22 December 2010

a Christmas present to my readers

It is that time of year again. And, although I know my readership is limited, I want to thank each and every one of you for stopping by my blog to see my little scribbles. 

I am a huge fan of The Moth and This American Life, and they inspired me to record a story for you all, as a little token of my appreciation.  I want to start experimenting more with reading my pieces out loud. I would love any feedback you could offer. And sorry for the bad quality- my first time!

This is the story of the Johnson family: Ma, Pa, Emily, Clancy and Clyde. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you are feeling the love of the holiday season. 

PS I'll type up the written story tomorrow maybe- so you can read to your children all snug in their beds.

Le Cardinal Cafe

I was just wandering the streets, clearing my mind in the brisk, sharp air. The sky was the color of apathy and the people were all bundled up in scarves and hats. I had already stopped for a coffee near my place- where I sat warm and at ease writing a million letters to a million people. I stopped by the post office and mailed all the little thoughts out across the ocean.

Regretting wearing only my little black ballerina slippers instead of my cushy winter boots, I wrapped myself up tight and started walking. I crossed by Notre Dame- how it was almost camouflaged against the grey sky!- and continued down the Seine towards wherever.

I passed Shakespeare and Company, the cello maker, and two Italian tourists shouting at each other in the road. Before I knew it my watch said it was near 3 and my tummy growled- empty except the coffee and cream. I passed a brasserie, same as any other, and ducked inside from the cold.

As I stripped off all my outer layers and ordered a mulled wine, I realized I had just walked into a 1960’s Goddard film. The bar was long and plated in metal, smudged with the fingerprints of lunch guests. A few men sat there, mid 40s, with glasses full of rosé, discussing something serious in hushed tones, close to each other. Behind the bar was a man with a flop of dark hair and a striped shirt, wiping down the espresso machine and turning the glass jar of Madeleines.  The chef stood at the door of the kitchen, bored now that lunch was finished for the say; he surveyed the old men sitting to my right.

They sat, chatting, and one could tell that they hadn’t moved all day. Every time a man with silver hair and a long umbrella would walk in the door with a fresh blast of winter they would say “Hello young man!” and drag him in to conversation for a spell. One snacked on a crème caramel while the other refilled their glasses with wine from a small carafe. A tall, younger man entered and the table shouted “Bonjour Olivier!” but Olivier managed to avoid their grasp, taking a quick coffee at the bar before disappearing back into the latin quarter. A man in shocking red pants and a Burberry scarf joined them at their small table and they cried “Hey bartender! This guy needs a glass of wine! Hurry!”

To my left sat an older couple, resembling each other as many years of marriage will do. She drank a perrier and he had a coca cola, and at their feet was the largest, fluffiest black dog I have ever seen- dozing away happily on the cold tile. “Is he nice?” I asked, then scratched his head, feeling only handfuls of fur.
Beside the cooler displaying chocolate mousse in sundae cups, small crème caramels, a cherry clafouti, a large white bûche de noel, and bottles of Cotes de Provence and Sancerre, a man in small glasses, the owner I presume, sat quietly. He had a large calculator to one side, a large rubber stamp on the other, and a stack of papers in front. He held his face close to the papers as he read, lifting only to sip from his tiny espresso cup.

A Christmas tree blinked in the corner and the speakers buzzed with a quiet jazz piano. The light snow flurries turned to freezing drops of rain and the old men cried “another!” at the man in the striped shirt. 

17 December 2010

A True Story of Unshakable Naivety

It was less than a month ago when I first called him. I'm not sure quite why. I wasn't very lonely- I had been seeing some other guys casually. I guess it was curiosity? Maybe I really did miss him, somehow? I do know that I was still angry. It was only two years ago, the last time I saw him, that he had pushed my heart through a meat grinder. 

I remember so well when it happened- a hot, humid July day. We had already been on the rocks- his obsessive jealously was so overwhelming at times I would just scream and scream with no release. When he started going through my phone and peeking in my journal, I knew it had gone too far. And I was generally at a really bad place in my life- in the middle of law school, leaving Paris again, questioning my future with him and Paris and life in general. And then came the knowledge, like a shotgun to the chest: he was seeing someone else. And I cried, and cried. I wondered when I had ever decided to let my guard down with a French man anyhow, as I have never known one to be faithful. My rule was easy- I can play the game. Everyone has fun and no one gets hurt. But he told me he loved me, and my tummy needed to feel it so badly that I believed him. 

But that was two years ago. 

So I called him. I think I wanted an apology, finally. Or at least some satisfaction. And expecting anything from him was the second mistake. I heard his voice and my heart died all over again. I cried, I asked why, I yelled. I hung up the phone, the release unsatisfactory. He called again and again. "I want to see you" he said. "I want to say I am sorry and I missed you" he said. A few weeks later, in a moment of weakness, I gave in. 

It was late and cold, too many clouds to see any stars. He arrived and I poured us both a strong glass of whiskey. It started with more yelling. I tried to be cold to him but I could not control it. So much anger, like a rolling ball of fuzz and dust, smashed into my stomach, not budging. And then I cried. And he held me. And then hours later I was still crying, but now not because of him, but because of myself and my uncertainties and my own little demons. And he was still holding me. And when we kissed it was like two years ago, before everything went bad, when he could still make me blush and giggle. 

In the morning we went for coffee like we always did- he his espresso with plenty of cigarettes, and me with my cafe creme, leafing through the paper. It was cozy and comfortable and I felt my body relax as it hadn't in a while. When he left I tried to analyze the situation but it was much easier to push it out of my mind. We started talking on the phone, meeting for a glass of champagne, and sweet text messages late at night. 


Then he showed up one afternoon, with take out and coca cola and all smiles. We snacked and talked and cuddled, then stayed in bed all afternoon. We made love and kissed each other and talked about our lives for the last two years and life in general. We listened to music and he flicked cigarette ash out my window. An endless stream of dressing and undressing. I remembered every centimeter of his chocolate eyes. He kissed my nose and called me old pet names. The window turned from bright to dark as the day turned into a grey evening. "I should go" he said. 

"Lets go out and have a cocktail," I suggested. "I haven't left the apartment all day and it is apero hour." 

"Just one," he said, and we took the tiniest elevator in Paris down to the street and then out to the square and down the street to a pub. Typical pub, all dark wood and smelling of Guinness and fried foods. We sat at the bar and chatted and ordered, a beer for him, a gin and tonic for me- extra limes. When he left to smoke outside the door an English guy next to me struck up a conversation. At his return, I felt his mood change immediately. "I'm just talking," I said. "Do you want to go soon?"

"I want to go" he said, "but I can see you want to stay." I had no intention of staying without him but regardless he ordered more drinks and stood by me like a bulldog. But every time we would finish a round, and he would go out to smoke, a new guy would start talking to me, and his jealously would compel him to stay at the pub with me and make himself angry anew each time he walked back through those doors, smelling of smoke and hops. When we finally left, much later, after several rounds and an order of french fries, he walked me  back up to my apartment, both of us full of kisses and spirits and nostalgia. 

"Can I come in?" he asked. 

"You can," I said. "But if you come in you have to stay the night."

"I can't do that," he said. "I can't stay here."

"Why?" I asked, twirling my fingers in his hair and looking at him with teasing eyes.

"I can't stay" he repeated. His face had now changed.

 "I have to go home. 

I have to go home because I live with my girlfriend."

11 December 2010

things that are cold: 

things that are warm:

04 December 2010

the perks of European pre-paid phones

When you have
every breath in your body
trying to explain that he is
and awful
and selfish...
it clicks off.

and you cannot redial
because the minutes
have expired.