Or, plutôt, France vs. the United States. La France contre les Etats-Unis. Less than two months since my departure from Paris and reintegration into American suburbia, I feel so empty. I feel so dry. There’s a colour on the palette of my being which is missing. I look through the kaleidoscope and where I expect to see a rainbow, instead there’s just black and white. Noir et blanc. Whereas my time in Paris left me feeling so utterly full and complete, my days here in Ann Arbor are dull and lacking. Here, there is an absence. An absence of Intimacy, of Intellect, of Art, and of Love.
There are advantages and disadvantages of every society, they tell me. You can’t have it all — don’t complain and accept your situation. But I have tried, I protest. I was content to return home, happy to see the familiar, relieved to know my way around. As much as I try, though, I cannot feel that this is my country. As much as I try, I cannot feel that I belong here. Yes, I was born and raised on American soil. Yes, I have benefited from all that my country has provided me. Yet my heart never sings the way it does when I walk through the marchés aux puces in Paris or stroll along the Seine. The U.S. is in love with technology, globalisation, the future, capitalism. France is a country of history, culture, art, music. On the distinction between Paris and New York City, the French-Cuban writer Anaïs Nin said it best:
Sometimes I think of Paris not as a city but as a home. Enclosed, curtained, sheltered, intimate. The sound of rain outside the window, the spirit and the body turned towards intimacy, to friendships and loves. One more enclosed and intimate day of friendship and love, an alcove. Paris intimate like a room. Everything designed for intimacy. Five to seven was the magic hour of the lovers’ rendezvous. Here it is the cocktail hour.
New York is the very opposite of Paris. People’s last concern is with intimacy. No attention is given to friendship and its development. Nothing is done to soften the harshness of life itself. There is much talk about the ‘world,’ about millions, groups, but no warmth between human beings. They persecute subjectivity, which is a sense of inner life; an individual’s concern with growth and self-development is frowned upon.
Just as Anaïs was forced out of France twice — once by her parents’ divorce and another by the Second World War, I find myself trapped here in America against my volition. I find myself preoccupied over grades, scholarships, internships, student organisations. But my artist’s soul longs to be released. I long to join the ranks of street performers on les rues de Paris. I wish to follow in the footsteps of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain and many more American writers who left their homeland for the City of Light. Because yes, mais oui, Paris is the city of light. À Paris, the artist’s eyes are opened. Her heart is warmed, her fingers relaxed, her pen flowing. À Paris, the created become the creators. À Paris, life is lived in colour.
Insha’Allah, I will return.