Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why the heart wants what it wants, except when it gets momentarily confused

On Saturday, one month after I moved out, I went back to my old house to pick up some things I had left there. I had meant to do it sooner, but if time doesn't exactly fly when you're miserable and hate your life, it still has a way of getting away from you, somehow. In any case, one month later I said enough is enough, the proper phone calls were placed, and on a sunny Saturday afternoon I got on a train. Thirty minutes later I got off in Chelles, my Chelles, and it was just like I remembered it, only better. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, and the trees were in bloom. Outside the train station people sat drinking at an outdoor café. People seemed friendlier, somehow, and no one hassled me, and no one told me I was beautiful or charming. In fact, no one talked to me at all, which is just the way I like it. And then I saw the Monoprix, my Monoprix, which always had everything I ever wanted, and never forced me to go to three different stores just to find a jar of pesto or a lousy pack of paper plates. There was not a dog turd to be found. I breathed deep the fresh Chelles air, and thought of how unfair all of this was. I had moved out in the first place because I was told we all had to move out in April. Slowly by slowly that date kept getting moved back, first to the end of April, then May. By then it was too late, and I had already paid a deposit on my new place. I thought of a recent conversation with Fred, in which he told me that he was staying at least until the end of June, now, July even. "I'm leaving on June 30!" I said. "You mean...I could have stayed the whole time!"

"Come back, Rachel," he said, simply. "Come back."

"I can't," I said, defeated. "I already paid the last month's rent, and I can't afford to pay two rents the last month." Fred said he understood. And even if I could...I thought. I would hate to do that to my landlord, my roommate. Although, really, my landlord already had my money, so why would he care? My roommate, though, she might think it was because of her, that I didn't like her, and I wouldn't want her to think that. I rationalized all these things in my head, even though moving back wasn't even an option, really. I convinced myself that it wasn't.

But in the light of day, back in Chelles once again, my arguments started losing weight. Staying in a place I hated just to avoid inconveniencing people or hurting their feelings? What about my feelings? And the money...I would lose 350 euros, that was true, but I had enough to cover it. And how much was my happiness worth, anyway? Shouldn't I be happy during my last month in France? Perhaps...yes, perhaps! Well, maybe... Though the timing of it was stupid, since I was ostensibly there to pick up some belongings and drop off my keys, perhaps, maybe I wouldn't, after all! Maybe I would talk to Patrice. Surely he wouldn't mind if I moved back in for one more month. Yes! That is perhaps maybe what I will do! I decided, only minutes from reaching the house. And then there it was, good old number 4. I put my key in the lock and opened the gate with a spring in my step. The garden was blooming with roses, the grass was lush and thick. Then I walked up the front steps and nearly tripped over a teetering pile of primary-colored plastic in the form of pint-sized roller skates and assorted protective equipment assembled precariously in front of the door. I took a large step over them, knocked, and went in. "Hi!" I said brightly. Patrice was there, and the kids too, there for the long weekend. The ten-year-old was shirtless, playing video games in front of the t.v., the little one on Patrice's lap, in front of the computer as usual. Patrice was smoking a cigarette, as usual, and from the atmosphere in the house it was not the first of the day. The air in the house was close and stuffy, and though it was a breezy 70 degrees outside, not a window was open. Every available surface was covered in toys, and as I went to get a drink of water I immediately stepped into a pile of couscous abandoned on the kitchen floor. Back in the living room the little one's whines rapidly escalated into screams of impotent toddler rage. And just then, something clicked into place for me.

You know? I thought to myself. I think I'm actually pretty good where I am.

Bobigny may not be home, exactly, but the apartment is clean and it's quiet, and for the next 30 days it'll do just fine, I think. And in any case, if ever I feel like my life is missing that extra added element of chaos, I know just where to go to find some.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why I need you to do me a favor...

Hey, remember my friend Gavin? Well he needs your help! And it's as easy as pushing a button. But first, watch this video. (Oh come on, it's only 59 seconds long. Facebook will still be there when you get back):

Pretty slick, no? You're welcome to take a look at all the other entries, of course, or I can save you a lot of time and just tell you that Gavin's natural charisma, and not to mention technical savvy, blow all the other contestants away. From what I understand, the winner is responsible for creating video and blog posts detailing the awesomeness that is the Delmarva coast in the summer, and gets to stay in a sweet ocean-front condo in Ocean City, MD. Obviously this job would be perfect for someone as creative, personable, and all-around talented as Gavin.

