The Mundane. The Exhilarating.
O almost misses our flight to Spain from London; she is panting and I am laughing when we finally leave. Once there, we struggle with the language and our bags as we try to find the Uber that will take us to Avinguda de Gaudi. We drop our bags in the apartment and go back right out and across for the most sinful crepes I have had in a while. T gets in a few hours later from France and we are out again, eating huge portions of seafood in a cozy place close to La Sagrada Familia. The pitcher of Sangria goes well with our laughter.
Barcelona is food, friendship, and fellowship with O and T. Lazy mornings reading in our AirBnB before afternoons stumbling around town without an itinerary. On our way to the Picasso Museum after an afternoon on the beach leaves me sunburnt, I am quick to accept a ride from a man pedaling a rickshaw. O and T balk but I am already inside, staring at his man bun and many tattoos, tired from all the nothing I have done that day.
“What do you do?” I ask.
“For money? This,” he answers in careful, halting English. “For heart, poetry.”
After he drops us off along a footpath, we walk for a while, stopping at a few shops before we find the Museum and join the queue for tickets. About 30 minutes later, we snake around the side of the building and inside a hallway, only to see the queue continue inside. We duck out under the stanchion and wander for a few hours —Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, in and out of shops, and ending up at Happy Pills where T stocks up on cute, medicine-looking candy.
The next day, we go to a quiet park, then to Parc del Laberint d’Horta where we laugh our way through the labyrinth, getting lost and finding centre by following strangers who seem to know their way. In all, Barcelona is food, friendship, and fellowship with O and T; gawking at Gaudi’s masterpieces; streets alive long after midnight; fixation on seafood at same restaurant; and a failure to eat Paella before we leave.
At first, Paris is stinking metro and constant hand wipes in panic. Then, Paris is thousands of bodies walking slowly along the Champs Elysees. Bodies up in the air—sitting on shoulders or carried by arms packed tightly in clusters. Chants up higher in the air. Qui ne saute pas n’est pas Français, and I jump because, in this moment, on this day, I am French. We are all French. Light flares and fireworks, up the highest in the air, piercing whistles exploding in red-blue sparks or smoke clouds.
A while earlier, sitting in Hillsong, Paris, church service long over, I had screamed myself hoarse as France scored goal after goal to win the World Cup Finals. It was a moment I could not have foreseen or planned. I had, in fact, bought tickets to see Beyoncé in concert that evening before I changed my mind. B and I watch in joy and awe; we walk, talk and laugh with strangers, the flag of France painted on our faces by a stranger along the way.
Hours later, my back hurting, I bend to try to touch my toes in a stretch as B instructs. In that moment, I know with absolute certainty that there is no place I would rather be. And I know that I want a life where, in the mundane, in the exhilarating, I can say, there is no place I would rather be than in this moment. Not time traveling to tomorrow on the wings of worry, not pillar of salty regret longing for yesterday. Just here. Today. In this moment.
The first evening in Paris is spent having delicious macarons, then wandering and wondering through the Louvre. The next and only other time I go out for any length of time is the World Cup final day. My last 3 days are spent indoors, to B’s chagrin because who visits Paris and spends most of it indoors? But it’s been a long work-filled year—I know it’s only July—and for the first time in a while I feel my mind quiet. Feel my life slow down or was it I who slowed down? Said no, said I need more time. Said it’ll take 6-7 weeks. Said, I trust You, God. I trust that You hold me up with Your everlasting arms. I cannot keep myself standing. Cannot meet the goals I set without knowing tomorrow. Yet, other things unimagined have been done, been surpassed.
When I remember Paris, I’ll remember spontaneously bursting into “O se o Jesu a o ma yin o” during an evening walk with B. Will hear her voice joining me and flowing into other songs once sung mindlessly in childhood. Will think about how much the words mean to me now, and feel the joy, peace, and love that swell in my heart in that moment.
I return to London, to Ty, and splitting burgers because why choose between chicken and beef when you can have half of each? London feels like Lagos. Home. Familiar yet unknown because unexplored. Still, like on previous trips, that remains unchanged.