Chapter 3: I'm Mister Lonely
I don’t know about this update thing anymore: these days, coming up with sharing-worthy stories is like squeezing water from a stone. Mostly because I’m not doing anything, ever. Ever. Anything. Maybe I’ll just invent something…
I have been hired to teach junior high, starting either next week or in November (it depends on how they work it around the All Saints’ holiday), so at least there’s something of a reason for my being here now. Wait, you’re thinking, you’re there to be with Franck; that’s your reason. Well yes, that was the idea, but it turns out that Mister Franck’s stand-by ticket requires more standing by than he had realized. (I wasn’t entirely aware that it was a stand-by ticket in the first place, but then I rarely know what’s going on in Franckland; nothing new there.) That would make him: still in Guadeloupe. Which makes me: still alone in Lyon. So maybe he’ll get here Thursday? Friday? Early November? Or maybe not. It’s all part of the adventure, and let me tell you, I’m really enjoying it. It’s the best, this not knowing what to expect or how to plan – it suits my personality to a tee.
I did have some company a couple of weeks ago when my mom came down from Annecy for the week-end. As it happens, the glorious sunshine that had brightened my arrival in Lyon disappeared a few hours before she got here, to be replaced by the howling Mistral wind. I guess it’s legitimate to experience the city the way it will be on grey rainy days as well, but a little bit of warmth would have been nice. Our Sunday sightseeing jaunt to the cathedral on the hill was cut short because the wind was blowing so strongly and I’m kind of a wimp, so what Mom really got to know what the inside of my apartment and what it feels like to drink tea there. (Frankly, that’s a fair representation of my life in Lyon, so maybe it was for the best.)
Even through the misty cold, though, our Honey agreed with me that Lyon is the place to be. (After Annecy.) Not least because of all the amazing food, of which we chose crêpes for lunch. Because we’re such delicate ladies, we got two crêpes to share, each featuring some extravagant combination of cheese, lard, ham, eggs and crème fraîche. I think you can imagine the bloated-and-achy outcome of such face-stuffing; suffice it to say, Never Again. (Until next time.)
After Mom left and the weather turned nice again (what can you do), I went back to my sad search for human contact. I had dinner at Sarah’s one night (the assistant from Guadeloupe who is also in Lyon) and then went to a party with her on the week-end, which I knew was a bad choice but I’ve already explained: human contact. After walking through Lyon and hunting around the pokey student quarters for her friend’s apartment building, we crossed a suspended courtyard – like the one in The Aristocats that all the drunk cats dance over, carrying their instruments and singing “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” - a reference that was lost on my British-and-evidently-not-raised-on-Disney comrades – and opened a door, and there it was: my past. Like so many frosh parties of yore, cramped apartments, crappy music, self-importantly obnoxious people dancing and smoking like it’s going out of style (hey! it IS out of style, losers!) – oh, how I wanted to be home and quiet. Through endless boring conversations, I just kept thinking of the stack of short stories from the New Yorker sitting on my table – why do you look so sad? they asked, obviously impressed, and planning such effective moodiness of their own for the next party. I must have seemed very poignant indeed.
All things considered, I’m not the party type and it must be irritating to hang around with a wet blanket, so I guess Sarah, who is much more social than I, will be a museum-visiting and errands-running friend. Our afternoon at Ikea, for example, was a party and a half, not least because Sarah’s Swedish and so I felt like a real insider. What does that word mean? “Point.” And that one? “Closet.” And so on and so forth, until the check-out guy heard us speaking English and asked where we were from and I said “Sweden” without even thinking. One can dream. She bought all sorts of special Swedish things from the boutique on the way out, mint chocolate and crackly bread and blood sausage and other such tasty treats, and she was really happy to taste things from home. It kind of made me wish there were a Canadian Tire somewhere with a little boutique in it, so I could buy – um, I could buy – Kraft cheese slices. Yes. That is what I would buy. Mmm, Canadian food.
My previous trip to Ikea was a solo trek and ended with me lugging home two lamps, a bedspread and kitchen stuff on my back, and carrying a computer table (which I cleverly transformed into a kitchen table, but for half the price – zing!) in my blistered hands. A very nice man heard me muttering to myself (“I really don’t think this is going to happen”), took pity on me and carried it up the street for me, but that was after I had gotten it that far in the first place. You don’t know how far it is, but trust me: far. So my I’m-so-tough pride notwithstanding, it was nice to have someone to shop with. I got a picture frame for the infamous print (which crashed down beside my head at 4:00 in the morning, but I attached it properly and I
think all is well) and some paint to make it the right colour. I also got a teapot, which I was sorely missing, and a mirror which turns out to be very flattering and I am quite pleased with it. Everything is now in order; you are all invited to come and visit. And bring a hat rack, please, because that’s the only thing I couldn’t find.
A funny side-effect of having almost no friends here (the bank lady doesn’t count; she only calls when she has to discuss my chequing account) is that I’m desperately seeing familiar faces everywhere. I’ve seen about half my high school so far, as well as people I’ve worked with, people I’ve lived with and people who once sold me juice at the QuickMart on the corner. I’ve seen my dad so many times I’m starting to believe he’s actually here and following me around to keep an eye on me. Sometimes I see people I don’t actually know, like Joan Cusack, and then I get all excited, which is obviously ridiculous; I have no claim to Joan Cusack, in Lyon or anywhere. Joan! Hey! What are YOU doing here?! I’ve seen Hugh Jackman (which was nice), Annie Lennox, Kate Moss (a kajillion times; everyone here looks like Kate Moss) and Richard Gere, to name a few, and every time it’s that same excitement, followed by crushing disappointment. And embarrassment, if I waved or called out.
I think I specifically don't have a new friend in the cute neighbour I just met, since we shared the elevator and then realized that we also share a wall. And he said “oh, you’re the one who – um, you’re new here, right?” and I’ve been wracking my brain ever since to figure out what he was about to say. Maybe it’s something harmless, like “oh, you’re the one who dropped all those pots on the floor the other day,” or maybe it’s something god-awful like “oh, you’re the one who’s always moaning in your sleep.” Hard to say.
I guess I can’t ask you to think any more good Franck thoughts for me, because whatever you’ve already come with clearly isn’t working. (Thanks for NOTHING.) If you have a sudden moment of inspiration, though, and feel that you are in contact with the movers and shakers in the universe, maybe you could send some positive travel thoughts via Guadeloupe. Get that guy on a plane, is all I’m asking.
Happy [belated] Thanksgiving to the Canadians out there, and keep on truckin’.