Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lyrical Expressions and Sasquatch Sightings

The husky sighs of a young woman enjoying herself was not quite the wake up call I was expecting. It was the middle of the afternoon on Sunday and I had been taking a nap. Apart from Isabelle and myself, I thought there was no other female in the apartment. This was certainly not Isabelle and I was certainly not dreaming.

I was lying there on my little bed in the darkened room, trying to assess the source of this overture, meanwhile keeping silent. For being in Paris, ze city of lurrrve, I was actually more surprised that I’d not heard such sounds earlier during my stay. The walls in this apartment building are as thin as crepes, and so I’d certainly detected the presence of neighbors well before today (incidentally, the best one so far had been listening to someone in the upstairs apartment playing the ‘witch doctor’ song over and over while singing along!!). But due to the unmuffled clarity of these noises, I was fairly certain it wasn’t emanating through the wall of an adjacent apartment. And it was too natural and non-repetitive to be a porno flick…of course, not that I have much personal expertise in this area (apart from what I’ve observed on German TV when travelling).

Then I chuckled quietly as I remembered the plate of my handmade chocolates I’d left in Isabelle’s kitchen that morning for sampling. These were the ones I’d made the day before in my milk chocolate practical. While these did provoke a certain pleasurable response, this Harry Meets Sally rendition was far too flattering for my budding confectionary skills. (Maybe in the distant future, when I live up to my fullest expectations as a pleasure merchant, I’ll hope to hear such things when people eat my chocolates!)

Anyway, this left only one plausible conclusion for the carnal duet I was hearing: Isabelle’s son must have invited someone over, forgetting (or possibly not caring) that I was in the apartment that afternoon.

Normally on a weekend, I wouldn’t even be in Paris, so I’d say that forgetting was the more likely explanation. Earlier that day, her son and I had a comical chance meeting in the apartment. A case of two people realizing with some surprise (and in my case extreme humour) that they were not the only occupant in the apartment. As this was the first time since September that I’d ever stayed over the weekend in Paris, it is understandable that my presence would not be expected on a Sunday morning.

I’ll explain that chance meeting further if you allow me a momentary digression to provide some contextual details. There are 3 bedrooms in Isabelle’s apartment, all of which intersect with a small corridor. One room is Isabelle’s, one is rented by me and the other is a guest room which sits at the opposite end of the corridor from mine, with roughly 2 meters distance between the doors. The door to this third room is typically always shut and the room is almost always vacant unless Isabelle’s family or friends are visiting. Also intersecting with this corridor are the central bathroom and WC; the WC being just next to my bedroom door.

Isabelle has two sons who are in their twenties. I have been introduced to one, Charles, who I believe is the older of the two. He was visiting last autumn, shortly after I began my studies in Paris. At that time, I recall he was home to visit Isabelle after some language excursion in Mexico. He was cordial and when I happened to cross paths with him in the apartment, he was usually in front of Isabelle’s computer. After a couple days, Charles was off to travel some more and I don’t know if he’s been back since.

The other son I think is named Arnaud. He visits more frequently but ironically I’ve never been formally introduced. Still, I can usually tell whenever he has been in the apartment, because lights will be left on, the bathroom will be a mess and dirty dishes will be piled in the sink. Or sometimes, I’ll just hear the TV in the guest room (he seems to like TV and doesn’t come out much). So until this weekend, his presence was a bit like the Sasquatch legend…tangible signs of existence, but as yet, no actual sightings.

I suppose Arnaud must have arrived on the Saturday night when I was out having dinner with a fellow student. So I arrived home late after my dinner, completely unaware he was there. Either that, or he arrived to the apartment even later than me, but I don’t recall hearing anyone come into the apartment after I’d gone to bed.

Anyway, that Sunday morning, I’d slept until about 9am. I remember waking up when I heard Isabelle leave the apartment. Isabelle is Catholic and I assume she’d left early to go to church. At that stage, feeling very rested and upon seeing some promising sunlight peeking through the roller blind, I felt motivated to get up and seize the day. I retracted the roller blind and smiled. While the day outside looked cold and windy, the weather was clear so I decided I would walk from Isabelle’s to Montmartre to enjoy the views over Paris.

I honestly thought I was alone in the apartment, so I opened the door to my room and cranked up the iTunes on my laptop so I could hear it whilst I showered and got ready. I have earned some credo as a decent singer, yet music is a personal expression and I accept that not everyone will dig what I have to offer. Still, it is a small activity that makes me happy and so when I am alone I don’t hold back. I put on a funky collection that includes some old faves like “Lady Marmalade” and naturally I sang along confidently to the “voulez-vous coucher” part using my best Patti LaBelle voice.

I’d just finished my shower and fortunately had gotten dressed. The playlist had migrated into some Tom Jones' favorites. I was standing in my open doorway, a few steps inside my room with my back to the entry, belting out “Sex Bomb” and putting my hips and feet to some good use too. That’s when I heard the guest room door open.

I spun around quickly on my heels, simultaneously hitting the mute button on my laptop. There was a young man in the corridor with the most amazing case of bed head wearing a wrinkled and rather gaping pair of boxer shorts. He sort of self adjusted his boxers and then stumbled towards the WC.

It was a pure Bridget Jones moment, where I felt positively mortified with embarrassment but tried to salvage myself graciously. “Bonjour” I stammered quickly, followed by my quickest apologetic explanation for not realizing he was there.

He half smiled and grunted something which sounded pleasant enough, then disappeared into the WC and shut the door. I retreated from my doorway and recoiled in front of my closet, with my face grimaced in embarrassment. Just imagine having your Sunday sleep-in spoiled by some Tom Jones/voulez-vous wannabe who is not even a family member…ooops…maybe not the best climate for a first time meeting. I decided to end my little 'top of the pops' show and leave him in peace as quickly as possible. I laced up my sneakers and departed, still laughing to myself at this embarrassing faux-pas as I walked up Rue Lecourbe.

I traversed the 7eme arrondissement, then crossed the Seine near La Place de la Concorde and found myself near La Madeleine and the St. Honore/Faubourg district. I know the area pretty well, and it is one of my favorite districts in the city because of all the great boutiques. So I spent some time gazing in more than a few shop windows, of course stopping at La Duree and Fauchon where the patisserie and food displays are truly stunning. From there, I continued walking north towards the butte of Montmartre and the Deux Abbesses. The views from the butte are always worthwhile, especially on a clear day like today. There, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day being just another tourist. I had my portrait sketched, bought some souvenirs for my little cousins, ate brioche from every patisserie along the way that looked good, and on my descent finally treated myself to coffee in a local café around Clichy. By 3pm after all the walking in the wind, I was feeling a little tired and wanting to be indoors. So I debated between an afternoon matinee or lunch and a siesta and decided ultimately on the latter option.

When I arrived back at Isabelle’s I found her in the kitchen, in the final stages of cooking a meal of turkey cutlets and gratin potatoes. We chatted briefly while I made myself a hot cup of tea and microwaved my leftover spaghetti bolognaise. As the kitchen was kinda busy, I took my spaghetti and ate in my room while perusing a map of Paris and the route I had taken. Sitting at my desk, I could hear the TV going in the guest bedroom and I heard Isabelle bring food to Arnaud. Shortly after that, I heard her leave the apartment.

It was at that point I felt quite sleepy, so I shut the roller blind and climbed into bed for a nap. The last thing I recall, before I dozed off, was putting my mobile phone on silent (so I wouldn't be awoken unexpectedly) then setting the alarm so I wouldn’t oversleep. Ha – little did I know at that point there’d be zero chance of that!

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