i went to paris

started on: Sun Sep 24 2023 11:46:29 GMT+0200 (Central European Summer Time)

headshot of my face smiling in paris

hey its milo! this one was taken on the second or first day

You know Paris is always THE cultural capital of Europe - with the great thinkers, artists, ingenues, socialites, scholars and personalities having made it their home over the course of history, it was certainly an easy choice to decide to visit it. I admit with no shame that on my own I probably would've never made my way there - without getting into detail i am of the "seen a picture = been there" mentality - so it was by a fortunate combination of work-related ennui and my directionless need to so something, that I found myself saying yes immediately when a friend approached me about a weekend trip, in early september.

now me and trips-with-friends have a strained relationship, as i found that i start deteriorating socially and in behavior the longer i am in a space that other people also reside in. ill give you a rundown: the first day i am in great spirits - and my companions are as well. The next day i am drained - even if we have separate rooms i still am I sleeping and existing in the presence of people, with no outlet for my usual strangeness of flapping my arms, singing loudly and generally behaving abnormally. that is also when the other people start to feel strain of our time together, they are tired and get annoyed at my increasing unnormal behavior, until they snap - and that brings a cascading reaction that leaves me silently crying myself to sleep over my isolation, as my brain blows whatever comment they made ("please, can you be quiet just for a minute, it's warm and my head hurts when you sing so loud") out of proportion. It leads to this: third day and i am overthinking my every action - frequently asking the irritating "are you mad at me?" question. only when we say goodbye at the train station i relax again, as i put in my headphones and start dancing and humming along to the music right there on the street. the burden of having to anticipate and fit in with the other persons disappears - i am free.

and yet, despite me having an "episode" on every trip with my peers in recent memory, i hardly say no to one, hell, i even get out of my way to organize something at every opportunity. with mixed results, as ive learned that most things just don't happen.

view from my flixbus window

my bus ride from munich to strasbourg

i'll give you an example: a recurring theme during this trip with June, as I will call her, was that we just had to get a tattoo. i find tattoos cool as hell, June does seem to like them as well, but she has this funny characteristic where she'll deem arbitrary things as "cringe" and will judge people who engage in something cringe. i absolutely couldn't care less. the first point of discussion was: what kind of tattoo should we get, as she doesn't want to have something "basic". after some back and forth "it can't be cringe" vs. "i genuinely don't care, i just want a tatoo", we settled on one of the dried and pressed four-leaf clovers she keeps in her phonecase. finally. we decide to get it on the last day (that's when the feeling of the inevitable failure set in by the way) because if there're any complications it won't ruin the entire trip. well, that plus the opening hours of... everything in paris seem to be in constant, frustrating flux. so, the last day rolls around, with all of it's awful emotion-draining residue, and after two closed shops we find a studio. the lady is super nice, but as it turns out the base price is 30 euros more than my friend is willing to pay, which is an issue that she has to be fair, and that's how it always ends. we don't get a tattoo.
It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

i'm getting ahead of myself. unquestionably, if i had to rank all the small moments and situations that i witnessed in paris, the ride there with flixbus is definitely in the top ten. see, flixbus does offer direct connections to munich - but those were too expensive, i didn't want to be shilling out more than i needed to, so I picked the one-change budget option. said change was in strasbourg - a beautiful town judging by the piss-less bus station i saw - in france.
here's a fun fact about me: from the grades 7 to 10 i've had to take french at school with, what i am convinced was, the most incompetent teacher in a 100 km area of the school. so bad in fact, that from those four years, i only remember "je ne parle pas francois" (I don't speak french), which got plenty of use during my stay.

so I get out of the bus after a good five hour drive, knowing that i have one hour to scope out the joint and find the mission objective: the shitter and the stop my next bus is gonna be at. apparently, the frenchmen have not yet discovered the digital timetable technology yet - but to be fair the germans only adapted in relatively recently - and my bladder is giving me hell, so i start wandering around with my scarab blue suitcase, looking for a public toilet. reasonably there has to be one on a long distance bus station, and once a nice homeless guy directs me to an open one, im safe.
around i notice an older lady, visibly distressed, that at some point approaches me. she spoke neither english not french, and a bit of fiddling with google translate resulted in the recognition that she's probably romanian. that and she doesn't have a ticket, and she needs to get to paris - hey just like me! so i brokenly let translate suggest to her that maybe she can buy a ticket in the bus, and having finished this awkward communication i move away to look for my bos, and she trails after me. at some point i am so frustrated with the lack of directions that i ask some young guy in english if he knows where the flixbuses go from. surprise - its my lucky day, he speaks german french AND english, also some of the mystery language the woman uses, since they exchange a few sentences. Maybe she does know french, idk, i for sure don't. so we get to talking, and within five minutes of conversation he shows me his vacation photos - a cruise in greece. its nice but overbearing, so i sigh with relief when the bus arrives. as i stand in line with the woman and Pierre, the talkative guy, but then the woman turns distressed, and we manage to find out that the bus drives does not allow her to buy the ticket there. Pierre boards, and I offer the woman to buy the ticket for her, and she enthusiastically agrees. after we board, there's some commotion on the bus, some passengers have way too much luggage, and they refuse to leave, so the police has to get involved, and as a result im forced to make small talk with Pierre for two hours. it's not like i dont like talking to people... but i have trouble doing so for long periods of time, or when im unprepared. im both in this case. its torturous to pretend to be engaged, but its ruder to not. im glad when he gets off at his stop and i get to listen to music

