On Friday night I met two of my friends at a small community restaurant in the 20th arrondissement. I arrived awkwardly early so I ordered a glass of wine and tried to blend in with the wall. French with a variety of accents was being spoken all around me in the cluttered space with warm red walls. I met several Americans, one of whom was a friend of a friend, and performing a concert later that evening. Everyone mingled, children ran back and forth, and eventually we all went down to the small basement to listen to the music.
The low ceiling, the sweaty and cramped people, the folksy American voices singing poetic words all reminded me of something I think of as “home.” Everyone was generous and friendly and supportive. At the end of the concert many of us stepped outside. A woman from New York answered her cell phone, and then asked me how I was going to get home. The metro, I said, how else? She told me there was a shooting and she was afraid to take the metro.
Suddenly everyone started answering phones, myself included. First my roommate, and then other friends of mine in France called me one after the other. Was I safe? I had not even begun to process what was going on; I barely knew what was going on. “Shooting” “Stade de France” “Hostages” were the only words I heard.
Everyone continued to buzz. Back inside, the gravity of the situation and the details became a little more clear. The metro was blocked on my route home, I wasn’t familiar with the area and the buses were probably blocked too. We started calling taxis but every line was busy. I called my mother, and there I got through. I told her not to worry and that I would find a cab. Sure enough I did, a driver only willing to take me because I was going to the other side of town and not the center of it.
We listened to the radio repeat the same information over and over. In my apartment my roommate and I watched the news; they repeated the same information over and over. They showed the same horrible images of the café terrasse with shattered glass and white sheets over bodies.
My phone was flooded with messages from my American friends. I was actually shocked at the amount of people who wanted to know if I was safe, who were watching from six hours behind.
On Monday morning I took the line 10 as usual to get to school. I sat down and the man diagonally across from me was staring straight ahead. He was large and had his hair cut very short; he wore a black jacket over equally monochrome shirt and pants. One or two stops later I realized he had a rosary in his left hand. A small, bracelet-sized rosary that he was moving through his hand with his fingers. He got off the train at Odéon.
At Cluny-La Sorbonne a young girl got on the train and sat near me. She was thin and had long black hair; she wore big round glasses that kind of fell off her face. One or two stops later I realized she was crying. Tears dropped out of her eyes and onto her cheeks. I had my headphones on, I was listening to Regina Spektor. For a moment I thought I would turn off my music and ask her if she was alright, even though I knew why she wasn’t alright. But after another moment she was looking at her phone, maybe less distressed, and then I got off the train at Jussieu.
At school we always show our ID’s to get in, and now we show our bags. On the fourth floor everyone showed up for class. Our professor began to speak, and instantly she was shaking, and she was crying. Bit by bit other students spoke of their experiences and their feelings. Many were crying or visibly frustrated when trying to speak. I listened in silence.
At noon we went downstairs and observed a minute of silence with the other students. Several minutes later, back on the fourth floor, we spent an hour on Derrida and then class was over.
There is no way I can think of to talk about what has happened. I could say things about politics or history or the future or religion or philosophy. Except none of it accurately expressed just how deeply sad I am, and how incredibly horrible it all is. You can read every other blog post and article about the news and politics and the philosophy, and even the sadness. But at the end of the day we will just try to continue life. I took one page of notes on Derrida, and tomorrow there is class again.
Restons unis; fluctuat nec mergitur