So without further ado, why don't you just go to Gavin's entry page now and click on the button that says "Cast your vote." Do it for Gavin. Do it for the Delmarva coast. Do it for the soon-to-be-unemployed-and-living-with-her-parents blogger who would love to have an ocean-front couch to crash on this summer!

Do it! Do it now!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why there's a weight off my shoulders

So he may not be my soul mate, and our relationship may be doomed to an early demise, but much as I suspected all along, it is really nice to have a boyfriend in Paris in the spring. We've been having some lovely, relaxing times together the last few days, due in no small part to the gorgeous weather of late. In a nice coincidence, we both have Thursdays off, and so we took an ambling walk along the Canal St. Martin (where Amélie skips her stones in the movie, if you're into that kind of thing), and sat down to snuggle on a bench for a while. At this point, though, I hadn't yet told him of my more and more imminent departure, and I was starting to feel a bit guilty about it. I was feeling more and more like I was keeping something from him, but I still hadn't found the right moment yet. On Tuesday, for example, I met him and a couple other teachers after work for dinner in Paris. "So what did you do today?" was the first thing he asked me. I started to say that I had spent all day e-mailing resumes and cover letters in order that I may be a gainfully employed individual come fall, but then I realized that my reply would surely be followed up with questions regarding what kinds of jobs I was applying for, and where I was applying for them. This would have been a natural time to tell him about the recent purchase of my plane ticket, of course, but it was a conversation I didn't feel like having in front of his friends. And so, "Oh...not much," I replied, as they all secretly judged me for my laziness and lack of productivity. By Thursday and our promenade along the Canal St. Martin, the need to tell him became stronger. It just felt wrong not to. And yet, we were having such a beautiful day together, and I didn't want to ruin it with reality. And so I decided I wouldn't say anything unless he asked me directly about my plans or if it came up naturally in conversation. And a couple of hours later, it did. We were talking about teaching, and I talked about getting your licensure in the States, and he asked if that was what I was going to do, and I said yes. "In any case," I said, "I'm leaving on June 30." And if I was worried about dramatics, or ruining anyone's day, I shouldn't have, because he just said, "Awww," and then he kissed me, and that was that. I think really, he knew all along, that it was inevitable, that it was impossible for me to stay, and that he was just waiting to hear it. Afteward he was just as chipper as before, and if I had secretly been hoping for one little "I don't want you to go," I'll never tell. Instead we had lunch at an adorable little restaurant with the windows all open to the street, and then we went to see Star Trek.

On Sunday, with skies once again blue and cloudless, we fulfilled my weeks old dream of packing a picnic and walking the length of the Promenade Plantée: 4.5 km of an old railway turned into a walking path and planted with flowers, flowers, and more flowers. I even took some pictures:

When we reached the end, we hopped on the métro and went to the Bois de Vincennes. Passing by the chaâteau I spotted this bizarre group. Hours later when we returned, they were still there, shooting away:

I think here the poor thing is actually melting from the heat.

And so back we went to Hervé's apartment, finally collapsing on the sofa in a tired, sweaty heap with some cold beer and Ben & Jerry's. It was a good day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why I will never be a fashion icon, and that's ok

Today was one of those rare, dreamed of Paris days with not a single cloud in the sky, everything just azure and light. Pas un seule nuage, or numage, as my little charge likes to say (and which is just too cute to correct). We spent the afternoon at the Place des Vosges, as usual, she stripping down to just her culotte and making a glorious mess with buckets of water in the sand pits there. I remained more modestly clothed and just removed my socks and shoes, digging my toes luxuriously into the sand. I once again marveled in the differences between my two countries, the one I was born into and the one I am borrowing, as I scanned the throngs soaking up the sun on the grass, and remarked that there wasn't a bikini in sight. If anything, you are much more likely to see the opposite scenario here: chic Frenchies in their all-weather apparel - scarves, leather jackets and all. And as for the question I know I've been asking myself all these many weeks and months- When does it become too warm for French women to finally ditch their knee-high boots?- my highly technical analysis today shows that the answer is, apparently, never. Pair those suckers with shorts and some nude pantyhose and you're good to go, if you're trying to emulate the French fashion of the moment. (I think I'll stick with my standard work uniform of jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers, though, thanks. They soak up the mud, snot, banana slime and chocolate drool so well). Which, speaking of fashion faux pas, brings me to my next point...

