Sitting on the wall, split in her certainty by her own thinking: for one, looking back to ponder the way that brought her to where she sat on the wall; and for another: considering the route ahead—the vague outline of the route, obscured by a blinding sunlight—This is how I found Gamel when I arrived in Bordeaux. In response to our meeting eyes, she came down from her seat of wonder to aid me in a tour of her home. First, studying the ground, her face but for one moment expressed a disbelief that she had been waiting there on the wall for such a long while. Then, looking up from her thoughts, scanning the city, she pulled away, directing me out of blind confidence through the sun drenched cobbled streets that stitch Bordeaux together. Meandering through the crowds of people and pigeons, she would re-examine her direction by breaking at every shaded corner. The sun out of her eyes, able to see and think clearly again, she made another move.
As naturally curious children will look at themselves and then to one another and begin to smile, our connection came, nearly all to fast, into a likening for each other. We walked about the city sharing what we know and what we would like to know. What was thirty minutes turned into a few hours of traversing the streets, like wandering through a mansion’s circuit of hallways, of a city that moved with such carefree liberty. Coming to an agreement with the clock, just before parting, we paused where the river hugs Bordeaux to appreciate each other’s company and to process all the layers of brick, stone, and pavement that we’ve crossed. .
Between the city sections that we merrily strolled through with leisure, were the times where we had to consider the best direction to get to our next destination—another road to deviate from, one filled with cigarette rolling teenagers or made inhospitable by the direct evening sun. But Gamel led the way. Creating an opening in the thick grass of crowded streets, a trail that seemed logical and fluid. While I often had no idea where I was going, I thought the city to be easy to navigate, at least not so intimidating, by her lead.
It’s of course far easier to follow someone’s lead. To walk through the path when following behind someone’s shadow is effortless, and sometimes mindless. But that sense of effortlessness comes with either the certainty of familiarity or by the reassurance that someone has gone before. As I walked trusting Gamel’s direction, it was as if her lead cast a shadow that covered my eyes from the bleach-bright sun and helped me to see everything vividly. Though convenient, this touring was a hindrance for me. With such a carefree path came the inability to really get as far as I could on my own—a sense of direction, a sense of trust in my intuition, a sense confidence in my competency.
And this was very much it for Gamel. Gamel didn’t need to be lead somewhere but rather travel it herself, to place herself in her own hands and trust her own feet. Before I left Bordeaux, Gamel shared with me how she felt that after our shared weekend together, she no longer felt afraid or inhibited to try something new for herself. What she sought for earlier, when she was placed on top of the wall of past and possibility, was not necessarily the need to dare the sun nor climb a mountain, but rather a need to confront the fear that inhibited her, that left her dreams as only pictures, like postcards, strung throughout her home. While those pictures brought her warmth and wonder, they also brought her guilt and loneliness. It is hard to separate ourselves from the wall of our bedroom, plastered in wishes and dreams, and find the courage to peer into our heart, the furnace inside, and tend to the coals that have grown cold. But believing in ourselves begins by believing in ourselves, not in appointing ourselves to tests and trials, high expectations or mandates. What good is it to place a badge on your collar before you’ve earned it? It will only be as empty of a charm as the bracelet you bought for yourself, wouldn’t it? You are already decorated in such colorful marks, it takes believing to see this for yourself.