20 juin 2015

Chapter 4

Life in a tiny Parisian apartment would not be the same without Ginny Early. I remember that really stupid student ad I’d posted on the shabby university board, in which I try to sound fun and easy to live with, before begging all English speakers interested in flat-sharing to give me a quick call. 
The French-born-and-bred side of me did not appreciate the thought that I found English-speakers to be more fun to live with on the long run. But soon enough I realized it was probably because I addressed myself in English on most pondering occasions, so it probably meant I was more comfortable and more myself speaking it. 
Ginny was the last person who called, well after I had lost all hope of finding anyone normal. The others seemed too weird – “So… what’s your intake on pet snakes?” – too spoiled – “Hold on. Daddy!! What’s a lease?” – or too clingy – “Here’s my mobile and landline number, my mother’s email address, and my dad’s lawyer’s coordinates, just in case.” All Ginny did to make an impression was present herself as an American lost in Paris, then offered to get together and start looking for a place right away. Straight to the point, just the way I like things. 

The pixie purple hair was the first ice-breaker. I was actually jealous; no shade of violet would look good on a red-head. And cutting my hair that short would be like flashing a bright light on my weirdo skin, for everyone to notice and stare at. But on her, it looked like she had upgraded from whatever imposed natural shade was underneath, to one that showed her true self. 

Surprisingly, the girl turned out to be anything but extravagant. She works part time as a translator for a local television production house, while completing her masters in Applied Foreign Languages at the same university I go to. The only bizarre thing about her is her adamant refusal to say “Hi”. Ginny does not say hello, good day, good morning, good evening, and whatever other part of the day one would wish to be good. To her, such greeting is too formal, and she would only use it with people she has just met, or that she dislikes and would prefer to stay formal with. The rest of the population can enjoy a truly remarkable greeting on her part: one of Ginny’s original quotes.

No one knows when this all began. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been able to pop out a new quote every single day. They aren’t all good, but they help me guess what is on her mind. After a safe period of “hellos”, we became close enough for her to give me her first quote: “You shouldn't feel dumb about doing dumb things if you're actually aware they're dumb.” 
It lacked entirely of context, and she chose to say it to me one morning, as I groggily dragged myself from the bed to the kitchen table. After a few seconds of bewilderment, I grinned and told her she should write a book. I still insist she do that, from time to time. 


Which brings us back to today: it’s precisely this sort of witty, straight-to-the-point wisdom I need right now, to forget my new invasive obsession. 

I noisily turn the keys as a warning, worried I might walk in on her with company. But she’s there on the sofa, with her back turned to me, and her laptop on her crossed legs. She only twists around halfway to say, “Patience is a necessary form of masochism”. 

It stops me dead in my tracks. Hmm! Spot on, Miss Early!
“Hah! This is actually good!” I say. I know she’s expecting a reaction. It’s like she’s testing those quotes on me.

            She winks at me sideways, then goes back to typing. But just as I think she’s totally ignoring me, she asks without any eye contact, “So? How’d it go?”
“Weeeell….” and I leave it hanging. In a fraction of a second, her laptop is shut, her whole body twists around and her eyes search mine, intrigued. She knows me too well…


I sit across from her, not even bothering to take my coat off or my luggage to the bedroom, and tell her the full story with all the shamefully neurotic details, as if cleansing myself of them. I even illustrate with the drawing, which makes her jolt up, and her eyes move quickly back and forth from my face to the paper.  But she remains painfully quiet, as the ghost of my own fixation dawns in her eyes. 


“See? Not so easy to ignore, is it?” I blurt out, tentatively trying to draw her over to my side. She stares at the drawing, while distractedly biting her thumb nail. Then the questioning begins, about his strangely detached facial impression, and why I think that is. It stings to answer, because deep inside I obviously don’t want to portray him as indifferent to me, rather than totally Elf-smitten. But I know she’s only playing devil’s advocate. 



“So lemme see if I got this right: he stares at you with an eerily unaffected expression, but the drawing is enough for you to think otherwise? To be convinced he’s experienced ‘Recognition’ for you?”



“I hate you right now,” I throw at her, moaning adolescently.



