A cool breeze shuffled my hair, causing deep chestnut strands to tangle in my eye lashes. As my purse swung loosely at my hip, I slowly lifted my hand to shield my defenseless eyes against the brilliant sun. I exhaled deeply, letting the awe and amazement settle in the pit of my stomach. Rays of sunlight ricocheted off the monstrous beauty standing yards in front of me. Bustles of people popped in and out of my immediate view, blurring into tiny dots of color as they clambered excitedly to the royal peak.
Years of dreaming through hours of tedious classes where teachers snapped at me in their perfect accents, where foreign students snickered behind their knowing eyes as I said, “No, I am not horny,” instead of, “No, I am not hot,” led me to this moment. I was in the city of love. Ah, Paris.
Cafes with their red tablecloths and outstretched umbrellas lined the street corners. Women spoke in quick seductive tongues luring the waiters back for just one more glass of blood red wine. Men lounged on wooden park benches smoking cigarettes and reading Le Monde. Puffs of smoke lingered over their dark heads as a cigarette hung lazily on their bottom lips. Children giggled and wove their soccer ball around the sprawled out couples who were relaxing in the rich green grass.
My heart ached and twisted with envy. They lived this life every day. Shopkeepers displayed their “bon bons” and yelled, “Mademoiselle!” while they exhibited their best produce. Open markets leaked the sweet, sticky smell of lush fruit. Pastry shops wafted the scent of fresh delicacies out the window. Chocolate stands displayed rich, mouth-watering desserts. Fleurs stacked sweet beautiful flowers on their windowsills. A city of classical music, baguettes, and wine.
My breath caught in my lungs as a strange sense of comfort and belonging set into my bones. I wanted to live here, I wanted to call this place home, I wanted to raise my children in this elegant city.
Unfortunately, my plane ticket sat ominously in my purse, continuously nagging and pinching at my mind, reminding me that this stay was not permanent.
Carefully, I began weaving my way through the children, families, and couples chattering carelessly. My mind raced and buzzed as each step brought me closer to the monument. Tourists and French alike squished me into a single formed line until my hands met the slick railing. My head tilted up, staring at the thousands of steps I was about to climb. My heart raced and my eyes blinked incessantly. I prayed that this was not a dream, that I had actually boarded that cramped plane and flown myself to France, that I had actually spent the last five days exploring the city, that I had finally achieved my deepest dream.
Closing my eyes I lifted one foot and slowly brought it down on the steps. I felt the powerful metal below my feet and knew, at that point in time, that I was climbing the Eiffel Tower, and at any moment I would reach the top and stare over the historic, golden city. A city of eighteenth century buildings, Victtorian, lush gardens, ancient castles, and contemporary museums of art.
The steps flew from the balls of my feet, perspiration clung chillingly to the nape of my neck, and every breath evoked a thousand tingling senses. Chattering, swirling, panting, I climbed until my legs formed into sticks of jello. Rays of heat radiated from the metallic floor and hovered around my ankles. I stumbled towards the outer railing, pushing through the mass of embracing couples.
My hands hit the burning metal, and my eyes clouded over. Hot, salty tears tumbled down my cheeks as an enchanted smile crossed my face. In the space of a thousand people the world came to a mind-altering halt. The Parisian language lazily filtered in and out of my mind, dripping groggily, as I swayed in and out of the afternoon breeze. Dazed, I picked up the camera hanging loosely around my sticky neck.
The camera churned as it printed out the Polaroid. My fingers slipped around its edges as I flapped it in the cool air, drying the ink. Slowly, I turned it over. The colors were vibrant, the images where crisp, the memory was magnificent, but more than magnificent, it was rare. Rare that I could possibly be in this elegant city, rare that I had this amazing opportunity, rare that I could have this piece of evidence. A broad smile engulfed my face. It was better than a diamond, better than jade; this was my own rarity — a memory forever forged onto timeless paper.