To wake up on Saturday morning, Melbourne time, to the unfolding news of yet another brutal terrorist attack in my favorite city away from Melbourne, Paris, was almost too distressing to comprehend.
Images of shootouts between police and militants at the Bataclan concert hall flooded television screens with cracklings of gun fire and fleeing, screaming music fans. Of the explosions heard outside the Stade de France, with football fans almost appearing to cheer the terrifying bangs, and the players playing on oblivious to the horrors occurring just outside the entry to Frances national stadium.
During all this carnage, as it unfolded live on morning television, I turned my attention to my friends in the city of light, and began sending off Facebook messages to check that they were all okay. I especially began to worry about my good friend Rudy, a Frenchman of Martiniquais heritage; he appears to have deleted his Facebook account so contacting him became almost impossible.
I contacted another friend, Paul, who is a friend of Rudy’s; Paul said that he was fine although he hadn’t heard from Rudy. We spoke briefly about the atrocity and he seemed less perturbed than I would have thought, but I soon realized that he was in a state of shock.
I asked him to message me again when he had heard from Rudy, and soon that message came, Rudy was fine. To have to fear for someone like I did Rudy on Saturday morning, in a city so full of life and excitement, was exhausting.
Rudy, for me, typifies life in the sprawling metropolis that my friend Jordan and I learnt to love so much in the weeks we spent there with Rudy about two years ago. We had met Rudy at a music festival a few hours outside of Paris some weeks earlier, and just like the city itself, he took us in with open arms and jovially showed us the life and excitement that pulses the city and makes it so elegant and charming.
‘Paris has an energy about it,’ he said to Jordan and I as we made our way by train to the palace at Versailles. ‘You know… I went to New York once, and New York has an energy too, you can go anywhere in Paris and there’s always something happening.’
We spent almost every day of the following couples of weeks with Rudy, we drank Heinekens at the Sacre Coeur, had our picture sneakily taken on the metro by a Frenchman who had lived in Sydney and loved us for being ‘so fucking Aussie’ (I don’t know what his plans for the pictures were).
We played football in the sublime surroundings of the Jardin du Luxembourg before being told to get off the grass by security, and I then had my beer smacked out of hand and all over my new Paris Saint-Germain t-shirt by a really tough kid out the front of a bar, he didn’t even look back at me to see the mess he had made.
I didn’t care that I was covered in and stank of beer, I love that city, Rudy made it feel like a home away from home for Jordan and I, they were some of the best weeks of my life. To know that Rudy and my friends there are okay, even just okay, is a relief that helps the burden of my distance to them, and that wonderful place.