I remember when I first fell for you. I was enamored by your culture, your architecture, your fashion, your bread. Maybe it was the café culture, sitting out on a terrace with an apéro and clope. It all seemed so romantic, so sexy. I didn’t even seem to mind the piss-filled metro and the rats running across the streets. But then, the honeymoon stage wore off. I saw more and more of your faults, your tiresome bureaucracy, your crowded streets; and yet I loved you even more for your imperfections. My view less romantic, more realistic. Routine in place, I felt at one with the city. I walked through your streets with confidence, paying no attention to passing landmarks or silly tourist traps. I was a foreigner no longer, yet not truly native. Then you were attacked. A satirical newspaper. I was in shock. Surely, this was a fluke, surely this could never, would never happen to my proud, beautiful city again. And then it did. Three months after I had left you, left my friends, left my home. In the wake of the recent attacks I’ve found it hard to express my emotions, or rather to contain them. Here are a few:
Shock; total shock. I go through waves of numbness and immense sadness. There are times I can’t breathe, I’m in car and I start sobbing uncontrollably. Then I’m numb, going through the motions, unaware of anything around me.
Fear; fear for what might become. For what has already become. For the increased hatred that ensues, for the further lives taken by this ugly war. Fear that the worst is yet to come.
Isolation; so far away from my once home I feel isolated in my emotions. Everyone going about their normal lives as if their whole world hasn’t been turned around.
Guilt; guilt that I am safe, that I am far away when my friends are there and are suffering even more than I can imagine. Guilt that every once and a while I forget, and that it doesn’t consume 100% of my thought at all moments. Guilt that I am not there with them, suffering, fearing. Guilt for every time someone says “I’m so glad you’re not there.” It makes me wish I was.
Tired; tired of people asking how I am, of bringing it up as if they can sympathize with me. Of giving me that knowing look, that comforting smile. I am tired of people’s opinions, of those who bring it up around me so nonchalantly, not knowing how much it affects me. Tired of talking about it with those who don’t understand.
Love; immense love for all those who thought of me the night of, who were there for me. Even if I didn’t say much your comfort was more than I ever could have asked for. Thank you for letting me lean on you.
Hypocrisy; for appreciating your love and kindness but dreading it at the same time.
Selfishness; for being glad to be far away yet at the same time longing to be there, to be a part of this tragedy, to have others mourn for me. For those who believe I am still in Paris, I do not correct them. For writing this post, as if my pain is greater than others, as if no one has experienced tragedy.
Confusion; I am lost. I cannot comprehend why and how this happened. How there can exist such cruel and hateful people in this world. My city, was indestructible. Now? The people have lost hope, I see it. They are terrified they are defeated.
Lost; in how to talk to my friends who are there. There is only so much I can say… so much I can comfort. I feel guilty trying to relate with them. No matter how much I am affected it will never equal their pain.
I remember, I remember searching endlessly for a restaurant that had vegetarian pho. Just when I thought my search was hopeless a friend tells me he’s found just the place. We go, the space is young and crowded and you can feel its authenticity. Then my bowl of vegetarian pho finally arrives, it’s exactly what I had been craving for months. After we walked to the bar across the street to grab a few drinks. The space was popular, the beer was cheap and we found an intimate table in the back. Flash forward several months. It’s May and Karen’s last night in Paris. The mood is mellow, we want to celebrate, a going away party of sorts. We go to the canal and dine at the sister restaurant, just around the corner from my vegetarian pho place. This time I choose the vegetarian bobun and it’s just as delicious. After we sit by the canal talking, laughing, playing music trivia and trying not to think about how sad we were. Flash forward again. It’s a surprisingly warm autumn night, as warm as many of the nights I remember in November drinking out by the canal. The Parisians are out, enjoying the weather and eating a typically late dinner. As they slurp their vegetarian pho down, shots ring out. An automatic rifle fires bullets through the window of Le Petit Cambodge before walking ten minutes down the canal to the Bataclan.
I remember Charlie Hebdo. I remember the fear and the confusion and the sadness. We had a reason to fight then. Now… we are lost we have no cause to rally behind. Sadness envelopes us. I think of Boston, my home for four years of college. I was in Paris for the bombings. It was my junior year and I remember the same sense of guilt, of confusion. Of total fear for my friends and guilt that I wasn’t there with them to share it. I don’t know why my homes have been targeted, I cannot comprehend it. It is not enough to say “there are just cruel people in this world who think differently than we do.” This is not an answer, this is not the answer I want. I want a why. A true reason. I want to look our attackers in the face and say why to you hate us? Why do you bomb us and shoot us and kill us? Look at me, why do you hate me and all these innocent people you have taken from this earth? Could you look me in the eye and still continue on? Maybe you could, because there are cruel people in this world who think differently than we do.
Written and Photographed by Kara Korab
Featured in Basement Babes, Issue 12