Dear Julia

I think I might have seen you before, but we only really met on Friday night.  Your mom was visiting, and you two got gently bullied into staying for shabbat dinner at the house where my husband and I were dining.  I disliked you for a second for being stereotypically French––tall, cool, casually beautiful––and perhaps you disliked me, too, for being any number of negative things I am.  My opinion changed quickly, as it became clear you are very sweet.  We played with the host’s kids, ate some really tender beef and chatted about the differences between Brits, Americans, and French people.  You said in France, there is no such thing as casual dating; we told you in America, all dating is casual.  You made a joke about being French and not drinking, and how all the golden boys at the financial institution where you work were always getting plastered; we took shots of vodka.  We were in that lovely shabbat bubble in which no one checks his or her phone, so we had no idea that back in your city, chaos was ensuing.  It probably started right as we finished singing grace after meals.  The next morning, when we learned what happened, I felt instantly sad that I didn’t know how to reach you.  I wanted to say I was so sorry, that I hoped everyone you loved was safe, that I wanted to help if you needed it.  But I don’t even know your last name.  I used to think it was gross to invoke the name of a tragedy that isn’t yours afterward, that it was more about bringing yourself closer to the blue heat of the flame than comforting anyone else.  Finding the most distant of acquaintances and checking up on them, re-tweeting pictures of the victims in memoriam, crying for the dead you don’t know.  Now I am older and kinder, and I know that people are good, really, and they just have to do something when their hearts are broken, even if that something seems like not so much at all.

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