I Present to You 6 Recent Things That Will Help You Know Pretty Generally Where I’m At Right Now:
Thing 1: So the other day I went into the post office to send some postcards. I was walked right up to the desk, sat down in the cushy seat of this fancy postal service, and in my proudest and best French pronounced exactly what I wanted to be sent and where, thank you very much.
…I was then escorted out of the bank and pointed in the direction of the actual post office.
Thing 2: They tattooed my cat. They fucking tattooed my cat. Girl came and took Tom a second time (Bitch, can’t you take a hint? How many times does he have to run away for you to get it?) and he was gone for about a week or so. When he came back, his ear had this:
I’m pretty sure it’s so that he can always be found and returned to her. It might cause some complications in getting him to California, but I think with a little blush and a new collar he’ll be branded new and pass as mine.
Also, what the fuck. Why are you tattooing Tom, you crazy possessive witch?!
Thing 3: Some new friends told me that they saw a lot more of Bordeaux by meeting French boys on Tinder. I was like “Sure, why not, let’s see what the fuss is about.” Download.
Thing 4: I had this whole journal/blog idea, it felt brilliant– I would simply meet 1 guy each night of the week, let ‘em buy me a drank and show me the city, and I’d secretly pay tribute to their character by posting about what I learned from each one. I liked the sound of “12 Days of Tinder” but I didn’t think I could handle that kind of field work. Likewise, “A Tale of Two Tinders” didn’t seem like enough material. So “7 Deadly Tinders” was the perfect fit, my literary and adventurous glass slipper. I embarked as Cinderella.
…I deleted Tinder very quickly. I don’t have the maturity to meet people online, shit’s weird. At every Maxime, Florian, Pierre, Paul, Jean-Baptiste that I swiped left I was like “I mean, he could have been a very nice boy, a possible life best friend. Katrina you’re so shallow.” And every time I swiped right and it said “You have a match!” I was like “Oh like HELL I DO! What if he’s a psycho hiding behind 5 pictures where his hair is perfectly coiffed, his surfer abs bulging out of his white T, and his cat napping happily in his arms? Like are you serious, how long did you spend picking these photos out, Clement?” and then I would ‘unmatch’ or ‘unpair’ or whatever it is you do on there.
I went in thinking I could even attempt 7– turns out I couldn’t even handle one. If Tinder works for you, I say keep it up, get your fix. For me though, I was outtie. It didn’t feel good.
So I happily abandoned that story. I figured I could see Bordeaux on my own, just by getting lost with myself, you know? I’m all the awesome company I need.
Thing 5: Unfortunately, there was one night I could definitely have used a buddy to be like “Silly, Katrina! You’re about to board the wrong Tram! C’mon you goose, let’s get you home.” Leaving Genevieve and Adriana’s the other night after planning our U.K. trip (We leave Monday for a week!) I took the last tram in the wrong direction of home. When I realized this, it was far FAR too late. I hop off ASAP with a couple drunk teens, but can’t even wait until they’re out of earshot before leaning back and hollering “Fuuuuuck!” into the midnight air—like the classy girl I am—as I let it sink in: There was no way I was going to be able to walk home this time.
So I do the only thing I can do.
I called up Lisa.
“Lisa…” I pause to let a string of mumbled curses pass as I realize what I’m doing.
“Lisa, tu dorm?” (“Lisa, you sleeping?”) She says no, what’s up?
I explain that my ass is as far away from home as possible, with no more running Trams to get me back. And instead of “Well that’s too bad, you stupid little American girl. Don’t you have friends you can stay with? That you can walk to? I’ve been working all day and I have work early tomorrow morning, I don’t have time for your mistakes.” No, instead of saying what she should have said, she tells me she’s going to call Jib (who had told her earlier that that he was going to be out at a café, apparently, right by where this damned Tram stop was) and see if he was still there. She told me to hold tight.
I hang up. For real, Katrina? I look over at the dark water of the river, shaking my head. This was a new level of dumb.
She calls back almost immediately—before I could offend the darkness even more with my English slew of bad words—and tells me Jib’s still there! She tells head toward Le Bistrot du Frommager so I could wait safely with her best friend, and finishes with “J’arrive, j’arrive” (“I’m coming, I’m coming”).
By a stroke of insane luck I knew where this café was. I also knew it was a little less than a mile away and Lisa was on her way. I looked down. Before heading to Genevieve’s and Adriana’s I had been at the gym (THAT’S A WHOLE OTHER STORY) and so I was completely ready for the task that lay ahead of me. I had dressed in my Bust-A-Mission suit, which even earlier in the night I had recognized as a sign of endless mobility via social networking:
See? I was so ready.
