I got good news and bad news, whattaya's wanna hear first?
Good? Okay, so, I went out with my friend last night! We met at this kick ass bar called "The Smoking Dog" and it's basically a tiny pub with one long booth bench, several small round tables, some low stools and a bar. The thing that makes it so different and AWESOME is that it has shelves and shelves of books!!! Like you can just go in, order a beer, wine, mixted drink, shot, soda, coffee, hot chocolate, whatever and sit and read. Or, you can grab a book and head out to one of the small bistro tables in case you feel like having a smoke (nasty habit, wish I didn't miss it so much). I only found two bad things about this pub and that was 1) they didn't have my favorite brown beer (Pelforth Brune) and 2) a pint was 5 Euros. I guess on the second one, to be fair, that's the going rate for a pint in France, but DUDE!!!
But even before we start into the play-by-play, can I just tell you how scary and sweet it was to finally, after four weeks of never spending ONE moment away from at least ONE family member (other than when Sam took the kids to the parc so I could CLEAN in peace), get out of the house on my own? It was like someone had clamped down on the umbilical cord for the night (not cutting it completely, since my boobs kept reminding me that I hadn't nursed Lolo and since Sam called once to remind me what time it was *eye roll*). As I walked up the cobble stoned street looking for the pub, I felt really awkward. Like I had landed on another planet. I haven't been ALONE in France in seven years! Thursday night is the go-out night in France and judging by the number of people out last night, there were quite a few students who did not go on vacation.
I found the pub, got my pint and settled in to get to know my new Franco-American friend a little better. We talked in mostly English but punctuated our conversation with French when we had a hard time finding an English word that would fit (this is called code-switching in the field of linguistics). I had already known from the very first time we talked on the phone that we would get along, but I had no idea how much we had in common. Not so much specific experiences or anything but the general gists of life. This discovery was VERY good for me, because as much as she is American, she is French. To see a walking, talking human who has reconciled both parts of her personality--her two seperate identities, if you will--to each other and isn't in a straight jacket was comforting to me. Whenever I'm here in France, I always have the constant struggle between these two sides of me: The one that didn't feel American until she moved to France (back in 1998) and the one who always wanted to be French and worked as hard as she could to be a chameleon of the French. When I'm in the States, the American half feels at home and secure and confident but somehow artificial... Plastic... Freeze-dried and waiting to be reconstituted. But when I'm in France, the French part of me feels relieved to be "home" and strangely exhilerated by the French bullshit (but all the while, the American side feels chained and cornered like a savage cat).
Anyway, needless to say, the conversation was like therapy. And we are so much alike in our thinking and our conclusions that we scrambled for air-time, constantly and exhuberantly one-upping each other.
After my pint, we headed down the street toward la rue St. Jean. It's where all the famous, typically Lyonnese restos are. I had been looking forward to it all day long. I pointed out this one (where Sam and I had had our first real "date") and that one (where we go most often), but she just kept walking by. My instincts screamed out for me to stop her and insist that we not stray too far from my familiar menus. But she grew up here and assured me that she knew of a great street down off of Bellecour that would have a bouchon that would be great. I went along with her, nervously, afraid that I was about to end up acting like a spoiled brat, crossing my arms and jutting out my bottom lip. Had it not been for the pint...
We found the street, one I knew from my school days because there's a book store at one end and the cafe where Sam and I met for the first time at the other end. She was right, it was a cute little pedestrian street with lotsa restos, but none of them had my menu (!!!) and all of them were nearly 10 Euro more than the ones I knew on St. Jean. But I took a deep breath and let myself be carried. We decided on one that did indeed have what I wanted (though a different sauce and NOT my favorite desert *bottom lip quivering*). We started out outside at a tiny plastic two-top. I always hate those damn things because one little gust of wind and my wine glass is on the cobbles in a billion pieces, my red wine running through the streets like blood. That, and I'm somehow clumsier here and was sure I'd knock over the carafe of water.
I didn't have to worry about that because it rained. And how. The server saw us moving our table and was like, "Don't even bother, we're moving you inside." He tried to squish us between other eating parties (and I mean actually moving the table out so I could get behind it and sit on the booth bench). Thank GOODNESS my friend is as overwhelmed by physcial closeness as I (and that she knows how to express this discomfort politely in French) because she said, "You don't have anything downstairs?" Just in time, the bartender slipped in and said, "No, no, no. You take them to that back room." We sighed with relief....
Until we got in the room and realized that everyone ELSE who was sitting outside was being reseated and we were now at an eight-top of four couples all eating elbow to elbow. For the first few minutes, we both had to take a moment to stare skittishly, trying to get accustomed to that strange paranoia that comes along with clostrophobia. And then, even when our psyches resolved to the sardine-can situation, our ears were wandering back and forth from the conversations we could hear on either side of us. We started to speak, but it was broken and unfocused English, again peppered with French.
Thank goodness our salad arrived (and my bottle of wine). That at least gave us something to focus our attention on. Ground us. Before long, I lost myself again in the wine and stared at her moving lips, trying to make my ears and mind catch up with my eyes. That, mixed with the swirling conversations around us made the whole thing seem pretty psychodelic.