Farmers tans!!! I am now re-thinking my decision to remain modestly clothed, as my glaringly white somewhat less tanned shoulder only highlights my rockin' sunburn.

Also not the height of fashion? Watch tans.

...And a ring tan. But as someone whose mood improves with her UV exposure, I think it's safe to say I've been feeling a bit more chipper the last couple of days. One or two more slow roastings and I may even crack a smile. So come on, Paris, let's keep this weather coming. I only have five weeks left here, and I'd like them to be as wrinkle-inducing as possible.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why all we are is dust in the wind

When I was little, I sucked my thumb. Ok, not my thumb. My finger. I sucked the index finger of my right hand. In retrospect, this seems perhaps an odd choice given the anatomically superior positioning of the thumb in terms of sucking comfort and placement of the residual digits. But perhaps it just goes to show that even our first naive attachments are not based on reason and logic, but rather on what feels right at the time. My finger sucking quickly went from being cute to being a problem, in the eyes of my parents, anyway, and so after enduring repeated nagging and several rounds of bandaged fingertips (gag), by the age of five or so I was pretty much cured. I don't suck my finger anymore, but I do have another vice which serves much the same purpose, and it is this: I read. Specifically, I read things that I have written, old blog entries and the like. I read my own words. I did this long before I had a blog, holing up with stacks of old journals from throughout the years, spending hours re-reading every page, re-living each memory. Now that I have a blog it becomes even easier; my own self-contained, self-referential universe, and all I have to do is open my laptop. And so I read, delving into memories that I will not allow myself to forget, rolling the words around in my mouth, and gleaning what comfort I can from them. The association may not seem immediately obvious, but for me it was a natural substitute. I turn to my words, because like my finger, they are there, they are familiar, and they are a part of me. It may not be the healthiest or most productive of activities, but then again I never claimed to be a paragon of mental health and stability. I am a person who listens to sad music when I am sad. And when I am thinking about the past, I dive in, and I wallow in it. Lately I have been listening to a lot of sad music, and last night I curled up with my laptop and took a walk down bad memory lane, focusing mainly on the ex, with a helping of rejection and betrayal for good measure. There is no redemption to be had in this wallowing, don't be mistaken. There is no element of look how far I've come, there is no silver lining on this cloud. Because the truth is, I haven't progressed, and things haven't really changed. As I've said before, things aren't any better, they're just differently bad.

Please, don't be too alarmed. If I sound even more desperate than usual, it could just be that I always am at this time of year. And if on April 19 this year I was in Italy working and lacking internet access and free time for blogging, it doesn't mean that the day went unnoticed. And even with my sister visiting and a birthday dinner with roommates and the boyfriend notwithstanding, the fact that this was the first year my ex failed to send me a birthday e-mail didn't go unnoticed either. I remember one morning a few months back, my very first thought upon waking was that it would soon be two years that James and I have been apart. For no apparent reason, unprompted and unbidden this thought filtered through the haze of consciousness as soon as I cracked open my eyelids, and the idea of it seemed so hopeless that I had to fight back tears. Two years seemed such an utterly sad length of time, and the distance between us so vast and all-encompassing, and yet it still wasn't as long as we were together.

Lately I've been fantasizing about getting back together. I find myself listening to an episode of This American Life about a couple reuniting with more than a casual interest. An article about second chances in a women's magazine catches my eye. With my time in Paris coming to an end, and with no concrete plans for the future, I find myself alternately drawn to and repulsed by the idea of returning to Boston, the town with too many memories, and too few miles of buffer between me and the ex. And while it's impossible, for so many reasons impossible, I find myself imagining it all the same. And really, what was I thinking, anyway? The straw that broke the camel's back that he didn't want to get married? I don't even know if I want to get married anymore. Maybe I will someday, I can't be sure, but at the moment it's certainly not high on my list of priorities, in any case. And yet, deep down I know that the problem was not that he didn't love me enough to get married, but that he didn't love me enough. Period.

"Why do you always fall for unattainable guys?" my sister said to me once recently, talking about my ex. "You always fall for unattainable guys."

"I do not," I protested. "He was not unattainable. I had him. I had him for three years." She just looked at me.

