Saturday, 10 January 2015

Revisiting Old Wounds (And By Wounds I Mean Paris)

It's been a long time, je sais.
I almost didn't even remember my Blogger password. But I'm still here and I still have shit to say. So 'eya.
I have a little fable to tell, a fable about why you should never revisit your old life under the guise of a 'working holiday.' It's a recipe for disaster, one that's bound to end in tears, and this particular working holiday ended (and is in fact ongoing) in tears.
It all started a week or two into my Christmas holiday. I found a missed call on my phone from P.P. (my old employer, and E.V.P.'s dad) and immediately my excitable mind ran away with itself.
'He wants to collaborate on an art project with me!' I thought, ignoring the fact that I don't even have the artistic capabilities to draw around my own palm.
'He probably wants to offer me a free apartment in Paris for the summer like he did last year!' I prayed, even though it was the middle of December and he had absolutely no logical reason for doing so.
'He pocket dialled me!' I thought, and then forgot all about the call and carried on with my life as usual (if by life as usual we are referring to sitting in between my Nonna and my great Aunt Chiara on the sofa, watching Italian Deal Or No Deal and being force fed Ferrero Rochers, which, of course, we are). And then, not long after, I received a text from P.P.:

'Silvia do you have some time 2 first week of january to come to paris? Some stuff to ask you to do for me. And E will be happy to spend some time with you. Let me know...'

I was positively intrigued. How mysterious! Maybe that art collab was in the pipeline after all! Buoyed up by my enthusiastic family (who had admittedly had to listen to me moan about being jobless for weeks now), I said yes almost immediately, and asked no further questions. Not a single one. Not once did I think to ask anything so trivial as, 'what exactly do you need me to do?' or 'are you paying me?' or 'will you be there?' or 'should I pack a bikini?'
And so no more information was ever exchanged.
I set off from John Lennon airport with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. Only to realise halfway through my journey that I didn't even know P.P.'s new address. (That set the tone for the rest of the trip.)
Upon arrival, I was presented with (very) strange living arrangements. Instead of having P.P.'s apartment to myself, it emerged that E.V.P. and his mother would both be staying there with me. That wouldn't be all that strange, of course, if it wasn't for the fact that P.P. and A.V. (E.V.P.'s mother) have not been together since E.V.P. was born. As you could imagine, I most definitely wasn't expecting to be shacked up with mother and son while I did my art collaboration with P.P.
By this point, I should probably add that I knew for a fact that an art collaboration was off the cards. I knew this for a number of reasons:

1. P.P. had told me that he wanted me to do some translation work for him
2. P.P. had not told me that he wanted me to do any art collaborations with him of any description
3. P.P. was in New York

So that particular dream was dead and buried. But I still wasn't expecting what came next.
Within minutes of greeting me, A.V. was reeling off a list of things that were expected of me:

1. Pick E up from school
2. Babysit at night while A.V. goes out on the razzle dazzle

That's right, I had been brought to Paris under false pretences. FALSE AS FALSE CAN BE.
Not only was I not collaborating on any art projects, I was not collaborating on any translation work either, because I didn't have any time to, because I was suddenly the fucking au pair again.
To say I was beside myself would be putting it lightly. I got myself so worked up that a literal fever came over me. I was bedbound for two days with the flu (or would have been if I'd been allowed to be). During that time, E.V.P. had the exact same needs as he always has had, which in turn meant I had the same requirements I always had had. And I'd posted such a hope filled, boastful Facebook status the day before I left to come here. Served me right, really.
So I stewed in my own sweat and snot and dismay for four days and eventually left the house for the first time yesterday. Where did I decide to go? To the Eiffel Tower? The Louvre? Pont des Arts? Sandro? 
The first place I went to after being away from Paris for five months was a questionable choice: I went to my old apartment.
I'd been given a measly hour to myself and that's how I chose to spend it. I don't know why I ever thought it'd be a good idea, and it wasn't.
The moment I saw it, I got a lump in my throat. It was too much.
Going back to somewhere you used to live is the strangest feeling in the world. It's so familiar and yet now so unfamiliar all at once. A barrage of memories came flooding back to me: the time my neighbour let himself in in the middle of the night, the time I thought J.G. had missed his flight but he just couldn't remember the code for the door and was standing downstairs the whole time, the time I was sick all over my mattress and was so hungover I just lay in it all day, all the beautiful memories...
I didn't stop there. I went to all my old haunts. I walked through my old neighbourhood and I even put on songs that I used to listen to when I lived here. I was making a big song and dance about being nostalgic. And obviously, it made me feel incredibly sad.
I moped. I was moping. I don't really know what about, but I was moping about something, and everything, and nothing.
Lost in my world of nostalgia, it was a few minutes before I realised that I couldn't get back into P.P.'s apartment. I tried the code once, I tried it twice, I tried it thrice. But to no avail. Being locked out was the very last thing in the world I needed. I slumped back onto the door, distraught, just as someone pushed to get out. We banged into each other, I apologised profusely, and then realised this elderly man was my only chance of entering.
I asked him why the code wasn't working, and he looked at me suspiciously. Admittedly, I didn't look like the most likely inhabitant of this amazing apartment. For one, I was at the tail end of a nasty bout of flu. I had a red nose, chapped lips and tears in my eyes. Secondly, my French has gotten rusty as shit since being away. At best, I would've looked like the new cleaner, at worst like a refugee trying to sneak into the apartment so that I could live in the underground garage.
'What's the code?' he tested me.
'5782A,' I said, much to his surprise.
'You just have to push harder,' he revealed, nudging the door open very lightly with his shoulder.
'Thanks,' I said, my eyes filling with gratitude.
'Where is your accent from?' he asked.
'England. I'm English.'
'Nobody's perfect!' he beamed, and as an afterthought, he shouted over his shoulder, 'happy new year!'
'Yeah...' I said.
And may my new year fucking improve. 

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