Paris Journal #1(Expat Generation)
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Paris Journal #1(Expat Generation)

A screenshot of a moment in time narrated through the eyes of an expat.


Paris Journal #1

By Javier Calleja Erdmann

A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is a wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one's life. -Alain de Botton

The visit started like countless other museum visits, showing a ticket at the gate and plunging in to discover the richness that would be displayed in front of your eyes, out of its natural context and in a plain and white environment, as empty as it was shiny. Sully had visited the museum extensively and knew a great deal about the vast collections encompassing the endless display chambers, so we decided she should be my guide. Of course, it wasn't my first time at the Louvre. I had been there before, like all tourists will inevitably be on a "sejour" of their adventurous voyage into the magical world of Paris. Going from one big attraction to the next, or drinking a hot chocolate or tea at an over priced, overrated café, not realizing that the true charm and beauty of the place that surrounds them comes from the simple quotidian uses that it serves so many. The simplicity and humanness of that which us foreigners put up on a pedestal.

I had been at the Louvre, like all tourists will, and I had walked through the wing of Italian renaissance paintings and marveled at the masters, and I had made the long and bustling cue in front of the Mona Lisa, waiting my turn to come up close to the world's best known painting and flash the same selfie in front of it as every other foreigner in Paris. It is quite fascinating to dissect the bizarre extents of the necessity to "be a part of the group" that our species possesses, this necessity which will lead countless humans to post pictures of the same three objects to prove that they're a part of whatever lofty idea they seem to believe they rank in. All that these countless posts we see on social media seem to say is, "I came from San Francisco. I took a 14 hour flight that advanced my time zone eight hours and completely wrecked my metabolism for two days, so I could wait on a cue rubbing sweat with strangers and flash a selfie in front of the Mona Lisa". And everybody applauds it. "I didn't even get a chance to look at the thing, as soon as I took the picture I was swept aside by a wave of frenzied camera holders. To be honest I don't even know what it looks like in real life. From what I've seen in pictures — not mine of course, as the lighting is more focused on my duck face — I personally think it's quite ugly too, but it is SO renowned, it MUST be magnificent. That's why I took the picture." And now, what are your plans? "Well, I'm hopping back on the plane for another 14 hours, with more souvenirs than I know what to do with and no more money. But you should see the rest of my trip pictures. Oh, they're so wonderful. Look, this one's in front of the Eiffel Tower. That's a croissant in my hand. But french people pronounce it funny, they gurgle a lot and have their vowel sounds all mixed up." So, what did you think of France? "Oh, it was very French."

Sully and I walked down the museum halls, stopping in front of works we were now seeing in an all new light. Sully talked about the different styles and elements of the paintings and sculptures, the stories behind certain pieces, and the life stories of the artists behind some others. We continued to walk, down one hall, up the next, winding through the bustling museum, looking at the pieces, and yet, as we passed each one, looking a little less. We walked, as our mindsets unraveled and elevated themselves, and the museum walls stretched and the pieces on the sides became a blur, like velocity limit signs on the sides of a highway, endless possibilities winding down and away from us as we walked. We were not talking about the art anymore, we were talking about everything and anything, or perhaps nothing at all. We kept walking, and somewhere in the middle of a museum hall Sully suddenly turned to me and asked; "Do you want to sit down?"

It seemed an agreeable thing to do, and our feet had become worn down by endless museum exhibits, so we found a spot to sit down on the crowded museum benches. It was a round sofa, and there was just enough space for two to squeeze in, on the side, looking down the hall, and not towards the exhibits on any side. The roof was made of glass — either that or it had enormous windows — as the light coming in from above fell down plentifully, in beautiful cascades of light that gleamed off the artwork.

"Where is your mind at?" Sully asked me.

I cocked my head to the side in deep perplexity, as I realized I did not know. Perhaps it was because the question was broad — was she referring to what my thoughts were at the moment — or the particular places my train of thought had invested long and timely visits to frequently — or perhaps, something else entirely? But it was a good question, or a least I thought it was so for it captivated me entirely, and I decided I would attempt to answer it. I found my train of thought, and I followed it. I followed it down a swirling path that came in and out of the endless chambers of my brain, moving from one doorway to the next, and down long halls and across, ignoring the art pieces on the walls, and instead focusing itself on its path, on itself, and on nothing at all. And as I followed it, I narrated my journey, laying out the thoughts that each chamber's memories triggered, the dreams, the hopes, the aspirations, the let downs, and the continuity of it all. The words seeped out of my mouth, and Sully took them in and replied in a similar fashion, and her words triggered my journey into even deeper and more obscure rooms which I then narrated, which in turn sent her down to others she narrated back. People walked by, unknown foreign tourists, and known friends and classmates, who would stop by with a laugh and to ask us if we were okay. "You've been sitting here for hours."

We kept talking, unperturbed, as the sun rolled through the sky out the enormous windows, and the plentiful light started to diminish outside, and the deafening bustling of the people surrounding us quieted down to a whisper. And yet we realized none of this, completely unaware as we were of our surroundings, as we talked and talked, about one thing and about many, about everything, and about nothing. Perhaps we weren't even talking at all.

"Excusez-moi madame et monsieur, il faut que vous partiez, le musée est fermé." The museum guard's words rang in the air like a startling whisper, and me and Sully woke up from our long journey to look around at each other and at ourselves and at the empty and darkening museum hall. Time had stood still for hours, but now the machinery had spurred to life with a start and was back to grinding, as the hands started ticking their way around the clock once more. The guard pointed us towards the nearest exit, and we bustled towards it, with the awkward jerky movements of someone attempting to be brisk just after waking up from a deep stupor. As we skidded down the hall with the guard closing in on our feet, I chanced to look to the side at an opening chamber.

"Look at that," I nodded, pointing towards the side. Our eyes fixated on the empty chamber opening up before us, and we stopped dead on our tracks. The guard saw it all and understood, and told us we could find another exit if we went down that chamber.

So we turned and walked in and looked around the empty room. There on the walls were many timeless master pieces, in all their intimacy. And in the middle of it all, and in all its plain ugliness, there was the Mona Lisa, at ease inside its frame, unbothered by the cameras, finally alone.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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