles? None.

I left those shackles in the land of the free that encompassed the lives of my ancestors, generations deep.

I’m a long ways away from those shackles I left behind in the “Land of the free, home of the brave”.

I now stand up top this brand new city that i feel an endlessness of possibilities in.

Night falls for the last time here in this city.

I go and see her this one last time as she shines with glistening golden lights caressing her beautiful frame of elegance and freedom.

To her I say not “goodbye” but “see you later” because one day, one day soon I will be back making them proud.

Josephine.

Baldwin.

Maya.

Grace.

Eartha.

I follow in their footsteps in a knowing that I will share my gifts with this wonderful city.

Until my return, I leave a french kiss to Becca and an uber ride to the airport.

I leave the lingering of a dreamer and the old “Tai” I once knew.

She is buried in the dirt of the Parisian, six feet under.

I leave not with a fluency of the French language, but feeling.

There is a new creativity within, a new love.

One thing I do not bring with me is the French cuisine, next time I will come bearing gifts of cuisine from my land, like seriously.

To you Paris, I leave a mark of temporarity. For my next mark on your city will be everlasting with love and grace and heart.

For generations and generations to come.

Back to the gloomy skies of the new land I call home for now.

I know you will await my return.

Au revoir Paris

Tai.

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