For three years, I almost had him. I had all of him except for the parts he kept just out of reach, until finally, three years later I lost my grasp, and all of him- the parts I loved, the parts I didn't, and the parts I didn't know, all went slithering through my fingers. The thought of trying to get all that back akin to searching a beach for the exact grains that had made up a now wind-scattered handful of sand. Fruitless, impossible, hopeless, and yet nonetheless hoped for, all the same.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why you can blame it on the rain

I was at the baby-sitting job from hell the other evening, and I had just finished giving the little girl her bath. Standing up in the tub, she held her arms above her head, and I swooped in, wrapped her tightly in a towel and lifted her out as she giggled and squealed, as she always does when I do this. And, ok, there is something pretty cute about holding a clean and snugly bundled little muffin in your arms, so it turns out she does have her redeeming moments. I set her carefully down on the changing area, configured as per her mother's very precise instructions: the sink is covered with a board made specially for the purpose, the faucet swiveled back out of the way thus turning the sink into a changing table, with a cushioned pad placed on top, and the whole thing covered with a towel. From here I am able to get the little girl dried, moisturized, and dressed in pajamas with relative ease.

"Hmm, why is your sock wet?" I asked her, though I didn't particularly expect a response. In any case, her mother would be sure to notice, and I made a mental note to change it for a dry pair as soon as we got back to her bedroom. Then I noticed that part of the towel was sopping wet as well, and realized that a corner must have dipped into the tub while I was lifting the little girl out. My blood pressure rose a few points as I remembered one time a few months back, also post-bath, when the girl's mother stopped to inspect two drops of water on the wooden counter surrounding the sink. She tsk-ed and grabbed a towel, quickly whisking the drops away, saying, "No, no, no, you have to be more careful. This is wood, it cannot get wet." The question of why anyone would have a sink that can't get wet ranked right up there with why anyone would have bathroom doors that lock from the inside, with no key to open them from the outside with a mischievous pre-schooler in the house, but I chalked it up to yet another eccentricity of the well-to-do and called it a day. As I was assessing the moisture situation and hoping nothing else had gotten too damp, I was startled by a sudden and worrisome noise, almost like loud static, coming from inside the bathroom. I whirled around trying to determine where the noise was coming from, as it slowly dawned on me that to my horror, the sound was of rushing water. My mind seemed to be working in slow motion as I deduced that other than the tub, the only logical place for a rapid exodus of water could be...I spun back around to the sink in horror to see the little girl, fascinated, staring at the stream of water pouring out of the faucet (conveniently angled to the side of the sink) that was now gushing onto the wooden counter top and forming a rapidly growing lake on the bathroom floor. At the same time I heard a commotion coming from outside the door, as the girl's mother shouted frantically for her husband and the housekeeper, but I didn't have time to process the significance of this yet. Instead I focused on damage control, the first order of business being, of course, to turn off the water. Now it was my body that seemed to be moving in slow motion, as I grasped frantically for the hot water faucet, only to find it already off. Losing precious seconds, I next fumbled for the other faucet, turning off the cold water and finally ending the near inundation. With my heart in my throat, I assessed the damage. Forget a couple of drops of water; wooden counter tops, floors, towels, pajamas- everything was soaked. Holy head on a platter; I was done for. Why does it always have to be water?! I wanted to scream. This was getting a bit ridiculous; I was starting to feel cursed. I sighed and started to mop up with towels, but I soon realized there would be no hiding this. I would have to face the music. And so I took a deep breath, opened the door, and found the girl's mother on her hands and knees in front of a bucket on the floor, also with a stack of towels. Momentarily blind to the irony of the situation, I started nervously in on my explanation. "Um, Agnès?" I said. "We had a bit of a problem...You see, Louise bumped one of the faucets in the bathroom and so water went...well, everywhere. It's all over the counter and the floor."

"What?" she said distractedly. "Oh, that's ok. Just mop up the water with towels the best you can and put the towels with the dirty laundry."

"Um, ok," I said, not believing my luck.

"And you don't have to use that board anymore, in the bathroom," she said. "I didn't tell you? She's too big now. You can just dress her on a towel on my bed."

"Ok," I said. "I will."

