When I go to the Chambéry train station to pick up Clémence for her weeklong visit, I have a panicked moment where I think I won’t recognize her. We were practically kids when we were together before, strangely privy to witnessing each other’s lives for a handful of weeks that summer. We’re still in that part of life where six months can turn you into a completely different person. Who knows if we’ll still know each other after two and a half years?
This is what I’m thinking about, shivering in my red coat on the platform as the snow falls on my shoulders. I keep peering down the tracks, first left and then right, not knowing which direction her train is coming from. I tell myself that in these last couple months alone in Chambéry I’ve just become unaccustomed to having friends around---that’s why I’m nervous. But still.
Each time that Clémence and I see each other, one of us is always speaking in a language that we don’t entirely understand, fumbling through unfamiliar verb conjugations and fast-spoken idioms. One of us is the leader, and the other is the follower. The follower must do and say as the leader does and says. Since that first time that she spent a month with me in Ohio, Clémence has not been back to the U.S. We are always in her country and her language. And for that, I constantly feel like a child around her, stumbling along in her footsteps.
But the second she steps off the train, I spot her strawberry blond hair and her funny white eyebrow that changed color after she went to college. We catch each other’s eyes and beam.
In that moment I remember that even though we don’t actually know that much about each other, we love each other in a way that feels unconditional. I rush toward her and she rushes toward me and we collide in a hug like in a scene from a movie.
T’es voilà! I say, tears streaming down both our faces. You’re finally here.