She stares blankly at my feet, mentally going over all the possible ways of investigating this further, and I know she would eventually reach the same conclusion: He can’t be found, forget about him. However, she chooses a surprisingly more spiritual view. “You know, if he really believes all that Elf telepathy stuff, he probably thinks that someday, somehow, he would find you again! Otherwise, “Recognition” would be totally useless, wouldn’t it?” She sits up, suddenly enthusiastic about her own theory. “Maybe he’s even testing that on you! How romantic would that be: not signing the drawing on purpose, but strongly believing you would be reunited by pure chance. And, erm, Elf magic.”  



I give her an evil look, which quickly turns into honest surprise: why do I feel better all of a sudden? Man, she’s good… She must not be used to seeing me go through something so irrational, so she opted for a non-rational conclusion. And I’m almost ashamed to admit it worked for me. She gives me a lazy smile, perfectly aware that she totally got to me, then adds the final tour de force:



“Hot chocolate?” 



And then I really feel better.



Once in bed that night, I find myself smiling dumbly again. Not because I’m optimistic about finding Green-Eyes, but more because Ginny’s sappy conclusion gave much more sense to the whole experience; one that I could comprehend and accept better than having to just stop thinking about the guy, cold turkey. From now on I’ll be remembering all this with much less intensity, but will still hope that someday, somewhere…









A new week begins, and yet everything is the same: morning Ginny-quote – I believe today’s was “Only obsess about someone you know you can't have; you already know how it ends.” It earned her another evil look, although she made a fair point – taking turns for breakfast in the abnormally tiny kitchen, then going to university. I had three consecutive hours of Music History starting 9:30, followed by another three hours of Ethnomusicology, right after lunch break. So let’s just say I wasn’t exactly thrilled about going. But I knew I had enough memories from this weekend to create opportunities for exquisite mental escape and daydreaming. 



The ethnomusicology professor even made us listen to samples from the Dancer in the Dark soundtrack, and inevitably, Björk and Thom Yorke managed to transport me with an ingenious train-rhythm pattern in “I’ve Seen It All”. Needless to say, it took two seconds for the train noise to bring back all the memories from Friday… 



I got so wrapped up in my daily dose of daydreaming without the slightest clue that, a little over twenty-four hours later, my wandering mind would be the cause of the most horrific, life-changing moments I would ever have to live through.
 
 
But for tonight, I just wait for Ginny’s courses to be over, and we walk home together, enjoying the last normal evening before a long, long while…




Tuesday, May 19, 2012

16:04

Just like yesterday, it’s breakfast then university for me, contrarily to Ginny, who will be spending the whole day at the production house. Only trouble is, I forgot my key at home. Next to dealing with my own skin, this must be my second most dreaded ordeal ever. 

I’m also done for the day, so I quickly text Ginny about the key, only to receive a less than sympathetic reply: 
Shit, Lil! We hav a shoot today & the company’s paying 4 the taxi home, so no idea when I’ll b done here! 

Damn it!... Maybe I could just wait it out by hanging around the library and keeping an eye on my phone for any updates from Miss Grumpy…


18:01

Okay, I’m bored out of my wits and Ginny hasn’t tried calling yet. And to make things worse, the library’s closing, so I’ll need to find some other solution. Maybe the coffee shop around the corner?...

19:40

            All those movie scenes where the female character seems to reaffirm her own individuality by enjoying whole afternoons of solo coffee shop breaks, are lies. It’s mostly uncomfortable to just sit there, especially after you’ve finished you coffee, and a previous library stay has put you off reading for the moment. I mean, there’s only so much staring at people you can do. And as it gets darker, you get terribly restless, to say the least. Fuck, Ginny, show proof of life! I text her again, and get what I’m guessing is an in-between shots reply: You know where I am, come over

            Oh no… I’ll need to take two slow buses to get there, and it’s in the empty kind of suburb that I hate above all else. 

Oh what the heck… I won’t spend the entire evening wandering about, and I’m really starting to get tired.


20: 55

           I’m not even sure I got off at the right stop. I really hate the suburbs!! It’s too empty and quiet here! But the area looks familiar, so at least I’m not entirely lost. All big TV studios are here, for lack of space inside Paris; and since media is a never-sleeping field, most blocks have a few lights on still. Now I just need to find Ginny’s…

            I try calling her but it goes directly to voice mail. Big surprise! I’m seriously mad now, mostly at myself. How could I forget my key, when it’s hanging in plain sight, next to the main door? Idiot!

