We left Luxembourg almost exactly two years ago, a predawn drive to the airport, then onto Geneva and a week in the Alps. One evening, I noticed that Alex seemed to be in a serious conversation with another boy—in French—dragging their sleds up the hill. I later asked Alex if he understood the boy. "No," he told me, unfazed. "But sometimes, Daddy, when people ask me things in French that I don't understand, I just nod and say 'oui.'" He had learned how to be an expat, just as we were leaving.
But before we moved, I'd started going to cafes downtown—mostly Coffee Lounge, on rue de la Poste—with my computer, after school drop-off. I opened a new word-processing document, and typed THE EXPATS on page 1. I kept typing until I'd finished a novel.
THE EXPATS is, by many people's accounts, an exciting read—it's an espionage thriller. My literary agent found not only an American publisher for it, Crown, but also Faber and Faber in the U.K., and another dozen international publishers (most of Western Europe, plus a few countries elsewhere) as well as a film option. But THE EXPATS is also a book about what it's really like to be an expat, and a parent, and married.
So I'm no longer Cooking in Luxembourg; I'm now http://www.chrispavone.com/. As a way of leaving this blogspot, I want to include a short passage from near the end of the book—edited slightly to remove some spoiler sentences (it is, after all, a thriller)—about leaving, something I've done a lot of in the past few years, always more bitter than sweet . . .
* * *
Luxembourg seemed empty in mid-August. Or empty of expats. Kate’s friends were all on family holidays—the Americans in America, the Europeans in rented seaside cottages in Sweden, or whitewashed villas in the mountains of Spain, or pastels with pools in UmbrKate walked around the old town, the familiar faces of the shopkeepers, the vendors in the Place Guillaume market, the waitresses on their cigarette breaks, the palace guards. All these people whose names she didn’t know, who were part of the texture of her life. She felt like she should say farewell to each and every one of them.
She wished her friends were here, now. She felt the urge to sit in a café with Claire and Cristina and Sophia, have a final round of coffee, a final round of hugs. But it was probably better this way. She hated goodbyes.
Kate returned to the apartment, a ham sandwich in a wax-paper bag, and resumed the task of sorting through the boys’ toys, picking out the discards, the donations, the keepers. They were with Dexter at the pirate-ship playground, for the last time.
It would be easier, Kate knew, the second time around. The hard parts would be less hard, the fun parts more fun. Like with the second kid, Ben: it would be less intimidating, less difficult, less bewildering, with the benefit of the prior experience.
Kate looked out the window at the expansive view, the broad swath of Europe in her sight line, this brief home of hers। Tears welled in her eyes। She felt a heavy weight of despair at the end of this. At the inexorable march of her life forward, toward its inevitable end.