Lucette

Posted on 26 June 2005

It’s Sunday and I just awoke. Last night was so warm that I went out and sat on a small stone wall, across from our house, and talked to Lucette, my neighbour who speaks no English. I am hilarious when I try to hold a conversation in French. I learned the language at university and try too hard to be grammatically correct. I notice that Lucette, like me, talks with her hands, in an attempt to be understood. Thank goodness for hands. (I think of Marlene in Paris unable to resist Rodin’s. In a week, she will be here with Ursula, preparing to begin another writing workshop.)

As I sit with my neighbour, Gill leaves the house looking beautiful and Lucette comments on the lowness of her jeans and the shortness of her top. Gill laughs and pulls her sweater higher to expose her belly jewellery that looks and shines like a large diamond. Lucette does not see the beauty of it: she asks if it hurts her. Gill, smiling, striding, leaves us and soon after Lucette wishes me bon nuit.

I go inside wondering what to do with myself. I could paint. I could read or write, take a bath, but nothing appeals. I know restlessness is supposed to be good for the soul but I can’t remember why.

The night before, Gill and I went to see the fire of Saint Jean (Joan of Arc?) – a huge teepee of logs, roaring at one edge of the village. Small children ran wild with plastic cups trying to catch the sparks, none of whom, even when they get too close to the flame, are cautioned by parents. Helene wove in and out of the crowd serving the adults plastic glasses of white wine. Rosetta offered a tray of brioche. Tinny music roared from a bad speaker and Gill and I sipped from our glasses, swayed, and tapped our feet. I was not brave enough to start dancing though I wanted to.

I noticed Lucette and our English neighbours a few feet behind us and turned to talk to them. While I flipped back and forth from English to French, Gill disappeared and I eventually spot her with a group of friends, leaning on a tall lanky dark-haired young Frenchman who sets her heart a flutter. Earlier, we had eaten outside at the new restaurant in the central square, laughing and talking, walking away arm in arm. I am so glad to have this time alone with her but I saw that our mother/daughter evening is over, and so I bid all good night and wandered home alone.

Again, a restlessness surged through me. I couldn’t alight. I have been puttering, doing a number of small jobs to make the house nicer, to fill my hours, to avoid writing. A few days earlier, I decided to paint one small room. I felt this urge to add colour to the house: all is white, virginal, and I want something strong, vibrant, surrounding me. (Where are you Rob when I need you? But I spoke to Rob last night and he told me that he is working long hours, he nearly fell asleep at a stoplight on Georgia, that he wouldn’t have time to spend with me even if I were in Vancouver. And I know that relationship exists not – or should not – to fill a void but to share a fullness. )

I don’t feel full. I feel empty. And yet I know this isn’t true. I just do not like me when I am full of self-pity, tears, to name a few… and yet when I spoke to a friend the other day, told her that I had been on the verge of tears for several days, she said that I was lucky. She hasn’t felt like crying for some time… and I keep thinking of her words and know she is right but still I get confused. (You are too stupid to grasp anything, a voice in my head says. You are wallowing. Snap out of it. Look at where you are. And I look out the window and I see the garden green and lush below and, on eye level, glorious coral blossoms – though I am too ignorant to know what they are – and then there is the sun, the glorious hot sun, illuminating the stone wall that was built over 800 years ago. I smile though I am not cheered. I want to pound my head on the windowsill and knock some sense into myself. )

Why do I think that I must (a warning word) be full of bliss all the time because of all I have? This, in my mind, is very Canadian, though I am Irish, I remind myself. Every Irish woman or man is allowed melancholy. I do not want to be a “happy carrot.” (Oh sometimes, I do.) And then I think of Saint Teresa who writes in no uncertain terms that it is hard work to conquer oneself.

I want to ask forgiveness for the smallness of my thoughts on this blog but my self will not allow it. (I even wonder if I sound pretentious when I separate the word “myself.” But since i appear to be unable to distinguish whether I am or am not, bad writing from good, I am going out for a walk in the sunshine. Perhaps I’ll leave the village and walk past the sunflower fields. (A miracle happened. When I arrived these signature flowers were short and closed and now many are in full bloom.)


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