            I keep on walking, since I have no other option really. And as I check every building, I’m reminded of the recent similarly-impossible search for Green-Eyes… I can barely remember his face, which upsets me. I wish I had looked longer, memorized his delicate features…

            Suddenly, what feels like a fat raindrop lands loudly on my shoulder blade. Great! That’s about the worst thing that could happen right now. And I don’t even have an umbrella… I’m so useless today! 

            Another loud raindrop impact, this time lower on my back. What’s this freaky horizontal rain?!

Third impact. But with a major difference this time. The said “raindrop” bounces off and lands on the asphalt, right next to me. Is that… M&M’s?

In less than a second, my limbs grow numb, and my breathing hitches, but I keep walking.

It’s nothing, just some kid.

            Fourth impact, this time at the back of my head. 

It’s nothing. Keep walking. There’s nothing else you can do anyway.

My reflexes terrify me. Isn’t one supposed to run, or try some sort of self-defense in such cases? All my sissy brain could come up with is “keep walking”?!...

            A low chuckle behind me; much closer than I thought. An indescribable shiver shakes my system from the inside, and reflects on my limbs and lips. My lower jaw starts trembling, and at that moment, I really hate myself, my cowardice, my numbness. I barely have any strength left in my fingers, but a strange reflex compels me to slide my phone into my sleeve. Pure genius. I’m in potentially mortal danger, and all I’m scared about is having my phone ripped from me.

            Another chuckle, louder, meant to erase all remaining doubt in my mind. 

Then, in an utterly unsettling fraction of a second, my brain goes from extreme denial, to extreme surrender, and simply says:

Let go. It’s coming.
           
            The first blow lands on the back of my skull, in a horrific, bloodcurdling, ripping metallic sound. My feet slow to a complete stop. I sway to the right, totally numb, with absolutely no reflexes left. 








I feel my handbag pulling at my shoulder, and have just enough strength to cling to it. It seems to be keeping me up on my feet, although my knees are desperately begging to bend and find some solace on the ground. 





The world spins a few degrees, and my knees get their release. The painful impact against the hard concrete almost wakes me up. I slightly lift my head, and see a Face. It’s not some kid’s. It’s much, much more spine-chilling than that. 




The second blow is aimed at my face. I can feel it was a kick. I look down and cling to my bag, as if that is going to help me. 

Another kick, also in the face. I cough up blood, and it hydrates my mouth, bringing some absurd comfort.

My bag starts pulling at me again. I imbed my nails into it, and some things fall out with a light clatter, before the bag totally disappears.

A few metallic blows rain on my head, my shoulders, my arms. I am hollow, and can almost feel the blood frozen in my veins. I can also hear a loud, hair-raising, continuous wail, coming from my very insides, although my lips are shut. 

My stomach takes in the following kick. No! I curl into fetal position, but it makes no difference. The pain is everywhere now. I slowly open my eyes enough to see a red and white, pointy object sticking out of my arm. I can no longer move it. 

I feel my stomach heaving sickeningly, as everything I’ve eaten today is projected back out of my body. Weirdly enough, it gives me a few seconds of cease-fire. So, in an attempt to prolong it, I keep forcing my stomach to heave more of its contents. 

But it was only a fleeting moment of peace. Now the strikes resume and seem to be aimed at my hip and legs. I hear a loud crack, but am too distracted to analyze it. A small, hard object keeps poking at my rib, from beneath me. I feebly reach for it with the only arm I can still move, and manage to grab it with three fingers.

Erik! My dad’s name pops into my head, but it takes a couple more kicks for my brain to figure out why. Erik, thank you! I hear these words in my very soul, as my arm moves of its own accord and, lifting the small object up towards the Face of my terror, squeezes it as hard as it possibly can.

“Argh!!! You mother…”

The Face is hidden with a rough, bloodied hand. It then starts coughing, gasping, and gurgling. And a second later, so do I. 

I quickly start running out of breath when a violent cough shakes my very bones. It seems to keep me conscious, unfortunately, although I’m completely unable to open my eyes. 

And then… as my brain first recommended, I let go. 




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