The view from down here, en Français

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I was in my preteens maybe, post middle school crushes but pre high school angst. My best friend-psuedo-big-sister-babysitter-slash-confidante was back from a whirl around England and we settled her homesickness with a film. A Room With a View. Period piece and James Ivory loveliness, bucolic and naive and romantic. And sexy, without the sex. Those university-aged lads playing in a pond sans trou? Mmm-hmm. It was enough for me, at the time, to realize this was where it was at. Europe. Boys. Story. Life.

This week I went to France, and my room with a view was an ancient roof looking upon an ancient wall with a square little paint chipped window. It wasn't much of a view actually, and the gray clouds and rainy days kept it that way, no matter what window you looked through. But still, as I walked the halls and peered through each one, I let my gaze linger. I am in France, I thought, and I can only see it through these windows.

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We did go to Paris for an evening. And I fell before we even left. Skinned my hands and knees so bad I was sure I'd need surgery and would beat my mother to the knee replacement prize. My coworkers/new friends picked me up and dusted me off and played sweet mothers and brothers to me. We had two hours in Paris, where it rained, where Notre Dame was closed, where we paid an obscene amount for tea. My knees hurt and my pride hung low and we maybe spent more time on trains than on any Parisian cobblestone streets. But the view, the lamps in the rain, the people staring at the face of Jesus without even realizing... it was something to behold, actually.

I fell again, on the last day. Good news: all my coworkers who missed the first fall were there to witness the second. I said, "I want to swear," and someone behind me said, "I would." Someone else suggested I wear shoes next time and a third person advised him I was likely to hit him for that. I sat on that last stair and said it, loud and good and so humiliated.


I was in France, and the view looked not so great from where I had just landed.