I started running, my brand new pack of TicTac’s creating a comical soundtrack as it beat up the interior of my backpack. I ran along the grassy Tram tracks that split down the middle of the roads, in a small way making this terrain choice a “Fuck you” to the transportation system that I knew wasn’t coming. Then, out of NOWHERE, I started singing.
So not me, so not my style. But it’s true, out of nowhere—in the middle of my hard-faced, determined, steady pace— a campfire song I learned at 6th grade camp falls out of between my equal breathes: “IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII’m…bringing home a baby bumble-bee! Won’t my mama be so proud of me; I’m bringing home a baby bumble-bee! (Ouch! It stung me!) IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII’m…squashing up my baby bumble-bee! Won’t my mama be so proud of me—”
You get the picture. It goes like that until you squash it, you lick it, you throw it up. I didn’t make it up, don’t ask.
I sang it loud into the French air, along the La Garonne river, as late-night driver’s whizzed by in their warm cars, as drunk rastafari pushing their bikes and laughed as I ran past…and I gotta tell you.
There’s no freedom like running down some train tracks alone, serenading a most European scene with the most harshly American tune imaginable, with Tic-Tacs giving the show of his life on percussion. It makes you laugh, it makes you feel light. You feel kind of invincible, like the whole world is listening to what happens to this poor bumble-bee. Your singing voice dances with your heavy foot falls to make the most haunting, kind sound that blend and fill your ears. The moment swallows you, the cold wind turns warm and almost feels like it’s gently pushing you forward….
I reached Cheese Café in record time, if such a thing could be recorded. I saw Jib, Ti Bo, Clement, and Alexi posted outside, lounging and laughing over their wine glasses like the Angels of Familiar my lost soul embraced them to be. I had beat Lisa there. Thank God—I find nothing more rude than not being ready when someone goes out of there way to help you.
I approach the group, my face flushed, and immediately Jib and Ti Bo manage to make fun of me and warmly welcome me at the same time. They offer me wine (I sadly decline, I wanted to be ready to hop in the car with Lisa at any second) and they ask me about my tick bite. Since I hadn’t told them about that, I was flattered that they even knew about it in the first place; it caused the redness in my cheeks to deepen for reasons other than the cold. I tell them that the doctor was able to remove it all, that I knew it was silly to be worried about it anyway.
I’m slightly distracted in my explanation, my thoughts otherwise occupied with reflecting on how much I love how the French do friendship. On how much it meant to even be tangent to a group of such good friends. I didn’t mind playing the little American sister—if it meant tagging along with the Barry girls and having my tick encounters be a topic of discussion when I wasn’t around…I’ll take it. I’ll take any part I can get with this group.
Speaking of sisters—mine arrived. I look over and see a myth walking up. I say myth because I’ve never seen someone with tired-eyes be able to beam…. but my golden, PJed Lisa managed the impossible. I get up in a rush of impassioned french apologies, ready to rush to the car (that way we could get home and forget I fucked up as soon as possible) but she brushes it off, smiling, and sits down. “One cigarette” she says.
I found during the subsequent laughter and conversation that she had lied to me; when I had asked “Lisa, tu dorm?”…she had been, in fact, asleep.
I whimper, wince, and actually almost cry. I knew she had a long week and had needed the sleep. Why am I so stupid? I start apologizing for calling at all. Even though I honestly have no idea what else I could have done, I still wish I hadn’t.
She switches from her laughter into a softer face, looks me dead in the eye and says “Non, Katrina, pour toi—toute heure, tous les jours.”
“For you—any hour, any day.”
My heart, I think, exploded. She puts out her cigarette. Ready to go home?
What a fucking badass.
Are you starting to get the gist now, though? That the things I’m getting from Europe aren’t so much the postcard views that everyone else seems to chase down?
I mean, those cliché elements are cool, too, and definitely essential to the experience. But Europe’s touching me different; I prefer to get lost in the authentic French world then find myself safely playing tourist.
I’d rather get lost and meet my band of French guy friends over wine, than find a French boy on Tindr and whine that he wasn’t what I expected.
I’d rather laugh my way out of a bank because I tried to send postcards from there…than break my bank to get one of the places on a postcard.
And heck, who knows what’s next in story for me? (That’s right, in story). I’m about to embark on my first trip out of France next week, so I think that’s when I’ll concrete all my touristic energies.
But in the meantime?
Thing 6: For now I’m obsessed with everything I do in my city of Bordeaux. Even if
-some hoe tattooed Tom’s ear without asking permission
-Annika forced me to sing a Nickelback song over the phone in public the other night, and it will undoubtedly take a week to regain all the cool points I lost
-the school gym was the scariest thing I have attempted to brave in all of Europe.
Man, that’s a story, too. But isn’t it all?