that time i got turned down by shakespeare (and company)

when i say that my decision to go to paris alone was too spontaneous for my own good, i really mean it. because when i got off the plane at charles de gaulle, i had nobody to meet, nowhere to stay, and nothing in particular to even do...

but i did go with some sort of purpose. a very vague purpose that left me completely at the mercy of fate. and it wasn't to see notre dame or to go to an art museum or to drunkenly ride a merry-go-round across the street from the sparkling eiffel tower. because i've already done all that. 

i initially got it in my mind to go because i knew scotty, emily, and shannon would be going through paris sooner or later. scotty mentioned me meeting them there and "oh, won't it be funny to be in paris with you again! we've spent more time together in that foreign city then we ever did back home in the states!"

so i planned on staying in the mountains for a couple weeks and then meeting them in paris. but when the workaway thing got overwhelming, i decided to just escape to the city early and get a head start there alone. because i desperately wanted time to write and to process all of these things that were happening to me. and i had a specific place in mind where i wanted to do it.

when i got off the plane, i knew exactly where i was going. i felt like a parisian, the way i seamlessly found familiar ground, and followed it, almost without looking up. i didn't need to. i didn't need to see paris, i needed to feel it. and i wasn't sure how that deeper connection would manifest itself, but i felt the gravitational pull of it and submitted, without thinking. i didn't question the absurdity of my own decision, because it just felt right. my repressed logic knew it was a dumb idea, but logic doesn't have much of a say in my life.

and audrey hepburn once told me, "paris is always a good idea." so i didn't think anything could go wrong. something would happen and it wouldn't be completely terrible, because it'd be in paris. nothing can be entirely dreadful in paris.

so i got off the train and walked through the city without pausing to look at anywhere but forward. i walked straight to the little bookshop across the street from notre dame. and then i sat and observed before making my move. 

ever since i first visited shakespeare and company a few years ago, i've fantasized about someday living there as a tumbleweed*. it's a god damn literary paradise. every corner of that old store oozes eloquence and i wanted more than anything to breathe it in everyday. to inhale it and let it infiltrate my every cell. to consume me and fill me until it spilled out of my fingertips and made something beautiful. 

*ever since george whitman opened the store in 1951, he let drifters and vagabonds like me sleep amongst the broken bindings and mingle with the many other writers who passed through. he called them "tumbleweeds". and he called the whole operation "a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore." there are beds upstairs, occupying the few square feet of space not spilling over with books. and from what i heard through the grapevine, all one has to do is show up and ask if there's room.

so that's what i intended to do. i sat outside by the fountain, watching the ebb and flow of customers coming and going, trying to muster up the courage just to ask. because that's always the hardest part in a situation---the question, the wait for an answer, the not knowing. i felt so vulnerable there with my bags by my side and nowhere else to go. i was terrified of the thought of hearing NO. but i had a feeling it was meant to happen, so i gathered myself and went inside. 

i floated toward the register, where a stern-looking redhead greeted me. and then i asked. i held my breath, shoulders high, waiting for a response. the redhead then told me in a british accent that they just accepted two girls the day before, and that they were too full to take one more... my shoulders fell and the weight of my bags on me grew exponentially, all at once. she said they'd probably be over capacity until the end of july... but i didn't need a bed in july, i needed one THAT night... in her polite-sounding-but-so-NOT-sincere british accent, she said that she was very sorry. i left the store, a little stunned.

i had such high hopes going into it. i was so sure that that experience would be possible. the timing felt right and i thought that i needed it. i thought it was the whole reason i felt such a pull toward paris. all of a sudden, nothing made sense.

looking back on it, i now know it's one of the best things that's ever happened to me. because the timing was all wrong. an entirely different and drastically more exciting experience was waiting there for me instead---right there, very close to that same spot on the seine.