Where is the goddamned bottom? Every time she thinks she's hit the lowest point before the rise, she just sinks farther down. In the drift and spin she struggles to keep a grip on the pieces of her life.
She sees them: The frustrated faces of those who love her. And she hears them: Their irritated voices. She "let go," didn't she? So they can't understand why she's still limping along.
She wishes she knew. Nothing that's ever worked before is working now. She goes on long runs in the valley and bails when the distance feels too hard. She sleeps deeply for a night and then spends two staring at the ceiling, the wall, the clock. She buries all the reminders she has of him deep inside a drawer only to feel his absence more keenly with their disappearance.
And she wonders if this is what happens when someone like that walks away ~ if it rearranges the molecules in your brain and makes you into someone different. If it breaks you in a way that can never be fixed.
Then one day it comes upon her like a force: The desire ~ the need ~ to run away. She's never done that before. Escape.
So one morning she shoves all the work on her desk to the side. There's no waiting. Twenty minutes later she has a plane ticket and flat rental. Paris. Eight nights.
Then she moves on to the next task. She's long coveted one and the lay of claim it represents. It's what she wanted so deeply from him. But as she has her whole life, she claims herself when no one else will.
It's red leather with a silver O ring and buckle. It will become her signature.
It will be the symbol of the possession she takes of her own body, mind, heart, and soul.
She imagines what it will be like to disappear into the heartbeat of Paris. Write in its cafés. Walk its streets, see its sights, find its rhythms. Wander its markets in search of ingredients she will transform into evening supper and then retire to a local for a glass of red at the end of each day. She imagines what it will be like to be free from the confines of her own life.
She fancies herself that stranger people will notice; she'll be recognized by the flash of red at her throat, on her wrist, as she wends through the city, speaking French in an accent no one can quite place. Who is she? What's her story? But she will be oblivious to everything except soaking in whatever it is Paris will have to offer her, whatever it needs her to see and feel while she is there.
She dares to imagine what it will be like to come back transformed.
A dear friend points out that she will be travelling almost exactly at the equinox, the change of season. That hadn't even occurred to her. She finds comfort in that bit of synchronicity.
And yet she's skeptical about the idea of moving on. Does one ever from someone who reached into such deep places? She suspects the best that can be done is to hold the loss in such a way that it doesn't prevent forward motion and keeps the heart open just enough for what it does not yet know.
Until then she anticipates being embraced by the magic everyone assures her awaits in the City of Lights. Most are aghast that she, of all people, is almost forty-five and has never been. Maybe it's because she's never truly needed Paris until now.
Maybe she will walk its cobblestones and boulevards, sit in its squares and on its terraces, drink in its art and architecture, meander along its riverbanks and alleys, and as she sinks deeper and deeper into its very essence she will hear the city whisper to her the word she has so longed to hear: "Mine."