Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Zen and the art of love: French style

So I’m standing in the middle of the town square in Beauvoir-sur-mer. It’s midnight and I am freezing. All I have on is my jeans, a T-shirt and a thin denim jacket. The square is silent and empty. A few street lights and dim lights from shop windows are my only comfort. For some reason the white light of phone booth is not inviting. To kill time I wander up and down the square crossing the roads like crossing a lawn. I look in the shop windows and for a while get mesmerised by the flashing cross above the pharmacy. It’s cold. The wind isn’t strong, but it’s coming in off the sea and cuts through my thin clothing. I press myself against a wall in a vain attempt to keep warm. A light goes on above the hairdressers in the corner of the square. A man with dark hair looks out and then in my direction. I turn round and pretend to walk purposefully somewhere. But there’s no where to go. I can’t leave. The window is shut and shortly after a door opens below. The man comes out and walks toward the phone booth. He glances in my direction. I ignore him. He walks into the booth and picks up the handset he doesn’t dial any number. After a minute he puts down the phone and comes out. Looks around, and, as if noticing me for the first time, he walks in my direction. He gets closer and it’s obvious he is coming straight toward me albeit at a diagonal. He speaks with a low growl “Bonsoir.”
“Bonsoir.” I say.
“Eh Anglais huh? Qu’est ce que vous faisez ici?”
« J’attends ma amie. »
« Et bien ! Ou est elle ? »
“Elle arrivera.”
The French hairdresser looked at me closely. “Eh Anglais you wan’ slip. You slip with me. Is good. Is warm. You slip good.”
“NO thank you. Merci. Mais non.”
“When you cold you frappez, ma porte compris? You slip with me. » he makes a sign of knocking on a door. “frappez plus forte. Compris?”
“Oui. Je compris.”
“Et bien mon ami a toute a l’heure. Salut!”
He walked back to his boutique, looking over his shoulder every few steps to see if I followed. I didn’t. A gust of wind took away the little warmth remaining and I started shivering. Christ! What am I doing here? How do I get myself into these situations?

Just a few hours earlier I had been safe and warm and life was good. I’d come to visit a childhood sweetheart, we were still in love after all those years but she was now married. Her husband away on business. You know the score. She’d put me up in a derelict cottage. It was close to her house and warm and dry with all amenities except electricity. But then candles are so romantic. I’d spent a wonderful day with Helene, until she had to go and pick up the children from school. So for those hours between them coming home and going to bed I disappeared somewhere. This day I walked the 10 kilometres to Beauvoir-sur-mer. It was hot and sunny and the town was alive with activity. I stopped in a local bar for a glass or two of Amstell, exchanged a few words with the locals and had a very pleasant afternoon and then walked back. The sun was just going down as I got to the outskirts of Helenes village. I was hot, tired and thirsty. Helene was walking her dog and called me. The youngest children were in bed asleep and the tow oldest were out with friends and wouldn’t be coming back. She invited me into her house for a beer. No sooner had I got into her sitting room when the two older children came in the back way. They stopped and stared at me. Who are you? They asked. With quick thinking I announced I was a tourist on a walking holiday and their mother had invited me in for a beer because I looked so hot and tired and the local bar was shut. The boy immediately seeing I hadn’t yet got a beer ran to the fridge. And we all sat down and chatted for a few hours.
Eventually I said “Well I’d better be on my way back to my hotel.”
“oh where are you staying?” asked the girl.
“At beauvoir-sur-mer.”
“That’s ten kilometres oh mamman you must give him a lift back to his hotel it’s very late and it’s a long walk.”
“That’s very kind of you.” I said getting up. So that was a cinch we’d get in the car drive a ways down the road fool around for a while then she’d drive back and I’d walk the few hundred yards back to my derelict cottage. Except that wasn’t the plan. Oldest daughter pipes up again. “I’d better come with you, Mamman doesn’t like driving by herself in the dark.”
Helene and I looked at each other. Shit! Merdre!
While the daughter was getting her coat Helene grabbed me “I’ve got to take you to Beauvoir-sur-mer. I’ll drop you off and come back for you later.” Good plan.
We climbed into the car and drove to Beauvoir-sur-mer. The daughter kept asking me questions “Where’s your hotel?”
“It’s just round this corner.”
“What? That’s a supermarket there.”
“Sorry it must be the next corner.”
“There’s only a petrol station and a few shops round the next corner.”
“It’s too dark to get my barings. I tell you what drop me off in the town square I know my way from there.”
“if you’re sure?” said Helene.
Helene pulled over in the middle of the town square and I thanked them for their kindness and assured them I’d easily find my way to my hotel. I waved them goodbye.

The cold was getting worse, the shivering had gone to my teeth and I was jumping up and down on the spot. I didn’t dare hide in a shop doorway lest Helene would miss me when she came back. Half an hour became one hour and one hour became two. Car headlights would appear in the distance raising my hopes only to either turn off or drive straight past. I was beginning to think that this particular adventure was maybe a huge mistake. I had visions of the Hairdresser finding me next morning dead in a shop doorway. I had doubts about my own sanity, doubts about the reality of the situation I was so cold I wasn’t thinking straight. I kept thinking that as long as I am shivering I’m OK I still have enough energy to shiver. It’s when I stop shivering I should worry.
Two pairs of car head lights appeared in the distance. One of them must be Helene. They got closer four headlights only one car. I was shivering so much I could hardly see. The car stopped and helene leant over and opened the door for me. She was crying, tears streaming down her face.
“What ‘ave I done to you Mikel? I’m so sorry.” I fell into the car and she put her arms round me. “Mikel you are so cold.”
“Je sais.” was all I could say. She rubbed my arms and my back trying to get some warmth into me. She said “I’ve brought you coffee and food. Drink! It’s warm, it’s good for you.” She took the plastic cup from the top of a thermos and poured me a drink. I couldn’t hold it. My hands were shaking so much. She held the cup and I held her hands and she put it to my lips. The car heater was on full and slowly the warmth came back to my body and I was able to hold the cup myself. She started driving back to the village.
“per’aps we are crazy to be doing this thing.” She said.
“You love me don’t you?”
“Yes of course Mikel. You know that.”
“Then it’s not crazy.”
She started crying again. I knew love, for me, was never going to be easy.

Names and places have been changed to protect the guilty. Any similarity is purely coincidental unless you know better. I reserve the right to withdraw everything I have written should a court case ensue. I unreservedly apologise to the Hairdresser involved for refusing to go to bed with him. If I insinuated in any way that he was gay/ homosexual or in any way disparaged his character, I apologise. But I wasn’t taking any chances. Anyway he wasn’t my type. I prefer my men to have a distinct lack of penis, facial hair and have curves in the right places, breasts are an advantage. Although I have known several women who lacked in that department but excelled in others so it didn’t matter. “Bra? That’s what I keep my Kleenex in.” Oh yeah and I keep my socks in my Calvin Kleins. I apologise to my son Jamie for not mentioning music once in this blog. I apologise to my Daughter Gemma, for not having enough gratuitous sex in it. I don’t apologise for being their father.

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