Paris is a strobe light of memories for me, disconnected memories from disconnected days, floating in the general memory of being happier than I’d ever been before. It seems like another world now, when I look back on the trip I took with my mom and my grandma.
There is one night that I remember a bit more clearly. The sky seemed entirely black, like an inky infinity stretching out above us, a bare stretch of velvet. I suppose it was because the bright lights dotted throughout the city blocked out the stars, but that didn’t really matter to me. Paris shone brighter than any star. It was exhilarating to be out at night, something I’d never done at the ripe age of eleven.
My mom and grandma were tired, their feet aching, but I danced around the streets like I had nothing to lose as we walked along a river, the water grey and murky. There were sugar cubes crammed in my pockets, my secret snack that I’d been munching on throughout the day. They fueled my nervous energy. That, and the fact that I was still jet-lagged and thus sleep-deprived.
The river we walked beside was the Seine, a rippling body of water that wound into the distance until my young eyes couldn’t follow its path. I was full of bubbles, carbonation. We had just gone to dinner, and I was wearing my first pair of heels, a gift from my grandmother. They were clear, and probably half a size too small, but I didn’t care. I felt pretty. We kept walking, bouncing late night jokes and silliness off of each other, until I looked up and saw it.
We had been on the Eiffel Tower just that afternoon, and although it had been exhilarating, seeing it in daylight was nothing like seeing it at night. It towered above us, blending into the dim night seamlessly. You could only see it as negative space, black lines against stark light, as if it was no more than a figment of my imagination.
I wanted to run towards it and so I did, unsteady in my shoes, tripping as I climbed up stone stairs. My mom and grandma followed, in good spirits. We reached the base and I grinned widely, jabbering on about how everyone in school was going to be jealous of me for seeing this, for being up so late, for being the only kid in sixth grade to go to Paris.
A small shape ran out from under one of the many concrete blocks that surrounded the tower and acted as benches. I was enchanted, because of course I knew what it was. A mouse. I took to chasing it, giggling like the innocent child I was, until my grandmother snapped at me that that was a rat and I better not put my hands on one of those dirty things. That put a bit of a damper on my spirit, and I sat down, yawning. I wanted to know when we were going back to the hotel, to bed, but my mom just shook her head and smiled, telling me to wait.
So I waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed like the waiting would never end, that we would just sit on these blocks next to the Eiffel Tower until the sun rose and then we would go get a Parisian breakfast. The minutes ticked by. Eleven forty. Eleven fifty. Eleven fifty five. Eleven fifty nine. Then the clock ticked to twelve, midnight.
I rubbed my eyes, and when I opened them I gasped in disbelief.
The tower had lit up. The whole thing actually started to glow, a sparkling that had me springing to my feet and watching it in wonder. There are only a few times I’ve felt the way I did watching the golden lights of the Eiffel Tower. When I kissed Maggie, my girlfriend of six months, for the first time, cramped in the back of her car in the Country Market parking lot. The first time I drove alone, when I rolled the windows down and turned up my music and grinned so hard my cheeks hurt. Pulling on the strings of my violin so hard I thought they would snap as I played along to Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Opus 85.
I stood under the tower, feeling like I would never see such beauty again, and I smiled. I asked my mom over and over if she was seeing this, really seeing it, and she told me she was, but I didn’t completely believe her. There were tears in my eyes, and I didn’t know why, just chalked it up to lack of sleep and the chill of the wind.
There are so many moments in my life I could’ve written about, ones that may seen more significant, more life-changing. But there are moments that fill you with pure joy, that remind you how large and beautiful the world really is. I stood under the Eiffel Tower as it glittered, bracing myself against the midnight wind, looking up until I finally had to blink.