Preface: The story continues. If you haven't done so, read In The Name of Self Love to discover what or who led me to my first trip to Paris.
Ahmad kept track of my every step during my 12 hour journey to Paris which included a short layover in Reykjavik (Iceland). I think he was doubting if I would actually show up. But for anyone who follows me on Snapchat, you know I wasn't playing. I was on my way to Paris no matter what.
I arrived to the 5ème arrondissement, known as the Latin Quarter, completely exhausted. Before I could collapse on the bed, Ahmad made a detailed game plan on meeting the following day. He chose the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg. His main concern was finding me considering his cell phone service was shoddy at best, and he may not be able to call me. My solution was to wear my hair down. I recently colored it a deep purple, which Ahmad loved. I was certain that I would be the only one in Paris with purple hair . . . I was an easy find.
The October Saturday morning in Paris was magical. I walked to Jardin du Luxembroug taking in the french air. I swear that air healed me of every ounce of anxiousness. I was ready to meet Ahmad but I suddenly thought, "What if I don't like him?" So in an attempt to control the situation I took out a hairband and pulled my purple locks into a bun. He wouldn't easily find me, buying me time.
I walked no more than a few yards and there he was. Whatever was on his cell phone had his complete attention and he had no idea that I walked by. And I kept walking. The photographer in me took over and I was more concerned with capturing my moments than meeting Ahmad. After 10 minutes I decided to stop being rebellious and let my hair down. And no sooner had I let my hair down when I saw him walking toward me.
Ahmad is tall, sheepishly handsome with a smile that melted my frozen heart. We smiled like kids at the carnival as we moved into the most awkward hug I've ever been given. I'm pretty sure after that hug I was frowning. But I wanted to be friendly and open so we sat down and talked. Eavesdroppers must have been baffled at the english-french-arabic conversation between us. In a few minutes we resumed the usual banter we developed through our language exchange sessions. It was clear that Ahmad and I were friends and there would be nothing more than that. Needless to say, I was relieved. Going back to the States heartbroken was not in my itinerary, so platonic friendship with Ahmad was going to be emotionally easy on me.
"Going back to the States heartbroken was not in my itinerary . . . "
I ended our afternoon short since I was getting restless. After all, I was in Paris. Ahmad, bless his heart, understood my need to be free in the streets. He promised to call later so we can meet again. And we walked our separate ways.
After a full afternoon of exploration, I was suffering from jet lag. I headed back to my hotel for a much needed nap. And did I nap, it was nearly 8pm when I woke up. I immediately checked my phone and it shouldn't surprise you that Ahmad never called. Instead of being disappointed, I started updating my social media and returning messages I had been ignoring.
I noticed more messages on my language exchange app. I responded to help Nouri, who immediately asked to call me so he could better explain what he was trying to accomplish. We went through the usual questions and ice-breaker conversation when he told me he lived in Paris. "OH, I'm in Paris too!", I replied. Nouri was in complete shock when I gave him the abridged version of why I came to Paris in the first place.
"WOW, you are brave. To come all this way for a man."
"Brave or crazy?", I asked.
"Maybe both?" We laughed.
I told him I was more disappointed because I didn't want to be roaming the streets of Paris alone, especially at night. I had my hopes that I would be able to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the night sky.
Without hesitation he asked, "Well, what are you doing right now?"
"Okay, then I'm taking you to the Eiffel Tower. I will meet you at the Luxembourg metro station in 15 minutes, yes?"
I grabbed my bag and headed down the spiral staircase to the hotel lobby and practically ran out the door. There was no time to think about what I was doing. Meeting a complete stranger and heading out into the streets of an unfamiliar city. But I was in Paris and I was in love, in love with the City and the possibilities that await for the next week. And it only just begun.