petite anglaise

March 17, 2006


Filed under: city of light, parting ways — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:27 pm

Easing my hand gently out from where it had been lodged – between someone’s left buttock and a standard issue French teenager’s Eastpak rucksack – I glanced tensely at my watch. The métro was taking an eternity to leave each station, the doors failing to close on the tightly packed mass of commuters and student demonstrators compressed within.

I was late for my first appointment with my new destiny; getting progressively more flustered as the minutes ticked by.

Red faced and panting, I finally arrived, complete with Tadpole and pushchair, at the address I had scribbled on the printout. A smartly dressed man with a briefcase awaited us in front of the entrance, and he motioned us inside, although not before woefully mispronouncing my surname.

Tadpole was in a very chatty mood.

“I’m going to help mummy choose a new house today!” she announced. “I’ve got three houses: mummy’s house, daddy’s house and tata’s house! And now I going to buy an udder one!” Normal rules do not apply to Tadpole-speak, a language punctuated exclusively with exclamation marks.

Mr Agent Immobilier raised his eyebrows, probably thinking that 32 square metres of working-class Paris looking onto an interior courtyard doesn’t normally qualify for “house” status.

He rang the doorbell, and a harried looking student answered the door, before scuttling back to her dissertation.

I looked around me, finally able to appreciate, after combing my way through all those petites annonces, what thirtysomething metres really felt like. Tried to imagine fitting Tadpole and me, plus as many of our belongings as possible, into a space half the size of the apartment we occupy, but can no longer afford.

I couldn’t, without resorting to use of the word mezzanine.

The indignity. Thirty four years old this year, teetering on the brink of getting myself 165,000 or so euros into debt, and I will be reduced to either sleeping on a convertible sofa in the living room, or adopting the bed-on-stilts approach in order to share Tadpole’s bedroom.

Obsessed as I may be with clambering onto the first rung of the property ladder, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would have to do so in quite such a literal sense.

I forced myself to pay attention to the kitchen, the bathroom, the electrics, the central heating, but concentration was difficult, on account of a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Because the word “mezzanine”, to me, spelled the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one which I am rather hesitant to embrace. I closed my eyes and let myself contemplate my dream home, a stone cottage nestled in the Breton countryside, one last time.

Then I took a deep breath and let it go.

For now.

March 14, 2006

eleven days later

Filed under: parting ways — petiteanglaiseparis @ 8:17 pm

I find it incredibly frustrating not knowing what is going through his mind – even if recent events proved rather forcefully that I knew at lot less about the contents of his head than I could possibly imagine, when we were together.

In my mind’s eye, I picture him delivering the news to his parents, his friends, his daughters. People who had met me; fallen under Tadpole’s spell. I try to imagine their reactions. Part of me hopes, cruelly, selfishly, that they are telling him he has behaved like a fool. That he is unlikely to get a chance like that again, in this lifetime. That they cause him to question the wisdom of his actions. To bitterly regret. To be gripped with remorse.

Deep down, I know that his friends will be feeding him the same platitudes that mine do; as everyone always does. It can only have been for the best. It just wasn’t meant to be. It would have been terrible if she had uprooted her whole life, her daughter’s life, to chase an empty, barren dream. Wouldn’t it?

Even if I have conditioned myself to agree with these sentiments, and sincerely believe that we may have been doomed to fail, I still cannot shake off this dull ache I carry around with me every day, which can flare up without warning, in the most unlikely situations, and set about gnawing at my insides.

I hear his voice in my head, marvelling at the softness of my skin, or laughing at something naïve I said, and I stop in my tracks, simply unable to believe that, for him, the bad outweighed the good. Then I replay those other words, those caustic, wounding words, to nip such pointless thoughts in the bud. A form of necessary self torture.

A confession: sometimes, I find myself scrolling through my statcounter, searching for Rennes, Brittany among the current visitors. But I won’t allow myself to call, or email. I simply cannot. Not yet. Perhaps not ever.

So, if you are out there, ex-Lover, you have the advantage.

Because here I am, an open book, with a broken spine. While you remain unfathomable.

March 9, 2006


Filed under: navel gazing, parting ways — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:12 pm

I was tempted to name my last post “epitaph”. A part of me had been brutally severed. My hopes, my dreams now lay smouldering on a pyre. It seemed fitting.

When I typed those brave-faced words, they were an expression of how I wanted to feel, a few days or weeks or months from now. Something to aspire to. Then, somehow, after hitting the “publish” key, I realised I was genuinely beginning to feel that way.

Taking a step back, looking critically at the last few months, I see that much of my time was spent waiting, feeling despondent about being apart, dealing with the guilt of Tadpole’s impending separation from her father, smothering my doubts with a pillow. Negative feelings which crushed my spirits with all their ominous weight, preventing me from enjoying the here and now.

