I only had two days left in Paris, and that put me in something of a funk. Life is so much better when you’re where you belong, or when you know when you’ll be back. Right now, I really don’t know. I tend to visit every year, but to be completely honest, I need to work on my budget. Having an incurable neurological disorder has put a burden on my finances that I never could have expected or planned for, so the money I could be saving for a trip will be going towards incredibly expensive medication. Once I get back home and get all my accounts settled, I hope to figure out a way to plan my next trip. But maybe there will be no Paris next year. How awful. I’m sure I’ll go somewhere, California undoubtedly, but when will I walk again along the streets I adore with irrational passion? I suppose I shouldn’t dwell on that now.
I set off for the Pantheon, since it’s one of those tourist stops I’ve never even thought about stopping at. I wonder why it is that we don’t do the things near us? I’ve never been to Lake Okaboji or gone to that old theme park back home. I’m always planning to go over to LA or New York instead. So, I set off on my journey and was not the least bit disappointed by what I found inside that one-time church. The ceiling stretches out incredibly high, the light streams in beautifully, and the architecture is comparable to nowhere else in Paris. The Pantheon puts Sacré-Cœur to shame. I really don’t like that one.
Massive paintings of Saint Genevieve warning the Parisians of an incoming attack by Attila the Hun covered the walls. There were monstrously large sculptures celebrating important events in France’s history. And, below the building were chilly crypts filled with the famous French of yesteryear. There was Victor Hugo and Voltaire and Marie Curie. Their tombs were not all that impressive, all rendered in the same stone with the same font. Bit monotonous, but to be in the presence of their desiccated corpses was rather nice. I was taken aback by Voltaire, because I really don’t know all that much about him, except for that bizarre and awful story, Candide. In the gift shop was a notebook, and I thought it was rather lovely:
It translates to, “I decided to be happy because it is better for the health.” I didn’t know at the time how apt and helpful that advice was going to be for me. In Paris, I was still feeling pretty damn good.
Satisfied with the hours I had spent at the Pantheon, I crossed it off my endless to-do list of sites to visit in Paris. I really should have kept that in its original form and posted it on here for reference. It used to be covered with names of bakeries and parks and fountains and streets and random shops that all meant something to me. I never really noted why I thought I should go see these sites, though, so I went and tidied it up. Much more manageable now.
Next on the remnants of my list was La Grande Epicerie, a fancy, but surprisingly reasonably priced grocery store on the Left Bank. It’s very near to were Ina Garten has her Parisian apartment, so I kept my eyes peeled, even though her Instagram assured me that she was comfortably living her best life in the Hamptons with her husband, Jeffrey. I don’t know what I would have have done if I met her anyway. Sometimes it’s best just not to, you know?
I took my nibbles back to Clichy and had a quick dinner before getting back on the train. The Louvre was opened late, and it was my last chance to go on this trip. I was more devastated by this than words will ever be able to express. There is something beyond magical about the Louvre, and I will never tire of walking its broad halls to see the works of famous and unknown painters. I’m not even that particularly wild about the art, I just like to be there in that setting, surrounded by it. I appreciate it as a mass.
There were only about fifteen minutes until closing, so I dashed off to my very favorite spot in the museum, the glass case that holds the stunning coffin of the pharaoh, Intef V. I don’t know much about him, not many do, since he was from one of the Intermediate Periods, but ever since I first found him, I have been drawn back time and time again. I think of him now, not his mummy, just the gilded coffin he was interred in, as a talisman of good luck. We had a long mental chat, and I know it sounds stupid, but I felt that everything would be fine.
At ease, I sauntered down the Tuileries to watch the sunset over the Place de la Concorde and then see the Eiffel Tower explode in flashing lights. I was happy, but it was bittersweet. I knew that Paris would always be my home, no matter how far I may be from her. And I also knew that I would be seeing Beyoncé the next day, so I was turnt as hell.
Before I could set out on the train to the Stade de France to sing and dance with Beyoncé, I had to pack my bags and make a special trip out to Père Lachaise. You all know why.
It was a beautiful afternoon, hot, but not unbearable, as I traipsed along the uneven stone paths that pass through the cemetery. In no time, I was back in the spot where I had buried Tiger’s ashes, nearly a year ago. I sat behind the tomb for a good long time, reminiscing on the times we had shared and the love I felt for him. Every pet owner says things like this, but Tiger was a cat like no other. He absolutely radiated love, and I felt best when I was near him. He was my constant companion, and I still miss seeing him every day. It’s strange to open the front door and not find him waiting. It’s odd to wake up in the morning and not find him curled up beside me. Whenever I’m typing, I still expect him to come lay on the keyboard. I love my cats, truly and totally, but the way I felt about Tiger is irreplaceable, I fear. And so, I was very sad in that lonely corner of the cemetery where I hope to someday find my bones and ashes. I had to go, and even though I carry Tiger’s ashes with me everywhere and every day in a little necklace I wear, I feel that his presence is here in Paris. Leaving the cemetery was hard.
