About a week ago, I came with Erin to Place Massena to change some money. I was very tired that day, as we had walked around quite a bit. After stopping at some shops, we finally made it to the money changer. I changed some money there, and we left, but when we arrived at the apartment, I realized that my red notebook, the one I had with me in Paris last year, the one in which I had scribbled various notes and literary ideas over the past year, had vanished.
I was pretty devastated, and quite stressed, as I could not remember if I had written down the login ID and pwd of my online bank account in this notebook. So in a panic, I went through the complicated steps of changing this, and once that was done, wrote off my notes as spilled milk. There would be other notes, I reasoned, other things to write down, other adventures to have.
Erin kept saying let’s go back to the money changer, but I was very tired, so tired from the past 16 years, that I could not bring myself to walk back there. I tried to picture what might have happened. I remembered consulting the little map I had drawn on a page in the notebook showing where the money changer was located, which I probably had in hand when I walked in; so what had happened was that I had put the notebook down, changed the money, and when I was being handed back euros, Erin remembered, somebody working at the money changer had entered into the office using a door immediately to my left. It was this that had momentarily distracted me, and so I put the euros in my pocket, picked up my fishnet dive bag, and did not notice that I had left the notebook on the counter.
A day later, this setback was compounded when I lost my wallet. A friend of mine had sent me an email warning me about pickpockets, and I immediately thought I had fallen for the stupidest trick in the book: my wallet had been lifted. I came back to the house in a real panic, and went through all my stuff. My face turned chalk white, and I broke into a cold sweat. Where could it be? How could this have happened? So I reconstructed my steps, and could not picture where or how this wallet had been lifted. I had just stepped out to get something down the street, and I had not come in contact with anyone. I started hyperventilating: the trip was now ruined, I had lost all the money in my wallet, and now I had to cancel my credit card, but how was I going to get another?
Finally, it occurred to me to peek out the door and look outside. Sure enough there was the wallet on our neighbor’s front door welcome mat. It had obviously fallen out of my pocket when I was retrieving my keys, and the mat had muffled the sound of the wallet falling on the floor. I had dodged a bullet.
Then earlier today, on our final day in Nice, I heeded what Erin had to say, and we went back to the money changer. Sure enough, the notebook, too, was there waiting for me, and nothing had been lost after all.
I have said that I am tired. This is a fact. I am exhausted after a 16 year run of bad luck. Sometimes the sky can fall down on you when you least expect it. Sometimes you lose things that can never be recovered.
I was to survive becoming ill, seriously so, long-term joblessness, and having to sell our beautiful home in Connecticut.
But I had survived.
I was now much older.
I had to find a way out, instead of living a life that amounted to suicide on the installment plan, or I might die knowing that my life had turned out poorly and that I had passed on enjoying the pleasures still to be had and given in to the creeping bitterness of old age.
This trip I am on is not some casual grand tour; it is an escape for me from what had turned into an unrelenting gehanna.
But it is also something else: it’s an affirmation that I’m not done yet. That I have not given up. That I will not succumb to bitterness and the shriveling of my soul.
I’m lucky. My angels came with me to Nice, it seems; they have always protected me from the worst all along.
And now, it’s time for the next leg of my journey, and I shall not be looking back.
Some think hope is a dangerous illusion, a refuge for the eternally naive.
I say it is the only thing I really cannot do without.