So here're the mistakes I made. theyre not bad, but dumb and caused by my own fucking idiocy:

  1. i buy the woman her ticket, she's so happy, she hugs me and pushes some money into my hand. i, missseeing how much she's given me pull out my wallet and give her change. she's confused but accepts and boards with me. on the bus i realize she's given me less than the ticket cost but all she had. its not about the money but im too quick, to hasty - its not the first time im careless with money
  2. we board. i look in my app, and OH NO! my return ticket is booked for the wrong day, the day after checking out from my and June's hotel! ok ok really quick, cancel booking (minor fee) and rebook (ticket price). at the hotel June tells me were leaving the day my original trip back was planned, that i misread the calendar, so i have to rebook, paying the price of the ticket again. i lost 200EUR this way. at least i averted disaster - being stranded in paris. small mercies

all in all it was a good deed i did, and the woman could get to paris.
it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

two hands next to each other. one thin and wiry one normal looking

June's hand (right) next to mine (left)

cheeses in plastic boxes and some crackers sitting on a bench

the budget charcuteries were fun. you get to make your own!

in paris we walk a lot. there's the standard checking out of the popularest tourist attractions, figuring out where to next and where to go eat... June's as fucked up as I am, though differently. she's been struggling with anorexia for a long time, and im in this weird situation, where i dont want to push her to eat, because she told me that doesn't help, but i dont want to eat alone. i also have some bad thoughts about food, and seeing her warped self-control fills me with jealousy. im not proud of it. but its hot outside, we do 30.000 steps a day, and since i and June both have the kind of the indecisiveness of 'i don't care, you choose' its a straining process, for me at least. we just get some groceries and snacks and eat them in parks. for four days. the budget charcuteries we call them, we still laugh about them
there's still this uneasiness, for me, because i can see she's exhausted, but she's pushing herself to walk more. i cant begin to imagine what's in her head - does she feel guilty for eating? is she trying to meet a calorie/excersize goal? unintentionally it puts me on edge. i cant think or talk about food because that'll make her guilty, so shell insist on getting some food. we go to a grocery store, and she turns her nose up at the food, 'because its too expensive' (she keeps complaining that she keeps getting money that she doesn't know what to do with) and 'that she's not hungry' (she probably isn't) so yknow. call me selfish but i feel bad too, for wanting to eat when she can go so long without (its an illness. im not proud of those thoughts) its a process, but its not her fault.
it also leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

the heat is getting to us. that and the food thing and my indecisiveness. she's a bit in a bad mood, but i cant blame her. its the late afternoon, i kept worrying all day that im doing something wrong, annoying her by my indecisiveness. She asks me a question about politics, or general ideologies, and notes that my answer is different from what i said the day before. inconsistent, she calls me. it hurts. i feel bad. i dont understand why one moment im absolutely convinced of one thing, but another day i give a different explanation, both are true to me at the same time. i am an inconsistent person i guess. i keep saying, yesterday i was someone different, and if she's noticed it has to be true. its really hot, no clouds a beautiful blue sky. were going back to the hostel, after some 'lunch'. she doesn't want to spend money on train fares, and i dont really care, so we walk back those few kilometers. im bored, im always bored, but she doesn't want to talk. i understand she's exhausted and wrestling with things in her head that i dont understand, so i sing to myself, not loud enough for people on the street to hear. singing has always brought me comfort, made me feel happy, so when im unsure of the situation, when im on edge like that i hum and sing - for confidence. she can hear it too, and at some point she snaps "You're being annoying. Please stop." she says. haha, being annoying my biggest fear. she means it politely, i cant be mad at her.

cheeses in plastic boxes and some crackers sitting on a bench

beautiful view from out hotel balcony

i stifle a panic attack. i stifle another one. cant be having those on the street because of an innocuous comment. that night, when i shower, i cut myself with a box cutter i brought with me. its childish, but i want her to see, so i wipe the blood from my thighs with one of the white floor towels, and leave it there. i dont want her to know... but i do what her to know that she hurt me. i want for her to think of me not as a friend but as a person. dunno if she notices, but i cant sleep that night anyway. our room in the hostel is on the fifth floor, and i sit till 5am on the balcony, listening to sad music and contemplating jumping. it'd be easy, little to no survival chance. i can't do it.
instead, i get on my laptop and in a flurry of productiveness i create a map of all things we could do on the last two days here. i think im apologizing to her, for being me - indecisive, inconsistent and irrational.
i feel not like myself the last two days.

and just as it always goes, we spend a last half day at some cafe, she drinks it black i drink tea, and we say our goodbyes. for the first time in days i can walk while listening to music - i love this so much - and i drag my suitcase to the flixbus station. the trip back is uneventful, but back at home, i need to recover for a day, so i stay home from work. same old, same old

its funny, afterwards she tells me she remembers the trip fondly, that it completely changed her outlook on paris and that she had a great time. i didnt. im too much in my own head i guess, too focused on my own shortcomings, but i wanted to kill myself on this stupid trip. but it was because i thought she was mad at me, so.... how was it, really? objectively?

ironically im finishing this again on a trip with June, this time in heidelberg... almost five months after. i think im in a better place now, but im still constantly apologizing, im still inconsistent, im still... ill-fitting. my eating issues have gotten worse (for my head), i have a plan again for the next few years, and yet i feel empty. on edge. so maybe trips like that aren't for me, and im destined for loneliness after all