It was about 10:30pm the night before the Paris Marathon. I should have been in bed, but my head wouldn’t rest. It was my first time in Paris. We found a tiny backstreet wine bar and squashed ourselves into a corner between the bar and steamed up windows. A couple of locals greeted us and we got talking to the bar lady. My dad speaks a decent amount of French, so started a conversation with her, but she could tell the rest of us didn’t have a clue what they were talking about so insisted on speaking English. Dad had already told her we were there for the marathon and she looked admiringly as I blushed and hid in the wine list. She agreed with me that it was a good idea to have a glass of red “to settle my nerves”, so brought us over a bottle of her favourite and left us to it.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She was singing and laughing with some old fella hunched over the other end of the bar and dancing to swing music. I felt so happy. Her smile was infectious. My nerves melted away, and I don’t think it had much to do with the wine.
I’d heard that Parisians weren’t the most welcoming people, but that lovely lady and the others in that bar and the staff in our hotel and on the metro and the organisers of the race and fellow runners and supporters who lined the streets shouting “Allez, allez” as I struggled around the beautiful but challenging course were anything but. Paris welcomed us with open arms and I loved every minute of it.
What happened in Paris last night is unimaginable. I don’t have too much to say but I want to say something.
I spent today with my nieces and nephews, my sisters, mum, great Aunt and boyfriend. The kids knew something huge had happened but at their age don’t understand the details or reasons, or why us adults were talking while they were trying to watch Topsy & Tim. I was overwhelmed by their innocence and wished I could enjoy that obliviousness.
In Paris and Lebanon and all over the world, families are being torn apart through no fault of their own. They are fleeing wars and risking their lives for a chance of safety and then being faced with rejection and racial hatred. For so many, bombings and shootings are daily occurrences and we should be aware of that and acknowledge that, but that doesn’t make what happened last night in Paris any less tragic. No child deserves to lose a parent, no matter where they live or what colour their skin is. We are all human – geography doesn’t change that.
I feel strange tonight. Sad. Trying, but failing to be hopeful. I hope that nice wine lady is ok.
Keep your loved ones close.