I know I’m the different one on the metro tonight.
My hair is up. My dress is long and it’s only 6:30pm. Dinner doesn’t even start until 7:30.
So although no one says anything, I know I’m the one getting glanced at, the one that people tell stories about when they get off — “there was this girl all dressed up, I wonder where she’s going.”
But I get off, eventually, and stumble up escalators and crowded stairwells until finally I see the sky. And with the sky, the facade of the Palais Garnier comes into view.
I try to keep calm. I’m Parisian now, these things are normal. Going to the ballet on a Tuesday night — not typical, but not atypical here. I greet my friends, kisses on cheeks and grins on faces. Let’s ask that lady to take our picture, my grandmother will want to see this.
The bell sounds, the lights dim. People crowded on marble steps, heels clicking and stumbling up stairs — higher, higher, until I reach the fourth floor and the attendant points me to a seat that might be wide enough for a 4 year old but certainly isn’t large enough for me. I squeeze in, hearing at least 3 different languages swirling in the air around me.
The music starts. The dancers appear. And the world slips away.
When it all ends, there’s nothing to be said. The words don’t seem right, because nothing in either French or English could describe what it’s like to be a part of that audience while knowing that this is your country now, that you aren’t only there for a day or two squeezing every moment into a 24 hour day. That you’re there learning and loving and throwing yourself off the metaphorical fourth floor balcony, doing things you’re not comfortable doing and speaking words that feel funny in your mouth without knowing the end result. Taking the opportunity to watch something so incredibly beautiful.
And I walk down the marble steps, lingering until the crowd has left and all that remains are the couples waltzing on the steps to a cheesy recording playing from an ancient stereo. And I twirl a little, swaying my dress that feels like magic to the notes. And when a friend asks “Sarah, tu es content?” I respond from the bottom of my heart, “Oui. Bien sûr. Je suis content.”
The Palais Garner (metro stop Opèra) hosts the national ballet of France as well as ballet and opera groups from all of over the world. Tickets are not expensive and can be purchased from their website.