Isabelle. Je suis Justine. Tu vas bien?
Oui. Comment ca-va?
Bien. J'ai vous vous reveillez?
No problem. (She likes to use that phrase.)
J'ai entendu les nouvelles de Paris.
Yes, it is terrible. But we were not there.
Je suis tres hereuse pour ca.
Would you like to talk to Jay?
Oui, mais se reveillera.
I didn't want her to wake him. At least I knew he was at home, in his bed. But she brought him to the phone.
Desole de te reveiller.
Don't worry. Mais, besoin de redormir.
That's OK. J'ai voule etre sur que vous etes OK.
He thanked me for calling. I assured him that all I wanted was to know that he and Isabelle were not casualties of the bombings, the shootings, that rocked Paris and its environs yesterday. I knew that, chances were, they weren't there when those terrible events went down, but I just wanted to be sure.
Then I called Michele. No answer. Asleep, I hoped. I left a message. Just before I started writing this post, I found an e-mail from her. All right. I can breathe a little easier. Can they?
None of us had gone to the Bataclan together. But we'd walked those streets, ate in restaurants and sipped espressos in the cafes near it. When I heard that death struck at Le Carillon, I stopped cold.
It's just a block away from the Quai des Jemmapes, on the eastern bank of the Canal St. Martin. Back in August, after a lovely morning ride, I enjoyed a picnic lunch of fresh foods and Badoit water I bought along the way. As the sun softened the green tint of the canal and leaves that flickered in the breeze, it was hard to imagine anything terrible, let alone the blaze of guns or an explosion.
After my canal-side reverie, I retreated to Le Carillon for a cappuccino to cap off my lunch. By that time, most locals had finished their lunch and were back at work or passing the rest of the day along the old, narrow streets. I went to Le Carillon because it was the nearest café, but it was a place I would have chosen otherwise: It seemed like a real old cozy neighborhood watering hole Parisians themselves would habituate, not some place trying to look the part for hipsters who wanted an "authentic" experience.
I sat at a wooden table on the sidewalk. So did a few other people. It's hard to imagine that sidewalk with bodies sprawled over it--even more difficult than it was, the first time I saw the Place de la Concorde, to visualize the blood of French monarchy and nobility spilled all over it. But certainly not as difficult as it is for those who witnessed the darkness that descended upon the City of Light.