Half way through the main course, we actually started to talk to one of the couples next to us. The woman had ordered the same thing we did and because there was no where to put her dish, we joking said that we all three should have ordered together from the beginning (because of proximity and because of the sheer SIZE of the damn dish!!! I've never seen quenelles that big in my life... three times the size of the ones I usually eat... no WONDER it was 10 Euros more). It was rough at first for me to understand the conversation. I was, admittedly and unashamedly (???) drunk. I caught about every third or fourth word through the sea of voices (and that was only because I was watching lips)... Just enough to understand (maybe?) the gist of the conversation, but not enough not to be paranoid that every time I spoke it was a propos of the actual conversation. I felt like a dumb ass. And I imagined that they were looking at me like I was clueless, but stuffed my discomfort with yumminess and more wine.
The funny part was that she kept saying things to them about "how things are" in the States. And some of it I disagreed with, our experiences being different, but I was too drunk, too afraid I would miss the mark and just not motivated enough to interrupt. So, I smiled, nodded and stuffed my face. Four courses and coffee later, there was an abrupt end. That's the part I don't get. Had I spent two hours talking to the people next to me at a table in the States, I'd probably have exchanged email addresses or something. Here, as soon as the coffee was gone, my friend was on her feet bidding the couple goodnight.
And maybe it's just that I'm a long goodbye sorta gal. I guess, I like to drag the thing out a little. I like to stand and say, well, thanks so much for the conversation. I really hope your new job works out for you. And I really blah blah blah blah blah... Good luck with everything. Oh, thank you. You, too. Well, see you then. And a wave. But my friend was like, well, good luck. And we were outta there. It reminded me of the Great Escapes of my one-night-stand days. As we exited the resto back into the night air, I felt sort of dazed.
Right at the moment that renewed conversation started to assauge the mourning of our encounter with the other couple, my phone rang.
"Do you know what time it is?" A sleepy, resentful voice said on the other end.
"Ten-thirty," my friend whispered in a surprised voice.
The sun wasn't even completely down yet. How could it be ten-thirty. Either way, we were headed back to the pub and I didn't feel like coming home yet. But, I hear screaming in the background as well as little laughing voices.
"What's up?" I ask in a drunken, rebellious haze. I know what's up.
"The baby won't go to sleep."
"Did you give her a bottle?"
"Yeah, but she wants a boob."
My boobs swoon at the sound of that and a twinge of guilt tugs at my full belly.
"Well, I'm not coming home yet," I try to sound defiant, but end up just sounding as drunk as I am. And weak.
"How are you going to get home?'
"Eh, I'll walk. Or I'll take a bus. Whatever."
"I gotta go." He hangs up.
I know he's pissed, but I mean, MY GOD, I spend every day, all day long, taking care of the kids and getting ready to take care of him. I do everything I can to save us money, to be a team player, to work toward our goals. Am I not allowed one night away after four weeks? Granted, I had already spent WAY too much money. But wasn't my happiness and release of pent-up frustration worth it?
My phone rings again.
"Yeah?" I say, getting ready to stand my ground.
"She fell asleep."
"Oh," I relax. "Okay."
"How are you going to get home? Do you need me to come get you?"
Awwwww. "No. But I might talk her into walking home with me and you could give HER a ride home." I see her shaking her head vehemently in my peripheral vision, but I don't want Sam to worry so I let him think this is a possibility.
"Whatever. You know the metro doesn't run after midnight, right?"
"Yes. I know. YOU know that I'm only a ten minute walk away, right?"
"Okay, see you in a little bit."
He's fuming. But I'm just not about to be reigned in with passive agressivity. We walk on to the pub.
When we get there, it's PACKED except for three stools at the bar which we totally Bogart, leaving the one in the middle for our sacs and jackets, mwah-ah-ah!!! I drink another pint (half way through, I realize I don't really want it and that I am on the verge of sick drunk... not the falling down kind of drunk, but the I-wish-I-had-eaten-something-lighter kind of drunk where you know that you shouldn't have mixed fish dumplings, shrimp sauce and creme anglaise with dark beer and red wine... but I finish the pint anyway... waste not and whatever).
Afterwards, we make our way across the old downtown, meandering down alleyways that she knows from her whole adolescence. I'm jealous that she knows them so well and that nearly every building holds some kind of kick ass rebellious memory for her... but I'm also SO psyched to get to live vicariously in a way. She shows me an old hangout that's sadly closed until mid-August. Sux. I'd have LOVE to see her possible reunion with old pals (and selfishly to get to know some of them so I'll have my own pals when she's gone).
But the pub being closed is almost like a sign. I think we're both tired and both thinking of home. We make our way to where we'll split paths--her to take the bus and me to walk my rebellious drunk ass home at my own peril, the excitement of which is almost too much to bear. Have I mentioned, I haven't been alone in France for seven years? (And even longer since I've been in potential peril!)
It was an exhilarating walk home. I can't even describe it. The grin on my face would have knocked a passerby off the sidewalk. And peril... whatever... the way was well lit all the way to my building. The only thing that even remotely made me alert was crossing a guy with a dog (the guy looked a teensy bit homeless and the dog looked like it could get mean) but I was mere METERS away from my own door at that point.
