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.


  1. I've been having "the grass is always greener" moments lately too. Moving from the UK back to the US this summer, and I kept thinking, "no, I want to stay longer" and then something will happen and it will make me feel ready to go back to a more familiar place. Even if only for a while.

  2. stepping on couscous cannot feel good. who knows one day, one of those arab men might be a a tall dark handsome loner with a heart of gold, a tommy lee jones of algeria if you will.

  3. I like the fact that Patrice hot-boxing the place is what made you decide not to go back. Good choice.