“The fear of death follows the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at anytime.” Mark Twain
See you at 7 pm. Avec impatience!
This text came through a few hours before our date from Benjamin. I Google-translated avec impatience and it meant anxiously awaiting. This put a smile on my face and I started to feel butterflies in my stomach. I am convinced that there is no better feeling for a woman to have than a new crush on a guy.
I arrived to see Benjamin; tall in stature wearing washed out jeans, a black button down long-sleeve shirt, a typical scarf, and simultaneously eyed him putting out his cigarette when he glanced my way. Scarves and smoking- there are no two things more of a pillar of being French in my honest opinion.
We greeted each other with a rather passionate kiss to which he broke away and commented that he could kiss my lips for hours. He then kissed my neck, cheek and forehead with small meaningful pecks, and a rush of goose bumps overtook my body. Benjamin and I definitely had physical chemistry; there was no denying it. We made our way to Le Hibou in the Odeon Carrefour area, a square which boarders the chic 6th arrondissement, tightly gripping each other’s hand. We spent the next three hours laughing, talking and kissing at the café over strawberry mojitos. (I think he ordered these for me to feel that americanized cocktail vibe – it was a small detail that was sweet…. little did he know I would have preferred the best champagne on the wine list) I felt really comfortable with Benjamin and I sensed his general interest in me. After a slight buzz had come over us from the cocktails, we walked hand in hand to the Cinema and I made note that this was my first movie theatre experience in Paris. We were seeing the new Joaquin Phoenix movie called an Irrational Man. (This was paramount. To what would become of this night, of Benjamin, of everything.)
Once we entered the movie theater I would come to realize it would be the last of our pleasurable easy-breezy date night.
Around 10:35 pm I checked my phone while scrunched up in the theatre chair, Benjamin’s hand resting on my thigh. I had thirty text messages streaming in our group chat from everyone in my sommelier class. I saw messages popping up one after the other Are you safe? Everyone say yes! Please report in! Oh my GOD! How is this happening? 60 people killed. No, now it is 80! They killed the second terrorist!
I instantly switched into a state of panic. I scrolled up to start at the beginning of the message stream.
PARIS IS UNDER ATTACK!
I re-read all of the texts and told Benjamin that there was a terrorist attack happening right at that very moment. He told me to put my phone away and we will check after the movie. Are you kidding? I showed him the messages my classmates were sending. No one else in the movie theater seemed to realize, and everyone was remaining entranced in the movie. Ironically the movie we were seeing was called An Irrational Man, and now there were radical, irrational terrorists shooting people on the other side of the river. Sebastian messaged that he was in a restaurant and they were in lock-down mode. Doors locked, all lights out, hiding in the kitchen. He was on the right bank, the opposite side of the river from where I was seeing the movie, much closer to where the shootings were taking place. I could not believe no one had come in yet to have us evacuate the movie theater. I felt an instant pang in my stomach thinking about how scared Sebastian must have been feeling in a dark kitchen of a locked up restaurant. I remained calm and still kept my eye on the messages. The attacks had been in the Bataclan Concert Hall starting around 9 pm where a concert was taking place. Also down several streets people were shot in the 9th and 10th arrondissements, as well as shootings at a handful of cafes. This was unbelievable.
The movie was over and Benjamin finally pulled out his phone. He became horrified reading the latest breaking news as officials were telling people there were still terrorists on the loose and to get and stay inside. We walked outside the movie theatre and the streets of Paris were empty. It was the most eerie feeling ever, as usually Saint Germain Boulevard would have been packed with people. We walked in the direction of my flat as there were no taxis in sight, and at this point Benjamin was reading his text messages and confirming everyone in his life was okay. I asked Benjamin if he wanted to come stay at my place and he declined my offer. He said he was beside himself but would make sure I got home safely. We embraced in a hug and he seemed so far away. A cold trance had come over him and he could barely look at me. It seemed as if he was about to start shedding tears. This attack was really weighing heavily on him, I could tell. I didn’t blame him. It was his country, his city, and the place where his entire life, pride and joy was. I had different emotions of being scared due to the foreignness of it all. I could always rush back to the states, but I was in a foreign country under attack in my current reality. It was frightening to say the least. I rushed up the stairwell of my apartment. Once inside the attic I had texts, calls and messages from everyone in my life back in the United States. I quickly phoned my mom and dad. I also sent texts to my sister and brother. They were of course in utter panic over this and told me to stay inside and not leave my apartment. It was declared that the French President was closing the border. France declared a state of emergency. The first time a State of Emergency had been declared since 1985 (ironically the year I was born). I had moved to Paris right in time for the country to go under attack. I was scared and could not sleep that night. I had feelings of anxiety, fright, and fear and most importantly immense sadness for the people that had been killed, and the families affected.