When I got home, I found Sam on the couch, eyes half closed... futon still not turned into a bed, watching TV. I drunkenly gushed about my night as we made the bed, saying how grown up I felt. How alive. And how crazily YOUNG all at the same time. That was his chance to delight in my happiness, but I think he's gotten used to me changing even HIS diapers so all he seemed to feel was resentment at having been left behind to watch the kids. I would have felt guilty had I been out partying or something (not necessarily true either because I party like a rock star in Charlotte (helllloooooo DNO!!!!) and don't feel even the slightest twinge of guilt. I do a million times more domestic chores here and for some reason think that I should feel guilty for having a break. WHATEVAH!!!
Anyway, now the bad news...
I can't stand him.
It hurts my feelings that, though I get up in the morning, make breakfast, clean up after, watch the kids, make lunch (and make sure it's ready and hot when he comes home), clean up after, watch the kids, clean the house, wash the diapers, make dinner, clean up after... that even though I do all that plus try not to complain about small inconveniences... plus, I do my best to economise... Plus, I, well, shit!!! you know? And I went out with a friend to go out to EAT (not dance, not mack on single people... EAT and TALK) and he can't even do the dishes? He didn't even give the kids a bath. And he was all hurt and bitching about me being out? Why because he had to watch TV all by himself? Because he sure as shit didn't do any housework.
And then, he had the nerve this morning to ask if I wanted to hire a maid. Oh, sure, you think it's sweet and supportive, but I'll tell you exactly what it is... PASSIVE AGRESSIVE. For the past couple of days, he's been saying, "Mama, we need to clean this apartment." With all due respect, PAPA, all I ever seem to DO is clean this apartment. If you have problems, I suggest you learn how to push a dust mop around the place... that or buy some more area rugs because I am not your goddamn Cinderella, okay? So, suggesting that we hire a maid 1) insults my cleaning and insinuates that I'm not doing enough of it... not pulling my own weight, and 2) insults me to the CORE because the whole reason I'm in this country is to save money...Hiring a maid would not count toward that... Hiring a maid would eat into the "farm fund."
And THEN, the kids didn't nap today. I don't know what the hell went on, but NO ONE wanted to sleep today. That means that Mama didn't get to take a fifteen minute power nap either... Sleep-deprived, hungover Mama. So, I call him and say, "Dude, the kids won't sleep and I'm just zapped." He says something that escapes me but the tone implies that it's my own fault. I get mad and say, "Well, I guess I'll have to just go out again by myself tonight, eh?" He says, "Yeah, sure. If you want to just feel even worse tomorrow."
I open my mouth but can't find anything nice to say (or even civil for that matter) so I simply hang up and get back to the dishes!!!!!!!! I call my friend and vent it all on her. But because she's so much like me, she understands everything and even gives me some mature advice... really really good advice that I wish I was strong and mature enough to take. Cross your fingers. The good part is that by the time Sam gets home, I've vented all my pissiness. He rounds up the kids and takes them to the park (of course leaving the baby with me, but I at least manage to get her to sleep by that point). As he leaves, I'm tempted to go to the computer and blog, to get all the remanants of frustration out so I can move on, but instead, I do the childish thing... I clean... And whilst cleaning, I steam on the inside.
I plot. I repeat my mantra, "It's all about the farm. It's all about the farm." And I resolve to channel all this energy, this anger, this resentment and use it toward my art. While he is gone, I decide that the baby will no longer camp in my office. That it is time to make my office an office. That I will have a space to which I will retreat each evening after my Cinderella chores are done. And I will write. I will read. I will plot. I will return to the Five-Folder and concentrate all my energy on the greater good. I will NOT let him beat me. And I will not let him push me into defeating myself.
And here I am. In my office. Door closed. I know he's watching TV in the next room... Probably the Olympics and since I'm boycotting, it's a blessing to have a place to escape them, because he doesn't see any connection between the Olympics and politics. Whatever. Selectively blind, eh?
Anywhoo, the bad news wasn't so bad after all, huh? I guess the part that bums me out is that yesterday, we were talking about the farm as a joint venture. We were both so excited about it and really talking about what bills we were going to pay off first so that when we start our farm we do so on the right foot. We were doing something TOGETHER... and now, because the farm dream has become my sanctuary FROM him, we don't have anything anymore.
But oh, well, kids, them's the breaks. That farm is my destiny. It's my mission. For me, my kids and the planet at large. That farm is a MOVEMENT, y'all.
Sheesh... Looks like it might be time to go to bed, eh? Getting loopy.
At least my friend is here until mid-next-week. We're going out again on Monday night for sure... Maybe a Monday morning breakfast with our kids together, too. And MAYBE a play-it-by-ear coffee over the weekend. Man, I wish she LIVED here all the time... but then again, I could totally get distracted. She's so easy to hang out with. I wonder how much writing I'd get done. Probably not much. Probably for the best. Still, I'm REALLY glad she's here now and I'm really gonna miss her and I am SO glad her mom lives here and her bro and her other relatives and friends and what not. Feels like I'm less alone somehow.