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The Cat Came Back

Over quiche and strawberries at a recent Parisian blogger picnic, the questions fired at me reflect an eerie insight, considering that most of these people I have never met (virtual relations notwithstanding). "Did you ever find that coat?" "How did your sister like those macaroons?" To any passerby at the Parc Buttes Chaumont we might sound like old friends, perhaps filling in the gaps where e-mails and postcards have left off. "So, tell me more about eating that cow's tongue," a British weblogger asks. Everyone is so nice, but who are they and how did they come to know so much about my life?

* * *

July is one of the biannual sale months here in France. Today I visited a swanky department store, Le Bon Marche. I love to shop more than anyone, but like most Americans, I was reduced to a panting slug, wandering in a fugue. I can't get over crossing the threshold to a nice store, only to feel hotter than outdoors. There should be a blast of cold air. It should shock the senses, like stepping from a dark theater into sunlight. This heat stuff is fine if you're at the beach, but I don't want any part of it in my retail venues.I watched French women with their shiny faces enthusiastically examine bags on sale. Sure they complain about the heat, " Oh, c'est terrible! Insupportable!" but later you see them down a piping-hot espresso, tilting their heads to the midday sun with a tiny smile, secret and content. Nope, I don't buy it. They don't feel our pain.

* * *

My apartment overlooks two separate courtyards making it very much like living on the movie set of Rear Window. Especially at this time of year, when those windows are always open. Washing dishes at my sink, my neighbor Marie and I hold conversations as she waters her flowers. On the other side of my apartment, the courtyard stretches a bit wider, but still, I could theoretically bless a person sneezing. My sister Aimee is here for the summer and she got upset with a tidbit (about her) that appeared on my weblog the other night. "You can't tell people that!" Our voices escalate until she yanks away my laptop. It is at that moment I look across the courtyard to see the glowing embers of our neighbors, lazily watching while they smoke cigarettes on their terrace. As someone who constantly makes sweeping generalizations about a certain culture based on personal experience, I wonder, do they observe my doings and say, "Well, she's American, what do you expect?"

* * *

Something funny has been happening lately--the normal summer din of TVs and clinking flatware is pierced by the relentless meowing of a small animal in heat that is also, perhaps, being tortured. Yesterday, I realized what this sound is--Nicolas, the two-year-old son of my favorite downstairs neighbors, Frederic and Gabrielle. He is adorable, Nicolas, but the shrieking, it has been endless. During a particularly long stint this morning, Gabrielle shut their windows. It helped muffle the sound, but it also shut them into, I can only imagine, a sweltering inferno. Nicolas is clearly ill. I bump into Frederic this afternoon. We haven't spoken in several weeks but I feel a "How's things?" would be disingenuous, if not downright insulting, like greeting a friend after rehab with, "Whatcha been up to?" I know exactly what he's been up to--death by baby. What I opt for is the words, "Are you just so tired?" (Note: Not a translation. Frederic lived in the U.S. for years; we always speak English.)

I meant to show sympathy, an understanding that, despite what I know to be his boundless love for the child, if he wanted to express a fleeting desire to throw it out the window, well, I would be the last to judge. But instead... "Are you just so tired?" Because I sure am! Why don't you put us out of our misery so we can have our lives back? I smile dumbly. Neither defensive, nor apologetic, Frederic responds, "Oh, we're having some short nights," then turns the conversation towards me. When we say au revoir, he smiles and holds the gate. Graciousness (of others) in the face of idiocy (your own) can be brutal.

I mope sweatily up the stairs. Are you just so tired? All day long, I can't get it out of my head.

* * *

I sit at my computer, facing the window, ready to beam information about my life to the Internet. I look straight into the apartment across the courtyard where a brunette is pouting with her husband? Boyfriend? I don't see a ring....A wet towel is coiled around her neck to keep cool. Oh, she is good, Miss Pouty Pout. Jessica Simpson could take notes. To tell you the truth, I've been meaning to blog about this couple...

www.lacoquette.blogs.com

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