I was late meeting Laura--breathless, and a little embarrassed. Tardiness is a quality I abhor in others, but the tour of the Musee d’Orsay had gone long and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen and there were so many steps up to the basilica.
I’d come at the Sacre Coure from the side and passed a restaurant on the way that I wanted to try--it seemed quiet and modern--a far cry from the more touristy places with red-checkered tablecloths that populated the base of the hill. We walked the same three streets for twenty minutes, winding in different directions, before Laura made an executive decision and led us into a rather suspicious looking café. It smelled when we sat down, but I’d already revealed myself to be particular in a way that borders on unyielding, so I said nothing; I didn’t want Laura to think me difficult. Two years of emails back and forth, and here we were, meeting, in a French cafe with plastic table cloths, in a corner of a restaurant that smelled suspiciously like piss. But we ordered rose and cheese plates, and the three hours spent sitting there were among the happiest in my life. And the food was incredible.
Laura, is louder than I am. I think we can safely say that. Where I am timid and hesitant to make my presence known, she walks right in. She makes no apologies for who she is. She is a lesson in taking up space--and as a woman--that is important--a revelation, no small revolution. But we are not so different. We are both opinionated and thoughtful, deeply passionate, with a strong need to speak about almost everything. This is what I remember most about our meeting: in the middle of lunch, Laura said to me, Everything comes with a shit sandwich--absolutely everything. You have to decide what warrants eating that sandwich, and what doesn’t. When she said it I had no idea that’d be the thing I’d walk away with--but I have thought about it every day since. I’ve even told a few people, and their reactions have all been variations of Well, that’s a rather pessimistic view. But here’s the thing, when you start thinking about your life in terms of shit sandwiches, it offers a rather startling perspective on what’s worth it, and what’s not. And once you know something isn’t worth its particular shit sandwich, there’s no going back. And so it’s not so much pessimistic as clarifying--defining. Which is also a lesson in taking up space, I think. Laura would be the first to say that writing and publishing a book has been the most meaningful and most rewarding thing she’s ever done, but that it came with one hell of a shit sandwhich. And that she’d eat that sandwich many times over to get the chance to do it again.
And so when people ask about Paris--about this trip--Barcelona, too--when they ask if it was worth the wait, or all that I hoped for, my thought is this: I don’t want to miss my life.
I don’t want to spend time checking boxes or waiting for some other iteration--that while greatly hoped for--may never come. I don’t say this, of course. Instead, I smile and nod, and tell them about shit sandwiches--which is my way of saying the same thing, but a little less clear, and arguably more odd. But Laura gets it, and that’s good enough for me.
And when we finally left the restaurant, Laura turned to me, and said: It smelled a bit odd in there, no? We'd both go back.