Well, I’ve made it one year in Paris. “Mon anniversaire,” as the French might say, though really that actually means “birthday.” I guess that makes it one of those “faux amis,” or “fake friends,” which is what you call a French word that looks a lot like an English word but doesn’t quite mean the same thing.
Mindy taught me that. Oh, Mindy—talk about a vraie amie. She’s been such a beacon for me over the past 12 months as I’ve built this new life for myself in a new place with new people in it. You know, they call this place the City of Lights, but Mindy? She has truly shone the brightest of them all.
To celebrate my first year here, Mindy and I decided to munch macarons aboard one of those Parisian riverboats. It was so romantic, taking in all those sights—the bridges, the buildings, the lights flickering with every person that passed before them. I didn’t know what anything was, but Mindy was there to tell me. What’s that? “Why, that’s the Louvre.” And that? “Emily, that’s a bridge.”
As we floated towards the Latin Quarter, or “Quartier Latin” as Mindy calls it, I noticed a big, hulking structure that reminded me of all the other imposing stone cathedrals I’ve seen littered throughout my new hometown. Something was off about this one, though. It was as if it were missing something, as if someone had lopped its top off. I asked Mindy what the deal was, and she said, “Girl, that’s Notre Dame.”
After googling Notre Dame, I learned that it was actually quite famous and that it had nearly burned to the ground a few years ago. I also learned that the words “Notre Dame” quite literally translate to “our lady.” We might have lost vagina, girls, but this one’s all ours.
Notre Dame. Our lady. There she was but also wasn’t—so much of our lady, yet none of her at all. It struck me as odd, the more I thought about it, this idea that a woman could be somewhere without being anywhere at all. Turn her once, and she’s a crone. Turn her twice, and then she’s gone.
I looked up to Mindy to remark on this only to find that she wasn’t there. In fact, I was alone on the top of this boat, floating through this city, its every window and lamp alight without another soul to be found.
“Quelle weird,” I tried to say, but no sound came out. I felt no motion in my face, no jaws hinging or unhinging. I reached my fingers up but felt no lips where they should have been, felt no teeth, no tongue. All that was there was a hole, about the size of one of my fingers. I circled it for a moment then plunged a finger inside. I wormed another one in and then, knowing but not knowing, pulled.
Emily is a Paris-based marketing professional. This is her Jezebel debut.