There are moments in life when all that is left to do is sit back, sip your wine, and wonder at the spectacular beauty of the world.
These are the moments I chase. This is why I travel. This is why I sit through the awkwardness and the discomfort that often come with living as a foreigner.
Because, inevitably, the awkwardness fades away, the mistakes seem funny, and the horrors become just another good story. You’re left with the beauty and the perfection that can be found in ephemeral moments: when the light is just right, the music beats a steady tempo, the temperature is isn’t too hot or too cold, the stars align, and life–for the briefest of moments–is perfect.
This weekend, low on money, but high in spirits, my flatmate and I tried to find the nightlife in Troyes. Somehow, it had continually eluded us, even after months of living here. It seemed nowhere to be found in the city center; the bars were sleepy whenever we passed by. Our only experiences of Troyes nightlife were the half-dreamed after-effects we had witnessed outside our windows at three am. Awakened from warm slumbers, we’d heard it prancing merrily down the street, heels click-clacking tipsily on the cobble stones, singing La Marseilles at the top of its lungs, before breaking down into cascades of laughter.
Yet all we’d seen was the after-effects. The source, the cause, had yet to be discovered.
This Saturday, on an afternoon walk through town, I noticed a band setting up in a cafe. It was the instruments that caught my attention: trumpets and trombones are not your typical bar-band equipment. So I hurried home, excited to tell K about the band, and to discover what adventures might be found in becoming their groupie for a night.
Wandering back hours later, after the sun had set and the night owls awakened, we found the little bar. It was hard to miss: the merriment and people spilled out from inside, bringing with it a brightness that illuminated the dark, narrow street. Laughter, and voices, and happiness filled the air. But mostly it was the music that invited you in.
It was a tiny bar, just one small salle, barely enough room for the band to play. But play they did: the long cylinder of the trombone punctuating the crowd, preventing patrons from passing by until a break between songs.
We waited till the song finished, then pushed our way through the crowd to the back. Ordering two verres de vin rouge we set up awkwardly in a nook, occupying the only free space left in the small room.
Soon a couple left, and we stole their seats. Unloading our coats to the chairs, umbrellas to the floor, and glasses of wine to the table, we sat back to sway to the music, bask in the genial air, and smile kindly at the strangers whose table we now shared.
The music was familiar yet eclectic. The notes were emotionally played. The beats and melody were collaboratively elocuted.
The people around us were smiling and dancing. Or lost in thought and emotion. Or laughing with friends. Or listening and people watching.
And here is where we found Troyes’s nightlife. As quirky and odd as the town itself, it didn’t rage and it wasn’t electric or overpowering. But it did exist. In a tiny, overcrowded bar, we found Troyes’s nightlife, and realized that it was unique to each individual. It could be as rambunctious or as harmonious as you wanted it to be.
Sitting in that bar, I caught up to one of those rare moments I am forever chasing. The clear, loud notes of the band (whose name I later learned was Joli Falzar) punctuated the air. Laughter and energy surrounded me in a warm glow. Life was loud, and real, and tangible. It was one of those lost moments: detached from time, ephemeral yet everlasting. A moment where the past doesn’t matter and there is no future.
When the music, and the warmth, and the vibrance are all that is left.
When for a moment, life is perfection and beauty. And nothing else exists.