Leading the girl to her room, we entered to find the housekeeper busy positioning another bucket under a leak, and cleaning up with yet more towels. Seeing this, the girl's eyes got wide, and she started talking very quickly. "You see, it wasn't my fault!" she said, partly to herself and partly to the housekeeper. "I didn't mean to get water everywhere! I may have bumped it a little with my arm but it wasn't really my fault. So maybe it was the fault of..." she paused, "...everyone!" I admired her determination to place blame, as well as her tactic of lightening her own share of the responsibility by doling it out equally among other possibly guilty parties. The housekeeper, who clearly had no idea of what had just occurred in the bathroom, laughed and said, "No, Louise. It's because of the rain."

"You see?" the little girl said to me triumphantly. "It was because of the rain!"

If only all of life's little mistakes could be explained away so easily. Meanwhile, give me earth, wind and fire, but please lord, no more water. My nerves just can't take anymore.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why only I could be miserable in Paris in the spring, part two of two

So you want to hear the rest of the story, do you? The villagers have spoken, and I have felt the sharp prick of their pitchforks on my backside. Ouch. I suppose it's my fault for posting a blog entry with 'part one' in the title. If I hadn't done that no one would have known any differently and I could have gone about enjoying my first day off with nothing to do and no one to entertain in I don't know how long. (I love having people to entertain, don't get me wrong). But instead here I am, in my pajamas at noon, lounging on my bed with a warm computer on my lap, trying to eke out a story about what an ungrateful ninny I am. Because who could possibly be lucky enough to live in Paris (or sort of), and even have managed to snag herself a French boyfriend, and still be completely miserable about it? Yes, it's a tough job being an ingrate, but someone's got to do it. And plus, have you seen how many sunshine and roses, my life is perfect and by the way here are some pictures of my new engagement ring bloggers are out there? I know you read them, we all do. But when your teeth start hurting from all the sweetness at least you know where to go. Diary of Why - the blog to read when you want to feel better about your own life. My new tagline, perhaps?

Ok, fine, I'm stalling. Where to begin...So, my teaching job ending, moving into a new (and awful) place, and even the Hervé thing all sort of came together at roughly the same time. My life was turned upside down, shaken and stirred, and now I'm trying to figure out what happens after. So let's talk employment. As I said, my teaching job is over now, and I went in to both the middle school and the high school last week to say goodbye. At the middle school they gave me an orange juice and cookie reception with the English teachers, the principal, and some specially chosen students. The teachers all said lovely things, the principal made a little speech, and the students, when prodded, asked halting questions like, "What will you do after?" Hmmm, I responded thoughtfully. They presented me with a beautiful (and unexpectedly heavy) photo atlas of the Seine-et-Marne department, signed by all the teachers. The students presented me with handmade cards, some of which made me laugh really, really hard. Goodbye my lover, someone had written. Have a good return to England, someone else said. Thanks to you I now like English a little bit more! said one girl. Goodbye my teacher. I'm happy!!! In one class turning my name into a poem was a popular idea, and so I got several variations on this theme:


My favorite one, though, used the words agility and essential, which kind of made me feel like a very important superhero. After class, one girl, who could never manage to stay in her seat or keep her mouth shut, came up to me and said with a big smile, "Even if I was bad sometimes, it was still fun." Another boy, whose name I don't even remember, so help me, came up to me and said, "We really loved having you here." He said it without a trace of a smile, completely serious, and I thanked him. "No, really," he insisted. "We really, really loved having you." He looked like he might cry. After school as I was leaving, the same boy was waiting at his bus stop. He walked up to me and just sort of stood there, staring, until I said goodbye about three times. It was sweet.

And for my last day at the high school, the school where I had spent most of my time? Nothing. Not a word. After school one of the teachers had a champagne reception to celebrate her recent marriage. There were toasts to her, and everyone signed a card and gave it to her. When it came time to leave I made the rounds saying goodbye. "It's my last day!" I said awkwardly, but no one really reacted. I stood in silence next to the principal for a good ten minutes during the reception, and he never said a word. The English teachers said maybe we would get together for lunch sometime soon. "Yeah, maybe," I said. This after I came in after my contract was technically over, after I came in even though I wouldn't get paid for it, just to say goodbye. This after I spent over 30 euros of my own money on peanut butter and Dr. Pepper and root beer for the students to taste. Ah, well. C'est la vie, right?

