I’ve lived in 6 cities long enough to know them like the back of my hand: Kinshasa (then Zaire), Brazzaville (Rep. of Congo), Newark (Delaware-USA), Haifa (Israel), Paris (France) and Pasadena (California-USA).
Walking through Paris today was interesting because I instantly relived my time here in overheard bits of conversation, the whiiiiisssssshhhhhh of the departing metros from their platforms, the natural instinct I’ve always had about the city streets and finding my way around even the most obscure parts of the city.
You would think Paris is the hardest place to get over leaving. The city equivalent of “the one that got away” whom you’ll always wonder about, even when you’re happily married, one hopes not, but still. I may even have posted something about this a few years ago, when I was still in love with Paris, and had just moved to Pasadena, and was still feeling around the shape of my heart, worried that it was the shape of Paris, and would never conform to any other city.
In the end, Paris was just another city. It wasn’t hard to get over, but I love to write, and when I write about places, I get questions about how I can love all these cities, and do I love them equally, how can I bare to leave them if I love them so much, and how I can live in other places, don’t I feel like I’m cheating. It’s almost as if we were talking relationships, and we are. For city girls, the city is a relationship, just ask Carrie Bradshaw.
The truth is, I love and I leave, at least cities. I need it to keep writing, I need it to feel like I’m alive. I’m someone who cannot have a routine even for the most mundane of things, like driving to work, foods I eat, things I do, and so it naturally extends to places I live.
I’ve noticed that between two and three years of incessant exploration is my quota for a new city. After that time, I need a new city to explore, and maybe I can keep coming back to it. I just keep adding notches to my belt, and each one is like I never left it. there’s something deep inside of me that needs to feel all these comfort zones, all these cities all around the world that I can be dropped in, at a moment’s notice and be able to disappear in, swim along, and never be found, because I know them, like the back of my own hand, I know them with my eyes closed, I’d know them by sight.
I think that need is deep-seated in me. Much more powerful and deep-seated than the need to settle down and own a house. And I think that need comes from the fact that I was a kid who grew up astride five cultures: American and French, Middle-Eastern and African, and finally Baha’i, and I’m never comfortable choosing one. I’m sort of a bee that way, I like my garden vast and diverse.
What’s the opposite of a bee? A sedentary animal…Are there any? I wonder.