A Lifestyle blog based in Sonoma County, in the heart of Wine Country. Amber is an outspoken voice for local activism, local wine tourism, and more.

La vie ensemble

I got up and walked away, closing the bedroom door behind me. Sitting on the bed beneath the 12 foot ceiling, I rested my elbows on my knees, buried my face in my hands, and let the tears flow. Happiness - a warm room, a good friend, and beautiful music accompanied with soup on the stove were just on the other side of the widow-paneled bedroom door, and it was overwhelming. Cigarette smoke hung in the air in the living room - a scent that I was adjusting to…my headaches were beginning to ease from its constant presence, and I had accepted that if I wanted to spend time with my friend, I was going to have up my tolerance.

Every evening we eat together, making soup, with me usually buying bread at the local boulangerie across the road. On weekends he buys pastries. Every morning we drink coffee (him) and tea (me) before he leaves for work, and I for my morning jog. Each day is started with a “ça va?”as I poke my heard out the bedroom door, followed by a grunt response from him on the pull out sofa in the living room, and a “Salut Kiki” from me, as I shuffle to the bathroom.

Kiki the cat - whom my friend calls rude for asking to go out every morning between 5-6am, I call polite; he doesn’t like to use his litter box, and insists to go out every morning before sunrise, subsequently sleeping late into the morning, long after my friend leaves for work, and I return from my morning jog in Butte-Chaumont. 

In the beginning, after a return from a weekend in the countryside, he asked me to move in with him: “we could make a life together” he said. I responded with panic, and a ringing in my ears. Suddenly I forgot all my French…and English too. Drowning in a panic of anxiety I bolted out the door and quickly buried myself under covers and dove deep into a Netflix binge of Riverdale seeking safety in the distance of the detached room next door. A few days later he came to me armed with arguments: “you are so outspoken about everything else: #MeToo, BLM, your demands for a better world - and yet when it comes to a simple discussion between friends you run. What is this?” Familiar words. 

So, we are giving it a go - this “vie ensemble” together, but separate. He knows immediately when I am stressed, or in a mood, and asks me directly about it - and I don’t like that. He too has his moods and and increasingly random rants. He smokes three hand rolled cigarettes with his morning pour-over coffee, and when he returns from work, often after 8pm, he has to smoke before he eats. But we have a rhythm. A rhythm that feels more and more like home, like a space being hollowed out in my heart that only these moments will be able to occupy. 

When I buy cheese, he weighs it to make sure the price per gram is correct, and that I wasn’t “robbed”. My first week in town I bought Prèsident brand Camembert. He is from Normandie; and I heard about my faux pas for nearly two weeks (..!); he told his mother, his boss, neighbors, his friends. I was also instructed on the importance of never mixing the butter and cheese knives when slathering my bread with either. He doesn’t leave for work before 10am. The sun rises slow here in the winter - with the sun peaking above the arrondissements at quarter to 9. 

I am so in love with my life in Paris. FipRadio plays in the background while we are home, with our conversations often leading to music; he introduced me to Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii. He tells me stories from the time he used to work in a recording studio - about who rented out the entire studio for a week to record an album, and which popular jazz-soul artist couldn’t find a note to save their life. How he had rubbed shoulders with major performers and dj’s. And, yes, there’s a bit of ego to it sometimes…or perhaps its a longing to go back in time…but I forgive him for it - because I’d have a bit of that too, I think. 

We talk about love, past relationships, depression, problematic therapists, and how perfectly content we are in our own company. He tells me silly stories of when he and his friends would go camping in the woods as kids. In Normandie, the forest is just on the other side the rock wall in his backyard. On the weekend that we spent there with his mother, we took a walk in the rain through the trees, which were so dense we barely felt the droplets; and when the church bells rang in the distance, it finally processed for me: I’m not in Sonoma County anymore. 

When I cry he lets it happen. He doesn’t shift his body uncomfortably, attempt to hug me, or rush to wipe tears away, or ask me to explain them. He is almost indifferent to them, letting them pass like a breeze. I like that. Though, he does seem a bit softer towards me for a day or two after. 

We didn’t spent Christmas together, or New Years…which had me feeling sad. I was happy with how I would be spending Christmas - but I also wanted to see my friend. Then, on the 28th he messaged me to let me know he had Covid. I checked in with him every day. Then his mother got it too. And then on New Year’s Day, his mother’s dog had a heart attack, and passed away. He would be delayed in the countryside due to quarantine regulations, and I would help out with his small business in his absence; and while he dug a grave, shovel in hand, he FaceTimed me to show me how to use the washing machine. 

I hope he is my friend for life. I hope he is my anchor to France that I return to over and over again, until we figure out how to keep me here forever. His neighbors will lecture me on how there is more to France than Paris (true), and I’ll pester him to drive us back to the county, until eventually he moves there permanently. And then it will be my turn: I’ll follow him to Normandie, to a modest two bedroom home with a fireplace, where we’ll make soup, and he’ll tinker around in the shed…A simple life. A good life shared between two friends.  

© A•Mused

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A Mused Blog | A Northern California Sonoma County Blog