And so, anti-climactically or not, it's really over, and now my reason for being in France becomes a bit more ambiguous. Before, I was here to teach English. Now my only source of income is from baby-sitting, which kind of makes me question my existence here. Really? I came to France to wrangle a rude and over-privileged four-year-old and her even ruder and more over-privileged mother? My hopes of using this as a stepping stone into something else, something better, have all but disappeared as I've realized that, without working papers, finding an actual, real job here is pretty much a lost cause. And so I've turned my sites back towards the U.S., my country of birth, though not my country of choice, but the only one where I legally have the right to work. A quick perusal of internet job postings shows that my prospects are equally grim there, thanks to the current economic situation and a basically useless degree. When I think of the future, I see myself...moving back into my parents' house for an undetermined amount of time. Truly, a prospect frightening enough that even the most Pollyanna-esque of optimists quake in terror at the mere thought.

And Hervé? you ask. And Hervé??? (Yes, I can hear you, even from all the way over here!) Ah, yes, Hervé. And here's where the pitchforks come out. Hervé is...good on paper. But the reality of Hervé, like everything else, is quite a bit different. He is so sweet, and so eager to please, and yet...And yet. Besides the fact that he snores, and besides the fact that he sleeps, and therefore we sleep, the both of us in a child-sized bed, and that I lay awake for hours and never get a good night's sleep, and then I move to the child-sized couch, which is even worse, without even a pillow and miserable and shivering under the world's thinnest blanket...besides that is the fact that even the biggest bed in the world wouldn't change the way I feel about him, which is to say, the way I don't feel about him. Apparently years of experience have not yet taught me the inevitable lesson, that trying to convince yourself into developing feelings for someone never, ever works. And yes, I know, you hate me, but trust me I've heard it all from my sister already.

I mean, I still like the guy, and I still want to hang out with him, I just don't see a future with him, if you know what I mean. And I know some of you may be saying I should just bite the bullet and end it now, why drag things out unnecessarily, and I tell you, I would if I had anyone else at all to hang out with. But the sad but true fact is that all this year, I have not made a single friend in France who has not been either a roommate or sleeping with me. Which kind of puts yet another damper on the whole I want to stay in France forever daydream. Not that home is any better, mind you, since the friends I have in the U.S. are scattered far and wide, but nonetheless. It's hard to be a stranger in a strange land, you know?

But Hervé, yes, Hervé. It is a bit of a sticky situation. The last time I saw him, he said, "So you're staying with the baby-sitting job until the end of June?"

"Yes," I said.

"And after?" he said.

"Um...I don't know," I said. Why worry him unnecessarily, I thought, when it's true, I don't know exactly what I'm doing after. We'll just cross that bridge when we come to it. Twenty-four hours later I bought a plane ticket home. I haven't told him yet.

It's for June 30, and I thought I was ok until it came time to press the button, that one little be-all and end-all button confirming the purchase, and I almost couldn't do it. I put my head in my hands and I tell you, I almost cried. All of the awfulness here aside, going home still feels like such a failure, somehow. But I did it, I pressed that button, and my one saving grace is this: it's a round-trip ticket. Have you tried to buy a one-way trans-continental plane ticket lately? I swear, in no other business in the world does it cost five times as much to buy one of something than it costs to buy two. And people wonder why the airline industry is failing. Sheesh. So I bought a round-trip ticket because I was forced to, Air France twisting my arm while simultaneously prying my hard-earned euros out of my unwilling hands. And so, I will be going home on June 30, moving back in with my parents, and at twenty-nine years old, starting from scratch and trying to cobble together some semblance of a life for myself. But it does help to know that I have an escape route. And if I happen to get a wild hare round about July 21, then who knows what can happen. With my health, a couple of suitcases, and one half of a round-trip ticket back to Paris, I suppose anything's possible.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why life here isn't all puppies and rainbows, part one

Well, after my last post I'm not quite sure how to say this, but...

...I'm desperately unhappy and I hate my life. There. I said it.

"Now there's the bitterly disappointed and curmudgeonly blogger we know and love," some of you may be saying. Meanwhile, after the flower and butterfly-filled romp through the woods of my last post, others of you are probably ready to wring my neck right about now. "Can't she ever just shut up and be happy for once? God!"

You guys are going to rise up against me, aren't you? You're going to show up at my house in the middle of the night with torches and pitchforks, and then you're never going to read my blog again. But first hear me out.

