Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Tale of Stalker Cat

Shortly after setting foot on French soil at the CDG-Roissy airport, I took a couple of trains and headed back to my homebase in Sablé-sur-Sarthe. What I currently refer to as "home" is a small, furnished room complete with two faucets and a shower. Prior to leaving the premises to spend nearly six weeks in Miami, I had to vacate said room of every one of my possessions.

Every. Single. Thing.

I had only resided in my room for eleven months, but I soon figured that had been enough time to accrue what I now fondly refer to as "having way too much shit."

The belated spring cleaning took place over the course of five days and it involved several plastic containers and cardboard boxes which were graciously stored in someone's basement.

Arriving once again in Sablé, I found myself with the task of not only settling into my vacated room once more, but also having to move ALL of my possessions across a bumpy terrain so I could progressively organize my items.

This move occurred over two days, in which the first day I opted to take out only items involved in cleaning off body and hair travel residue and clothing a naked mattress so I could collapse into a well-merited rest.

Being a perpetual optimist, rather than complaining about the unavoidable labor of moving items under the hot, summer sun, I viewed it as the opportunity to redecorate my very humble abode. I had the genius idea to move some furniture around, which cleared out some space on the floor, enough for me to never have to side-step and trip over the veritable minefield of books, clothes and boxes ever again.

On the second day, I loaded a flat barrel with some plastic containers and made the first of multiple journeys from the basement to my room.

Suddenly, I heard a faint "mew" emanate from behind me. I craned my neck and spotted a thin, dark cat, eyes intently fixed upon my being.

I didn't think too much of this stray and continued with the task of hauling heavy plastic containers back to my room. I made it to my building, gradually unloaded the cart of the boxes and dumped them into my room.


I turned on my heel toward the glass front door. There, peering inside, was the cat patiently waiting for me to open the front door. "Mew," it beckoned once more as it blinked a couple of times.

"Sorry, cat, I can't let you in the building," I replied, hoping it would somehow magically be able to interpret human language. "It's against the rules, you know."

I opened the glass door, shooed it away, and continued with a second trek to the basement to repeat my previous actions.

Thirty seconds passed when I had the impression that I wasn't alone with this venture. I stopped in my tracks and turned to look behind me.


There was the cat, trailing a mere ten paces away from me. I took pity on its lithe form and forlorn calls. I headed back to my building (the cat following me) and fetched a small bowl of milk in the kitchen. As I made it out of the building once more, I saw that the cat had once again patiently waited by the entrance.

I placed the bowl of milk in a few feet away from the entrance and the cat eagerly lapped its free meal.

I went back to the basement, loaded the cart with more plastic containers, then headed to my building.

The cat was still there, stationary, by the front door.

"Mew," it said, in a more forceful tone.

I sighed and in my inane quest to make stray animals understand human speech told it to run off and catch of a couple of mice. I shooed it away and unloaded the plastic containers into my room.

Like that will happen with equality of the sexes. 
I paused for a moment, took a sip of cold water, and mentally prepared myself to follow through with a third trip to the basement. I reached the front door. My jaw dropped.


I dawned on me that I had acquired my very first stalker.

I huffed and told the cat to go away and leave me alone, for I was allergic to his kind.

"Listen, cat, this isn't going to work. I can't adopt you as my pet. It's not going to happen, so scram."

"MEW," it uttered sternly.

I ignored its scornful tone and continued the move toward the basement. I checked behind to see if my furry stalker trailed me.

He did. He stopped the instant he realized that I had spotted him chasing me in broad daylight. I harrumphed and kept walking.

Even when I went indoors to gather my things in the basement, stalker cat patiently waited for my return to gaze at me with those big almond-shaped eyes.


I loaded the containers onto the cart and rushed back to my room, stalker cat in tow.

"MEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWW," he screeched when I made it to the front door. This time, his call was filled with accusatory animosity. With that one, brief sound, I interpreted his speech to translate as "Bitch, you gave me milk. You're just as well MINE from this point on."

From outside of the glass door, his baleful expression was cut with a fleeting glance of being in confused pain. Why was I rejecting him? Why couldn't I appreciate that I finally had someone who was willing to stick by my side?

Probably because his relentless chasing freaked me out. I bid my stalker cat good-bye and closed the door to my room.

Within a few hours, my abode took on a new air:

It may not be much, but it's quite cozy. 

Content with my work, I took a well-deserved shower followed by a jet-lag induced nap.

Barb the French Bean

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Date That Almost Seems Forgotten

Twelve years have passed from that day when I was a high school Freshman sitting in my second period geography class. Twelve years from the moment when the vice principal's voice emanated from the speakers to announce the news that struck me dumb.

The events of September 11, 2001 have since been marked as the day that will not be forgotten.

It's also hard to forget considering the repercussions that ensued shortly after the attacks: stricter airport security measures, a burrowed fear permeating people's consciousness, fright at the thought that perhaps some loon with a bomb sought to take a life worth living in mere seconds.

Yes, we were afraid in those fledgling months of trying to make sense within the chaos. United over the loss, the people in my country were linked by invisible threads of hope, courage and resilience. So were our allies. "Today, we are all American," Jacques Chirac quipped at the time.

The following year, I took French as one of my high school elective classes. Little did I know that such a relatively minor decision would guide me to where I am now.

Twelve years later, I am in France on September 11, 2013. Apart from a few media blurbs on the T.V., newspapers and radio, it's a fairly normal day. People go to work, greet their co-workers, take their kids to school without the faintest qualm that perhaps it may just be the last time they see each other. Life goes on, and the contrast of how I experience every anniversary of that fateful back home versus here comes off as almost irreverent to me.

Over the years, I have slowly, even begrudgingly, accepted that such American customs as Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July go by without a second, if any, thought here. However, the way that life has gone by tranquilly on this September 11 almost seems...wrong. I can't wrap my head around it.

And yet, living tranquilly is exactly how I've spent this day. I got up, had breakfast, worked, had lunch, went to the gym, showered, went grocery shopping, and had dinner. The normalcy is striking and blunt. It makes me want to turn to those around me and ask "don't you remember what today is?! I can't be the only one!"

Of course they must remember. Who could forget news like that?

Perhaps I'm simply having a difficult time with the acceptance that things will always be perceived differently abroad, especially something that has forever been etched into my underlying way of being.

Time goes by. Life goes on. C'est la vie.

Barb the French Bean