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?


  1. That sounds awful! Any chance you can move? I know moving sucks but anything has to be better than daily harrassment and lack of drawers.

  2. :(

    I'm sorry that you're going through the suckies.

  3. Boo for sucky times. I hope you win whatever the French equivlent of the lottery is over the weekend, and meet a stunning prince, and don't get flashed in the subway.

  4. This does not sound good. No drawer for socks and underwear is one thing (and a box can work in a pinch), but being afraid to walk around your neighbourhood is quite another. I hope you are already thinking of moving somewhere where you feel safer.

  5. My sister had an experience like that once. She moved into a place, basically discovered it was a crackhouse (well, not for real, but it might as well have been for how awful it was) and she gave her notice the day after she moved in. It just gave her a BAD FEELING and she decided to trust her gut and get out. We moved her in, and a few weeks later, moved her right back out again. She ended up in a far better place, in a way nicer neighbourhood. I hope you can do the same...

  6. k so I just asked my cop husband if Bobigny was a nice area because I don't know it and he was all like "Bobigny? Oh god no, who lives there that you know??" Then he got all serious and said in a hushed voice "it's in the 93 department..."

    so...maybe you should start hunting around for a different place? The 78 department isn't so expensive and not nearly as sketchy as the 93 (and I live here!!)

    Hope things improve for you soon :)

  7. it was long and dangling and it protruded from his pants.

  8. sorry, i had a moment of being 12. rach, things will get better. then they will get worse, then they will get better again.

  9. I can't wait to hear how bad the other things are. Ok just kidding but it sounds like you've seen way too many penises (that you didn't want to) in Paris.

  10. Sounds awful.

    I really would move. I know it will be a hassle, but I couldn't live without grass, flowers BUT I could live with out those annoying Arab men.
    That would scare me.

  11. "...I'm desperately waiting for the rest of the story and I hate your blog. There. I said it." LOL

    OK, what happened next? Please do tell your faithful admirers...