In English this time… My Staycation

French version.

En français  tout simplement.

Translated by Jeremy Edwards.

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This year I tested the staycation for you, which is a sedentary alternative to a vacation. An interesting concept for those who, like me, do not go on vacations all across the Americas, but remain here at home in New Orleans. Yes, well, I confess, there is no reason to bring out the tissues and cry, because one should know that New Orleans during fall break is a pretty good place to live, actually. There are tougher sacrifices that are made than spending a week here (there are even those that fly just to live, really)

In fact, it’s a bit like living in a different temporality. I finally discovered the morning in New Orleans, much later in the morning than if it were a school day, but earlier than a day on the weekend. It was pleasant like a croissant from a bakery and a café au lait outside. As when eating a flakey, buttery croissant, the morning was serene, and time passed slowly.

It’s both refreshing and warming, like a picnic on the grass at a park. A light breeze raises the picnic cloth gently, and the sun reflects on one’s glasses. We discuss things between bites while breathing in nature. Our skin glistens gold. We take the time to read and to shut our eyes. It’s calming, and it seems to last a long while.

It’s generous like the meeting of French and American cultures. People from all backgrounds, from all walks of life, of all ages, who love the French language come to talk. Amongst themselves or with us in French first, then offering us the possibility to practice English a bit. It’s a true exchange, warm and delightful to the heart and to the soul. In the end, time catches up, and it hasn’t lasted long enough.

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It’s like all of those small pleasures like in Amélie Poulain. It’s like biting into a crunchy piece of toast with Nutella on it while sitting on the terrace of a café. Like getting one’s toes soaked in a pool with a view of the CBD. Like talking about one’s city to excited visitors. Like understanding a movie in its original language. Like drinking a glass of white wine at the movie theater in a comfortable chair. Like playing while studying with happy, motivated children. Like taking a break and eating ice cream at snack time. Like eating a tray of oysters on bar stools. Like talking about men, life, travel with friends, and feeling alive and thrilled.

Because ultimately, a staycation is also a journey. It’s like going through a big roller that compresses time and stretches it like an accordion. It is learning to take time. It is living. Gently, slowly. For millions of years. And always in the summer.

In English this time… Le bus 11 de 7h11

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Translated by Samuel Fick.

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Since life isn’t always a fairy tale sometimes I have to go to work. To go to work I take the number 11 bus every morning at 7 :11am precisely and as I pass through the automatic doors I step into a fascinating microcosm of the world. A microcosm on giant wheels. A microcosm that only exists for the eleven minutes—give or take a few—that it takes for me to arrive at work. A microcosm always populated by the same eleven characters.

Obviously there is the driver, in whose hands rest the well-being of this mini-world. The driver is not always the same person, but the driver is always Black, which seems to be the only requirement for being the bus driver in this mini-world. There is also the “dealer” of old bus tickets, the person with their shoes in tatters, the woman who cries out the names of the passing avenues she sees through the windows. They all think it’s the best mini-world in the world since there aren’t yet any tourists who speak too loudly and who don’t know where to step off of the mini-world into the great big world.

There is the young student who meticulously re-does her hair before going to her all-girls high school and who sometimes asks me for any spare change so she can make a dollar from the loose pennies and nickels she has found at the bottom of her backpack. She thinks the world is not very fun nor very fair. And it’s true: if you have to take the bus in the United States of America it’s likely that your life is not the easiest.

There’s the sad gentleman with tattoos completely covering his face. He doesn’t smile much, which is understandable since there is not much to laugh about in his life. He went to prison. He even killed people. I have been told that’s why he has tears tatooed under his eyes : one for each person he has killed. Though he may be gentle at his core, I think he is a little dead inside. He moves furniture for a living because it helps him to clear out his head. He always has a small khaki lunch box, which intrigues me. What could be inside? I can’t quite imagine what someone so sad could possibly eat. Maybe the lunch box is empty.

There’s also the old Hispanic woman who talks on the phone with her old friends, the big lady who always has a bruise around her left eye, the fellow with slightly crossed eyes and a cup of coffee, the person who cries and laughs to himself without stopping, the student who wears his pants below his waist because even if you wear a uniform it doesn’t mean you can’t have your own personal style, the young, pretty nurse who sits up very straight in her uniform with her ID badge near her heart, and the zookeeper with her lunch in a plastic bag.

And then, of course, there’s me who imagines the lives of all these people during the eleven minutes (give or take a few) on the bus that transpire outside of time and before I begin my nearly eleven hour long workday.

I’m going to tell you a secret: once there were even butterflies on the number 11 bus at 7:11am. Eleven million butterflies to be precise and the mini-world became magical in addition to being simply fascinating. In the end life is always a sort of fairytale.

In English this time… C’est comme ma préférée rencontre

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Translated by Aurélie Saulnier.

The wonderful thing about meeting someone for the first time is that it often arrives unexpectedly, like a lightning bolt from the blue. I went out to have a drink with friends, as I often do, and there you were. Before I know it we are swept off to Never Land (though one should never say never) for ten days of our life. Blink. Just like that. With no warning. Leaving even my writing to languish in the weeds. For ten days. But this chance encounter was worth ten lost articles. Or a thousand. Or millions.

The spiders on the bayou. Because that’s more or less how it all began. With millions of yellow spiders from the bayou, and the Darth Vador crickets and the snakes that fell from the sky. It wasn’t my idea of Utopia, but I wouldn’t have used my time travel machine for anything else in the world. Outside there were swarms of buzzing mosquito hawks, but inside it was filled with the soft beating wings of butterflies. Butterflies are worth all the balloons in the world.

I'm hypochondriac

I’m hypochondriac

So, in order to armor ourselves against this hostile environment we created our own universe, just for the two of us without spiders or crickets or snakes. We created with ink and hot air balloons and pirates and palaces on the shore. With glasses of milk and marshmallow hamburgers. With napkinless dinners and blanketless nights. With alligators and grandma’s dresses and card games and luggage racks. With dreams of childhood and uncountable lives to live. And millions of butterflies.

Now the butterflies begin to swirl. They caress my heart, they dance in the pit of my stomach, they frolic in my mind. They remember. They remember each, improbable moment. Each improbable moment that should never have existed because he never should have been there. They remember each moment plucked from time. The boat ride, the rain, the car ride, the swing set, the naps, the wine and the ice cream. He tells me that butterflies are fleeting, ephemeral; but I think the chills rippling outward from their wings are eternal.

Now these butterflies begin to frustrate me. There are just too many of them and they invade my thoughts. I don’t want to cage them in, I don’t want to cut their wings and I don’t want to let them just fly away with no one to catch them. So I keep them within me—just a little while longer—even if they are a gift that takes up space, too much space. I don’t know how long ephemerality lasts but it must be something like forever, minus ten days.

So, here it is. I suppose this is my confession to you. I only wanted to remind you of our eternal amourette. I once believed that I read within the lines etched in your hand that we would share our frustrations and our mischievous smiles. We’ll talk about it again someday. And if your tongue should split…