When my alarm went off this morning it was 5am in Paris. It’s been a long time since I was awake before sunrise. Bleary-eyed, Olivier and I gathered up my things and set off to catch the first métro.
It was the first time I had spent just a weekend in Paris since I started my job in London. The first time I’d tried to do it without taking any holiday. The 6:43 from Paris arrives in London at 8:00 (thanks to the time difference), meaning that the train is generally full of people who work in London and live in Paris at weekends. Or long-distance lovers, like me.
Unfortunately when we arrived at Porte de Versailles, we had just missed one train, and had to wait ten minutes for another, as they’re not very frequent at that time in the morning. I nervously watched the minutes on the clock tick by, hoping we wouldn’t arrive at Gare de Nord too late for my train. My anxiety didn’t stop me from noticing the small details about the journey, such as how grey the Paris métro is first thing in the morning, when almost everyone else on the train is clearly going home to bed after a night out (or a night shift) and you’re just beginning a very long day.
When we reached St Michel, an electronic voice instructed us to “please mind the gap between the train and the platform”. I had to laugh.
Call that a gap? I thought, looking at the two centimetres of space. In London when they say “please mind the gap”, they really do mean you need to jump across a foot-wide chasm or risk falling under the train!
It was a silly, passing thought. But I find myself comparing Paris and London more and more these days, in so many different ways. Weighing up the pros and cons of each, and trying to predict where we will end up.
And more and more, I find myself minding the gap. Not the gap between the train and the platform, but the gap between me and Olivier. Minding the hundreds of miles between us when I’m in London and he’s in Paris, and the thousands of miles between us when he’s back on his overseas posting.
That part, thankfully, is coming to an end. Just one more month to go and he’ll be back in Paris full-time, and at least then we’ll be able to see each other more often. But even so, he isn’t moving here any time soon, and I won’t be moving there.
So I suppose we will continue the fortnightly routine…
Tube, Eurostar, métro.
Au revoir, goodbye.
Métro, Eurostar, tube.
Clocking up thousands of miles and countless hours on trains, in his country and mine, for the sake of a few days together each time.
All the same, there’s no point dwelling on how much easier it would be to be with someone who lived in London. I could spend the rest of my life searching and never find anyone who makes me smile the way he does.
And when I’m in the kitchen at 11am, making my third cup of coffee of the day, and one of my colleagues asks me whether I did anything nice at the weekend, I say, “I was in Paris, visiting my boyfriend.” They always say, ‘Oh, that sounds so glamorous!”
So I stifle a yawn, resist the urge to say, “I don’t feel very glamorous, I’ve been up since 4am UK time!”, and just smile.