It has been a rough 4 weeks. It really has. I try to stay positive; that is generally my nature and for that I am very lucky. And it is, in fact, the only way that I have been able to traverse the bumps, ruts, and sometimes very large sinkholes that I’ve have encountered on this new road I’ve taken over the last 3 years. But there are times when I feel there is nothing left to do but curl up into a fetal ball and cry like a baby. As much as I try to defeat those moments with positive or funny thoughts, they sometimes get the better of me....and I think maybe that’s good. Sometimes crying is cleansing... and perhaps as good for the soul as laughter. I had one of those moments last month and will not feel the need to be “cleansed” again for a very long time.
I returned to my apartment one day to find myself locked out. I was really at a loss until I peered through the keyhole and realized there was a key in the lock on the other side. That meant only one thing. Crazy Emmanuelle (the woman I don’t know who I sub-lease from) had returned. No warning, nothing. And she was inside MY apartment and had locked ME out! I knocked on the door and was greeted by a half-crazed french women, spewing forth venom like I have never heard.
In a nutshell....and in a delirious mixture of French and English, she let go on me. I had changed her apartment, moved her things (take note: she did not call it cleaning ), this is like rape, slept on her bed, broken her mugs, this is like rape, I trusted you, this is like rape, this apartment was in perfect order when I left....ya da, ya da, ya da. To make a very long story just a bit shorter, I tried to explain to her that I packed her things so I wouldn’t break them because it was impossible to move around, I cleaned because it was filthy and I couldn’t find the floor...or the chairs....or anything else, there were bugs in the furniture, worms in the wood, bedbugs in her mattress, and moths flying out of her closet like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz (well I didn’t actually mention the monkeys but....). Our conversation was reduced to a screaming match and I began the attempt to pack my things, throwing everything in whatever box or suitcase I could find. This was difficult at best because I was shaking like a leaf from both anger and frustration, and she had thrown my things in piles all over my room. In desperation I called my friends Simon and Gérald, both of whom arrived within minutes. We piled, carried, searched, packed and eventually, after they too were subjected to her wrath, I ended up in the street with all my belongings piled up around me.
The really lucky thing about this whole rotten situation was that as Crazy Emmanuelle screamed and ranted, people began to arrive. First, of course, Gérald and Simon. Then came Patrick from downstairs who caretakes many apartments in the neighborhood, including mine. He doesn’t speak English but offered to show me right then and there, all the apartments available in the neighborhood. His wife arrived, offering her support. Frank from upstairs showed up and was visibly upset. He called Alain, his boyfriend, who is the landlord of the building. Alain arrived toute suite , gave me my two kisses and kindly asked how I was doing and then marched over to CE and began to ream her out. It was fast, angry French so I couldn’t understand but Simon and Gérald came running up the steps to get the scoop. He basically told her that she should be thanking me, the apartment was despicable when she left it, I was paying the rent so I could do what I wanted (she apparently had not been paying), from now on she was getting no breaks from him no matter what sob story she concocted, she should get a job like the rest of us, and once again, she should be thanking me.
Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but I’m still on the street with no place to live. I looked at all of Patrick’s apartments but none were right and I had no intention of living in the same neighborhood as Crazy Emmanuelle. Finally, Frank remembered that his apartment on the other side of town (he keeps it in case he and Alain break up...they've been together 12 years) was not occupied for a few weeks and he offered it to me. Alain offered a space in the garage for my things, we put my few pieces of furniture on the street for some other poor soul to snap up, and he walked me over to my new, temporary apartment. And within a day, I had a house-sitting job for a friend in the country for one week and a mansion-sitting job for the month of August at a most beautiful old villa on the hill.
I didn’t cry (okay, just a little....my lips quivered) until a week later when I heard that CE was telling everybody that I had stolen 12,000 Euros worth of antique jewelry from her apartment. That was the straw that caused the aforementioned infantile behavior. Once, when I was 13, I shoplifted a ring from Scissors Department store because “everybody was doing it “and I wanted to see what stealing was like. I felt so bad I took it back the next day. And another time I found a tube of mascara in the bottom of my shopping cart as I was loading my car at Target. I was in a hurry and didn’t take it back. But cross my heart, that is the extent of my thieving! And so, after being accused of an act I’m not even capable of, I curled up and cried for 5 hours. I looked like hell the next day but I think I felt better.
Last week, I wrote this story but in much more detail and with decidedly more venom. I didn’t feel good about it. I really didn’t even want to write about it. I took my computer into town to send the story to the newspaper (the mansion doesn’t have internet) and my computer was stolen off the bus. Needless to say, the article didn’t get sent.
My computer is my lifeline. It allows me to write these articles, it keeps me in touch with friends and family, I need it to find a new apartment, and most of all, I can use it to call my kids. It also contained all my passwords to all my accounts and private sites.
But again, (I hate to sound like a Pollyanna) there were many lucky sides to this new predicament. I had been on my way to have lunch with my ex-landlord Liliane (we are now friends and meet once each week) and she drove me all around town trying to find my Macbook, I had just backed up my computer the night before onto my portable hard drive, and my friends Tony and Bénédicte took me out to their house and let me use their Macbook so I could change all my passwords, email my insurance agent, and begin the process of finding a new computer. I did not cry (my lips didn’t even quiver). I think I had used up all my tears the week before. I did however, continue to repeat the soothing mantra that I used the week before, “I will not give up and go home, I will not give up and go home.”
Yesterday, Tony and I were having lunch and he offered to go with me to Crazy Emmanuelle’s to retrieve the few items that got left behind in all the confusion. She did not answer the door but while we were standing on the landing, Alain heard my voice and came down to chat. He gave me a sleeping bag that I had left in the garage and invited me to a party in September. Then Patrick came down. I thanked him for all his earlier help and said “vous êtes très jolie.” He laughed a little and said, “de rien.” At that moment, I realized I had not told him he was very kind, I had told him he was very pretty!
So the positive and truly lucky moments in all of this are:
I have friends who care about me. That’s worth more than anything.
I have an invitation to a party.
I have my sleeping bag...which really is comforting when you have no place to live.
I’m living in a beautiful mansion right now.
Frenchmen have a sense of humor.
The sky is still blue everyday.
I’m still in the south of France.
But man, I could really go for some Nueske’s bacon! (the absolute BEST bacon in the world) and maybe some of those powerful sleeping pills that got left behind.