Now, some of this may be the hormones talking, but seriously, everything is awful and it's all hopeless, utterly hopeless. Just to dive right in here, and in no particular order, here is Awful Thing #1:

My new place
So, as predicted, moving sucked. And for once my general pessimism and persistent, low-level anxiety weren't wasted, because in this case the reality turned out to be worse than even I had imagined. Gone is the garden, the grass, the flowers; gone is this view; gone are my walks along the Marne; gone are my spacious, airy bedroom and my beloved roommates. Enter the small, narrow bedroom with fussy wallpaper and no closet, no dresser, no desk, no drawers. There is a cupboard with three narrow shelves for all my belongings, clothes and all. My shoes are on the floor, my books are on the floor, various gadgets and cords and pens and paper are shoved haphazardly under the bed. I almost lost my shit when trying to find a place for my underwear and socks. Socks and underwear should have a place, I am a firm believer in this. That place is a drawer. But there are no drawers. I shoved everything in a teetering pile on top of some sweaters, slammed the door shut and called it a day. It still irks me.

If the room is bad the neighborhood is even worse. Grass is replaced with dirt and cement and dessicated piles of dogshit every five feet. 1.5 meters, sorry. There are no good grocery stores here, and I miss my Monoprix. I'm even further away from Paris than before. And it's not nice here. Every time I step outside of my house I am hassled by arab men. "Hello, how are you, you're ravishing, quelle classe." This may not seem particularly aggressive, but it is when they give me a hard time for not responding to their overtures, it is when I am just trying to walk from my house to the pitiful excuse for a grocery store for god's sake. No one ever hassled me in Chelles. Once though, one time, in Chelles, I was walking to the laundromat with a giant hiking backpack full of dirty laundry on my back. I had it stuffed full, and it was a really big backpack, and out of place on the streets of Chelles. Some young punk kid approached me on the street, and as we made eye contact I knew he was going to hassle me. He looked at me, and his eyes got wide. "Look out!" he yelled at me, pointing in mock horror. "There's something behind you!" I gave him my best do you deign even talk to me withering stare and continued on, but as soon as I passed him I burst out laughing. It still makes me laugh. But in Bobigny men hang out on street corners all day, and they hassle me and it isn't funny at all. On the metro coming home there was a man at the other end of the nearly empty car, and he got up and switched seats for no reason. He got up from his seat, crossed the aisle, and slowly lowered himself into a different seat. Why is he doing that? I wondered idly. From the other end of the car, as he ever so slowly lowered himself down, he looked right at me, and then I saw the reason. It was long and dangling and it protruded from his pants. It's not the first time I've seen a penis on the Paris metro. The first time I was 20, and I was walking in the metro tunnel. The man walking next to me tapped me on the arm, said "Excuse me," looked down. I looked down too, then screamed and ran. This time I didn't give him the satisfaction. I exuded bored disinterest, averted my gaze out the window, and didn't look back. I didn't feel threatened; there were one or two other people, though they were both facing the other direction, and he was all the way at the other end of the car. But this was at noon on a Sunday, and now I'm afraid to come back home late at night. I hate being afraid. It makes me angry. It makes me want to punch the next man who dares give me an unbidden compliment in the street, which is really a sad way to live your life.

I miss Chelles like I never thought I would. It's just a place I lived, in a home that wasn't mine, and it's not even Paris. I took it for granted, its clean streets, walking home from the train station listening to headphones at 1:00 in the morning. It was part of me, the second syllable of my name in French. Rachel de Chelles, it had a certain ring to it. Once Fred and I were hanging out at night in front of the t.v. or a chess game or the like. "So I was walking through the park here, tonight, in Chelles," he said, "and you'll never guess what I saw."

"A squirrel?" I said, because I like the way it sounds in French.

"No," he said. "A rat!"

"No!" I gasped. Not in Chelles!

"Yes!" he said, "And I said, look, un rat à Chelles!"

The punchline took a second to sink in, and then I burst out laughing and socked him in the arm. In French, with no final consonants pronounced, it's ra a chelle...Put it all together...Rachel. What can I say, I guess I'm a sucker for an impromptu joke in my honor.

This seems like enough sniveling for one night, even for me, so Awful Things #2 and 3 are postponed until further notice. And here, I'll leave you with one Good Thing, and that is that my friend Canaan is coming to visit tomorrow and will be here through Monday morning. So I may not be able to post again for a little while, but when I do maybe I'll be able to compensate the overwhelming Awful with a little smattering of Good, and maybe you all will decide to leave your torches and pitchforks at home for the moment. Deal?