Tagged: français

Destabilize

I step into a baby clothing store on a whim, looking for a gift for a friend who’s just given birth. The shop is cheerful and whimsical, with a fluffy pastel cotton-candy interior. I’m a bit disoriented in this foreign world of cutesy teeny-tiny fashion.

Smelling fresh carrion, two black-clad saleswomen croak “Hello” and descend upon me. They bare their teeth into something resembling a smile.

One of them, an older woman with deep-set eyes, indicates the rack for newborns. I peruse the adorable clothing, realizing a simple onesie costs 55 euros…

I have no time to fake a polite exit before the dark-eyed woman re-materializes in a cloud of heavy perfume and the oppressive stink of 30 years’ worth of cigarettes and red wine. There’s something sinister about this husky-voiced woman with stingy hair and George Washington’s wooden teeth, cooing at me with a saccharine voice.

“How old did you say the baby was?”

“Uhm, about 2 months.”

“So it’s NOT a new baby then!”

“I guess not…”

“Et, c’est dans quel pays?”

My eyes narrow in confusion, and my mouth is parted–I’m breathing discreetly through my mouth.

Quel pays? What country? What kind of trick question is this?

“Pardon?”

She repeats herself, cartoonishly enunciating “Quel PAYS?” Her gray teeth stand out against the spackle caked on her face; she looks like a 20’s vaudeville clown.

“France.”

“No, no, no…” Her colleague joins in behind, and they are now both braying at me, in tandem: “Pays, pays, pays…”  All that’s missing here is an undead barbershop quartet to complete this ghastly spectacle.

What did I do to gain entry to this hellish dog and pony show?

“WHERE?”

“The south of France…?”

“Oh, voilà! You know, we only ask because every region’s weather is different, every season is different, which you must keep in mind when shopping…” Her smarmy response disgusts me, and their logic has me stumped.  I don’t belong here in this farce. I respond with logic that might speak to them:

“Well, this is a travelling baby. You know, the kind of baby that travels all over France with her parents, so any kind of clothing would be fine… At any rate, thanks very much for your help, have a great day!” I chirp and fly out of the store.

The air outside is heavy and oppressive, offering no relief from the burning that stings the back of my throat.  I feel foolish, destabilized, unsettled.  Despite their bizarrely condescending behavior, I still suspect the fault lies with me and my insufficient French.

It’s time to retreat home.  I’ll buy the gift another day.

Snapshot: Town Center

 

“Le FN est le pire ennemi du peuple.”  A cardboard sign, painted roughly and taped to a stick, then stuck into a traffic cone.  On the steps of the theatre behind the sign, a ragtag-looking group of about 20 young people sit, chilling in small groups.  Rolling cigarettes with clumsy fingers and quietly existing.  An older, grumpy-looking woman wearing a bath robe stops to point a finger at them and yell.  Me, I lift up my sunglasses to peek at their sign, look at them, and simply nod my head.

In a café, in a seat facing the outside terrace.  On the other side of the glass, a trio of stylish people in their 40’s smoke cigarettes, sip rosé, and chat, all done coolly.  Meanwhile, a trio of police officers on bikes stand and watch the center of town, paying particular attention to the ragtag group of peaceful demonstrators.  Minutes later, they ride away, backs flat and butts up in the air.

Tramways worm through the wide-open central plaza, back and forth, crawling along.  Sliding noses intersecting every 9 minutes.

Wind’s picking up.  Parasols ruffle, fountain jets spit haphazardly in all directions.  Hoods drawn, feet hasten, scarves are clutched to necks.  A woman dressed in bold primary colors walks by, covering her head with a large scarf that billows and waves behind her.  Her head and face are completely covered, like a colorblock ghost.

Fat raindrops descend.

Mon petit bonheur

C’est au milieu de l’été, un temps impossible à préciser : tous les jours coulent les uns après les autres, et le temps n’a pas d’importance. Les premiers rayons du soleil teignent le ciel et les oiseaux signalent l’arrivée du matin.  Au début, leur gazouillis ne sont que des bâillements.  Mais progressivement, ils se lèvent et le bruit devient de plus en plus effréné.  “Coucou, lève-toi ! Coucou, lève-toi !”

Bien entendu.  On se lève avec l’excitation de saluer un nouveau jour qui coule dans nos veines.  C’est un dynamisme du corps, presque comme s’il s’était levé avec une chatouille.  On s’habille vite et sans bruit avec les vêtements qui sont les plus proches du lit, et on prend la première gorgée d’eau, la dernière qui reste dans le verre de cette nuit.  Regardant par la fenêtre, on voit que le ciel a une nuance bleue-violette parfaite ; le violet va rougir doucement, et on va pouvoir observer le changement.  On profite de cette lumière, cette teinture qui n’appartient qu’aux matins estivaux, comme si on mettait des lunettes roses.

C’est parti.  Bouger le corps, ça fait du bien.  On sort en douce, et on entre dans le jardin.  Il ne faut pas aller plus loin que notre propre jardin ; voir le visage d’un autre casserait cette ambiance parfaite.  On s’étire comme un chat au soleil, et ensuite, au boulot.  Les framboisiers attendent.  En s’approchant, les framboises à peine mûres semblent luire.  C’est trop difficile de résister à la tentation, et la première framboise cueillie va directement à la bouche ; la baie éclate, les graines croquent, et on déguste le jus sucré, acide, parfumé.

Dans cette instant d’une calme immobilité, on hésite même à respirer trop fort.  Le temps est immatériel, et tout est possible.  Les traces de nos rêves de cette nuit n’ont pas encore disparu, et la réalité est encore floue.  On se sent capable de tout faire…mais il n’y en a pas besoin.  Cette sacrée bouchée prise au moment parfait est une hostie à savourer.  On va décider le programme d’aujourd’hui après une tournée de gaufres aux framboises.  Après avoir avalé la bouchée, on retourne au boulot.  La journée a commencé.