I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while I was studying abroad in Paris. Having spent most of my life thinking I’d find myself in Paris, I was jarred to realize I was instead cold, lonely and afraid of absolutely everyone. French people, with their slight bodies, potting soil colored hair and rumpled denim were nothing like what I had imagined. The language was hard, and I was without a sense of humor or orientation. I got groped in the metro and laughed at at Le Bon Marche and though I wanted to try drinking wine I was too afraid I’d order the wrong thing to say anything except “un café.”
Instead I read the Goblet of Fire and then went back to read the other Harry Potter books I had missed before it, watched Forest Gump subtitled in French and fixated on designer handbags I was too poor or scared of speaking French with the sales people to actually purchase. I called my mother from a sunny telephone booth on the Rue De Saint Jacques and complained about the cold.
When the weather warmed up so did I, and by walking rather than always taking the trains, I began to see Paris as a whole instead of a series of subway stops on the number one train. I learned to cook, ate a mango for the first time, shopped for shoes on Le Rue Moufftard and tried fondue. I went to museums alone and with friends, took weekend trips, babysat and figured out how to get through the Chatlet metro station without help.
And then it was time to come home, and as I was boarding Air France the security guard said “excuse me, Miss, you’ve left you’re notebook,” and quickly, expertly I said, “Oh thank you, I would have been so upset to loose it. It’s a long flight,” and walked stunned down the narrow hall to the plane, wishing I was walking in the other direction.