Now I find myself appallingly fragile, but intact, and somehow lighter. I no longer have to do battle with those demons any more; the weight has lifted. Only now do I see, with startling clarity, how impossible it was to continue following that ghost of a dream.

All the same, much of the past few days remains a blur. As I go about my daily business, my mind is elsewhere, playing my favourite memories in a continuous loop, until I’m ready to lay them to rest. On the surface, I laugh and joke, say positive, brave things, make plans for Tadpole and me. I’m going to buy a little flat, I say. On a whim, I’m going to the South of France for a few days, a holiday of sorts. People are rather surprised at how much better I seem, already. An indecently rapid recovery?

But I can barely bring myself to eat. I go to bed only when I’m thoroughly exhausted, so that I cannot lie awake craving his warmth. His touch. All day long there is a fluttering inside my chest, a constant edge of panic I cannot shake off, but which no-one sees.

This morning, in the crowded métro, a couple caught my attention. I saw their embrace out of the corner of my eye, and something inside me twisted, pulled. I couldn’t tear my masochistic eyes away from the woman, the way she looked at her companion, with hunger. I know I looked at him that way too, once. Sometimes, all I wanted was to crawl inside his skin.

Then, when I reached my destination, I saw another woman, elderly, confused. She stood by a rubbish bin, manically tearing up a piece of paper into smaller and smaller pieces, scattering them on the station floor like ragged confetti. Every few seconds she repeated the same two words, in an identical strangled voice, as if a needle were jumping on a record and playing the same disembodied phrase over and over.

“C’était magique.”

It was. It truly was, for a while. But I refuse to believe that it was my one and only shot at magical. Soon, I will renounce living in the past tense, move on.


March 6, 2006


Filed under: mills & boon, parting ways — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:34 pm

Before we had ever met, we exchanged long, revealing emails, Lover and I. He thrilled me with his words; they drew me to him. There is, to me, a pleasing symmetry in the fact that after trying, but failing, to speak on the phone through his tears and my wails, we took our leave by email. The closing bracket, concluding our parenthèse enchantée.

And now I have read his words, time and time again, I not only understand what happened here, but can no longer flee the inescapable truth that this ending, however wretched, was a necessity.

I will never regret our paths crossing back in May. Wouldn’t trade the panic-inducing intensity of that first evening, and our subsequent hotel trysts, for all the stability in the world. Searing, all-consuming passion; the awakening of those senses which had been dulled in me for the longest time. I felt reborn. Indescribably happy. The future suddenly filled with unexpected promise.

I remember listening to Gorecki on my iPod in a crowded métro carriage, barely able to contain the physical rush of joy I felt from the tips of my toes to the end of every hair follicle, happy tears streaming down my cheeks, oblivious to my fellow travellers.

We shared some perfect moments, he and I. Moments which marked my life indelibly; moments which my present anguish cannot erase.

If only real world worries, doubts and fears hadn’t come crowding into both our minds with the passage of time. If only the dynamics of a long distance relationship hadn’t made us brittle and fragile. If only that first fierce flush of love had stood the test of time, intact, instead of slowly, silently unravelling.

I was aware of a rising tide of uneasiness, gaining ground on me for the past month or so, but couldn’t put my finger on why I was feeling this way. Balked at giving headspace to those treacherous whispering voices. I was so very in love with the dreams we had elaborated together. The house in the country with a garden for Tadpole to play in. The new life away from the city lights. The fresh start. I wrote a little about my confusion, but in guarded, careful terms, for fear of causing further damage. I yearned to see him more often, seeking some sort of confirmation that we were doing what was right. I needed to be sure about July. As sure as anyone can ever be.

So preoccupied was I, trying to quell my own creeping anxieties, I was blinded to the fact that he was having doubts of his own. Quietly wrestling with his demons. Probing, measuring the depth of his feelings. Finding them wanting.

I think there will be moments in every day, for some time to come, when I will feel his absence so keenly that it will crush the very air out of my lungs. Cause me to falter. To feel utterly bereft. Tonight, a memory of him sitting at my dining table, head bent over his laptop, brow furrowed in concentration as he worked, tore holes in my insides. The sight of Tadpole knocking softly at the front door, calling “Jim, where are you?” when we returned home made me wince and grip the door handle with white knuckles. Once Tadpole was in bed, the long evening gaped ahead, the terrifying emptiness no longer to be punctuated by his calls.

But I refuse to be bitter, because love doesn’t come complete with guarantees. Because no-one is to blame here. Because neither of us deserves to settle for less than what we shared at the beginning.

Before it waned.

Lamb – Gorecki

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