I am leaving France. I am still in France, in my bed in Toulouse, but I am leaving. My bags wait for me by the door. My room, bare. Only my food remains in the cupboard (coffee grounds, tea and in the fridge, of course, chocolate mousse). I began leaving this morning, when I did all my “lasts”: last walk around town, last ride on the metro, last glass (or two or three) of French wine in France. I felt my face wilt the last time I looked at the statue of a man (who always has birds resting on his head) that sits in the center of Place Wilson. The man, Pèire Goudouli, lived and died in Toulouse. He wrote poetry in Occitan. And now, birds fluff their feathers on his stone skull.
I leave behind a crate of medicine, marking all the days and nights I lied in this bed, coughing and sniffling, wondering if I was sick because of the smoke I inhaled every morning while passing by the middle school on my street.
I leave behind mugs and backpacks and dead skin cells in the form of dust. Whoever sleeps here next will thank me for all the free paper and shampoo in the file cabinet.
I leave behind a grammar book and half the words in it that I have already forgotten.
Bed is an interesting place to be while in the process of leaving. In bed, with your eyes closed, you can feel like you are anywhere. But tonight, I feel like I am here, in Toulouse, in my home. Bed feels much more concrete of a place when I am aware that tomorrow I will leave it forever. This is what it feels like to go to sleep next to someone whose heart you know you will break the next morning. You are leaving them, even though you have not moved. The process has begun.
And so I play “Goodnight, Moon” with the contents of my life. I say goodnight and goodbye to new loved ones and a life of leisure that left me with enough time to honestly process, reflect and worry over who I am. Or rather, who I will become. Who I am is not a problem: I am in college, I am in France, I am good. I can locate myself (in a general way) a second past the moment I lose my stillness. It’s physics, really.
I find it much more comforting to look back and let go of my beautiful memories in Toulouse (the gourmet meals, the evenings sitting by the river, every walk I’ve ever taken) than to imagine how I will carry them into the future. I worry about my career, of course, and what I will do immediately after college; about the kind of life I will structure for myself (time off and hobbies and marriage and kids); and who I will be inside. What will I believe? Will my biases still be there, or will they be redistributed according to my new experiences? To what will I say, “Never” or “Always”?
Part of me is excited to leave the endless wrestling with myself behind. It’s tedious and anxiety-producing and feels like the work of a heady grad student who can discuss hypotheticals all day. On more than one occasion, I have seen the sunrise. My life of leisure, at times, felt woefully un-leisurely, all at the fault of my incessant and dogged brain. But how many can say that had 5 months to contemplate their lives without having to suspend them at a retreat or some ashram in India? I still went to school; I still worked at a bar; I still spent time with friends. But abstained (unwillingly) from familiar, local comforts. I had to replace myself in Toulouse, which led me to wondering exactly who it was that I was remaking.
But creating and discovering a self takes work, and a hard worker needs sleep. It’s a cop-out, I know, the blogger’s equivalent of Puck’s epilogue from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:
“… you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend…”
If you pardon, we will mend. It’s exactly what I need to do after half a year’s worth of self-reflection: sleep on it.