If this blog is a story about my year in France, perhaps what’s been missing so far is conflict–a vital ingredient in any tale. Yesterday, seemed to provide it in abundance. Yesterday was not a good day.
I woke up around 5 a.m. from a hideous nightmare (is there any other kind?) which I couldn’t shake. Couldn’t go back to sleep, but I was out of coffee and the fridge was empty. Not an auspicious start. At 8 a.m., I walked up to the shops for eggs and coffee. At the butcher’s, as I was filling the carton, an egg slipped from my fingers and splattered across the floor. I glanced over at the butcher’s wife behind the counter– usually the soul of friendliness even though my French often leaves her looking confused.
“Désolé,” I said. If I’d known how to say in French that I’d clean it up, I would have offered. Instead I pantomimed. She shook her head, brushed me aside and cleaned it up herself. Maybe it wasn’t a good day for her either.
Not speaking the language is rife with opportunities for embarrassment. I decided I’d had my fill for the day and skipped getting coffee at the epicerie where the grocer also frequently looks a bit confused at my French. On the way back to the apartment, I saw a woman who I often stop and talk to. She’s English. I thought she saw me and I waved. She didn’t wave back, just ducked inside her house. No possible interpretation in my mood du jour but that she was deliberately avoiding me.
The day seemed to get worse, one trifling incident after another. None of them much individually, but collectively oppressive. By six that evening I was in a deep funk. Then I heard music and laughter from the next door neighbor’s. A party. To which I hadn’t been invited.
Suddenly everything that had seemed charming and novel and idiosyncratic about France, about the village, took on new and unfriendly overtones. For the first time since I’ve been here, I felt desperately homesick and alone. France had run its course. If there had been a bus out of the village (the last one for the day had already left) I would have taken it. Where exactly I would have gone, I’m not sure, but that didn’t matter. I just wanted to be anywhere but Montpeyroux . . . or France, come to that.
I decided to go for a walk. I set the timer on my iPhone for one hour and headed out to the vineyards. Someone told me that you can walk through the vineyards all the way to Spain. That wasn’t my intention, although I have no doubt that you could if you wanted to. I walked and walked and walked. Nothing but vines and more vines. Occasionally I’d scare a flock of birds out of the vines and they’d ascend in a squawking cloud that probably startled me more than I startled them.
After an hour, I walked back towards the village. By the time I reached the apartment, I felt better. Things improved from there and as I write this I’m feeling fine again. It’s to be expected I suppose, those days when nothing goes right. They can happen anywhere, France included. So perhaps not sufficient conflict for a fictional story, but quite enough for my real life adventure.
Next week, I’m spending five days in Montpellier doing a French immersion course. . .
If I should drop an egg again, I want to know how to offer to clean it up.