Congrats, dear Sejal!
by Sejal Shah
Parisians call this neighborhood mixed. Mixed is code; it means immigrants. Think Brooklyn, Caitlin says. We are in the 20th Arrondissement, near Père Lachaise. I am here to see the Louvre and the Turkish Baths; I am here to visit my friend, Caitlin. I have a map and some time for wandering. To travel by yourself and enjoy it is a skill; I don't practice enough.
The 20th Arrondissement. Storefronts with fuchsia and blue signs; Senegalese behind tables of patterned scarves, watch caps, and leather bags; music, a low flare around which we warm ourselves at the park, at pool tables, at long wooden bars. LeeAnne isn't here to tell me where she stayed in Paris. When I think of her, I see us talking in my backyard, splashing in the pool, upstate New York summers. It surprises me. She was never there, but I can see it: the blue pool, our hideaway; beach towels; instant iced tea. I imagine we lay ourselves out on the uneven flagstones, waiting to be hot enough to peel ourselves off and fling ourselves into the water. If I close my eyes hard enough, if I squint, I can almost see it, this scene-that we grew up together. She was that kind of friend. As I walk through Paris, I keep expecting to catch a glimpse of her, vanishing into some narrow street.
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Sejal Shah is a writer and teacher of writing. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in journals and books including the Asian American Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, the Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, and Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America (Seal Press).