I made a quick dinner, tidied my packing, and then hurried off the Metro to see Beyoncé.
The train was horrifying. It was jam packed, and I do mean it. My body was twisted in a position that I don’t think was safe. I had to stand on one foot at times. It was close to being a human centipede, if I’m honest with you, and it was absolutely dreadful, but I knew that Beyoncé was waiting for me at the other end, so I persevered.
In the clean air again, the occupants of the train made a long march to the stadium where I happily blew forty-five euros on a shirt. Isn’t that ridiculous? But, it’s Queen Bey, so totally worth it.
The gate was an eternity away, but it was easy enough to find, and it was highly entertaining. Nearby cafes and restaurants were booming out different Beyoncé songs. People were dressed like her. Huge banners of her face flapped in the breeze. People in line would spontaneously scream out of joy. It was like being in a Beyoncé theme park, which is something I think this world really needs. Can you imagine? I can.
The line stretched on interminably, and we all shuffled forward slowly but surely to the entrance of Gate B. I thought that was rather prophetic. It took ages, but the weather was all right, I had plenty of time, and I was in the presence of divinity, so how could I be bothered. I mean, once I got to my seat, it was only slightly less terrible than I thought it would be, but I was still there. Still with Beyoncé! I would have happily paid for better tickets if they had been available. By the time I realized that Bey and I were going to be in Paris at the same time, though, the fans had snatched them up like Beyoncé had already snatched all of our weaves with Lemonade.
After what felt like four-hundred years, the first opener, Ingrid came out. I had assumed it was Ingrid, the French pop star of the early 2000s, but it turns out this was a rapper that Beyoncé had signed to her own label. I hadn’t ever heard of her and I knew none of her work. She was well aware of this, so she said, “I know you don’t know it, just jump and scream.” I think it was supposed to be a self-deprecating joke, and it was, but it came off as so sad. Next up were Chloe x Halle, which seemed to be something. I swear I’ve heard of them, but I didn’t know any of their songs. They had a deep bass background and a bunch of falsetto warbling. Can’t say I was a super fan by any means, but it wasn’t terrible. The final opener was some famous French DJ, who I’ve also never heard of. DJs mean nothing to me. The only one that I can tell you about is Paris Hilton. If you don’t follow her on Snapchat, you’re really missing out and wasting your life. I’m not kidding. I gleefully anticipate her latest Snap. Makes me feel like I’m in the Simple Life, which is really one of the only things I want out of life. That show molded me into the man you’ve all come to know. Anyway, the Parisians lost their shit for the DJ who just played a bunch of songs we already knew and jumped a bunch. I don’t get it.
THEN, after I got a bit misty eyed over Beyoncé commercials — don’t judge me — the Monolith began to flash and slowly turn. (This is the centerpiece of the stage and is used for multiple purposes.) We were all immediately IN FORMATION.
She was literally divine. She said things like, “If you’re *insert trouble*, say, ‘I SLAY.'” The audience lost it. I lost it. I still haven’t found it.
There’s nobody on Earth who is more talented, more beautiful, or more enchanting to watch. I could seriously not get over being there, and immediately my shitty seats that were nearly back in Clichy didn’t matter. I was there! I couldn’t stop smiling when I wasn’t singing or doing the awkward concert shuffle dance. The people around me were strange and kept sitting down between each song. I followed suit at first, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I was living my best life and singing along to all of the songs. It was so much fun. I’m not going to narrate the show song by song, because my rapturous prose would turn into three installments. Just know that each song she did was immaculate and life changing.
Speaking of life changing, when she sang “Freedom,” I literally cried ugly tears. That song is not about overcoming a life of incurable autoimmune disorders, but rather the difficult times people of color have had to deal with and battle. I know that , but I have adopted it as my theme song. Before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and before I had started steroid treatments, I was a mess. Looking back now, I can’t understand how I got through that horrible two months of mystery. I still have to finish the post on my diagnosis, but I have literally never struggled with anything more. Well, aside from the stupid disease. I’ll get to it, but I doubt I’ll find the way to finish it until I get home and life gets back to the usual — even though traveling should be the usual. If only. Someday!
Anyway, the song’s lyrics, “Freedom, freedom, I can’t move. Freedom cut me loose,” have spoken to me since I first heard them, and hearing her perform it live as she whipped through the water-covered stage was truly momentous to me. It’s the little things like that people need to keep going. And so when I feel down or when I feel like I can’t really do something, I think of this song, and I get over it, and I do it. My biggest fear with this disease is being unable to get out and see the world, so the words resonate deeply with me. I can deal with my muscles stiffening or with my eyes going bad. I can even deal with a cane or a wheelchair, but I refuse to be bound to a room. I refuse.
The night was empowering for us all, for a number of reasons surely as unique and individual as my one. And I beamed down on her holiness as the lyrics of “Halo” filled the Stade de France. I was ecstatic. I was happy. I found, somewhat to my surprise, closure as Beyoncé sang to me. I was ready to leave Paris. I left it with all the love I’ve ever had for those streets, and I know that I’ll be back sooner than I know.