Sometimes I dream I’m back in the south of France. It’s 1987. I have just two changes of clothes, a 10-speed bike that is four sizes too big, no money, and a forged rail pass for an 8 month university year in Nice. Not a great place to be cashless and clueless, but I wasn’t alone. There was a clutch of Canadians from the poor side of the tracks. We drank wine from tetra pak boxes and ate Baguette for all meals. Paté was our protein. I was anxious then, but not worried. And that’s a big difference. Life stretched before me like an untouched tapestry and we didn’t care as we screamed down mountainsides on our bikes, helmetless on narrow hedge-row streets, beating the bus.
In my dream I stand on the terrace of the campus, at the head of the Grande Corniche, with the horseshoe curve of the Mediterranean fading into the distance, urban mayhem hemmed against the aquamarine sea by a thread of sandy beige. Beautiful. Getting there then, where I locked my bike before class, was a 90-minute ride straight up hill. Arriving was chest-pounding and close to death dehydrated. So alive I still dream about it.