August 25, 2009

Locked out.

Back in Paris. Back in my apartment. Loving the waves of light (even if a bit gray with the rain) through the window onto the brick red of the tomettes. Not loving the utter and complete mess strewn everywhere. Back from Istanbul and what a mess I've made. Xavier is in New York, so no pressure from him to get tidy. Then, suddenly, I feel the impulse. I want to clean it all up and wash the tomettes and everything. Frantically I start throwing clothes around hoping that transferring piles from here to there will produce the result I am looking for. So far, nothing.

I'm hot. I throw off my dress and throw on a pair of shorts. Before I get to the shirt, I look over at the garbage. It needs to go. No shoes, no shirt, but the garbage needs to get out into the hallway. Priorities. I grip the top of the plastic bag and heave. Out my front door and onto the landing outside. Plunk the garbage down. Look over at the window in the hall. It needs to be opened. Turn the handle and a gust of wind flies in.

SLAM. Behind me, my door slams. Slams. My door in France has no exterior doorknob, so when it slams, it is locked. I stare at the door. Hard. How could you do this to me? No shirt, no shoes, shorts. Nothing else. No keys, no phone. Laughter. Hysterical sort. What a predicament. What a predicament. I'm giggling and trying to cover as much of myself as possible while knocking on the girls' apartment upstairs. No one. They have hung an unlikely in-the-hall laundry line though. Thankfully. Full of bedazzled Beyoncé-inspired clothing. I'm giggling much more. Yank - the cobalt blue one with diamond angel wings. Stunner. Fly down the stairs. Knock. Knock. Frantic. Knock. No one. Personne. Why? Why? Why? August. Paris. August. My whole building has evacuated the city. Half giggle, half sob.

In the tiny courtyard, feet immersed in the soppy/dank puddles of pouring rain. Lighting. Thunder. Out the long corridor into the streets of the 10th arrondissement. Afghan boys. 15 of them despite the rain. My street is their congregation. They always hang out here. They see me. No shoes, bedazzled shirt, ragamuffin shorts. Looking frantic. I look up and down at the closed shops (again, August in Paris). Which direction? They huddle round me. Ask me what I'm doing. I ask them if they have phones. Negatory. They don't even have visas, they tell me. Merci, ciao.

Right. I head up. The Moustache bar is pounding music. Chairs flipped erect on top of the bar. Big burly mustache looks at my sick feet with a cringe. I cringe back. I scream over the music: désolée, je suis votre voisine. Neighbors, eh? I guess not according to him. My door closed behind me, I explain, my keys are in my apartment. He rolls his eyes and saunters over to the dial on the radio. Twists. Quiet. I re-explain. He cuts me off and picks up his phone, dials a number and tells my story way better than I did. Dans une petite heure. Oh no, not that. Une petite heure means a really long time. My smile forms a square on my face. I am trying. Thank you, thank you for calling.

Re-enter the rainstorm. My Afghan friends await me at the entrance of my building. Re-hi. Punch in the code. Stand in the doorway, my big toe propping the door open. Hoping une petite heure might this one time be literal. Nope. Start talking to the Afghans. Fascinating boys. They pull out scraps of paper. I gather they are asking me in Farsi at which metro the address they are pointing to is. Not much English, not much French. I tell them I think it is George V. Why? The Canadian Embassy. Oh, you want to go to Canada? Yes. First it was Greece, now France, their goal: Canada. They sleep in the park. They show me scars on their hands where the Taliban cut them with knives and burned cigarettes into their skin. I cringe. I tell them Canada will be better. I hope it is true. France doesn't seem to be. The rain pours. I feel sheepish for thinking about my locked door.

He finally arrives. Little man. Looking at me suspiciously. Dirty feet, wet girl, 'fancy' blue diamond shirt, surrounded by 20-something year old dudes (at least they are wearing shoes). He asks me what seems to be the worry. I locked myself out of my apartment, of course. Why on earth would I call him otherwise? He accepts this. Will we need more than 'la radio?' he asks. What? La radio? Why the heck is he talking about a radio? An x-ray. An x-ray. He pulls an x-ray out of his briefcase. Yes! I tell him. I am certain we are going to need more than that to open my locked door. He shakes his head. We are going to try with la radio first. Great.

He kicks. He pries with his fingers. He shoves the x-ray violently into the crack in the door. Forces it upward. Shoves. Squawks a little. And wins. The door opens. An x-ray? Who knew? I squawk several times in thanks. Then watch his eyes to make sure they are not sizing up the belongings in my house. Xavier is convinced these guys come back to steal. I don't know.

He leaves with his x-ray and I rip the Beyoncé shirt off my back, make sure keys are in the pockets of my ragamuffin shorts and run out to return that useful thing to its place on the close-line.

The most ironic part of this tale is that on our way back from Istanbul, my bag was 'lost' at the airport in Paris. I wouldn't have cared except that my keys, yes my keys, were in it. We waited for 5 hours at CDG for that bag and those keys, only for me to return to Paris to perform this little stunt. Bravo Emilie.


Gina said...

My nightmare come true...and you tell it so fabulously! Serendipitous, that makeshift hallway clothesline...whew!

Let me know if you'd like to grab another drink sometime now that you're back!


Xavier said...

...could not be a better entry for your blog my darling.

Maria Petrova said...

Oh my GOD!!!
I can't WAIT for your book. You are phenomenal. In every sense!

Shelli said...

And you make it sound so no big deal...well, ok, medium deal, but still, you're remarkably self-possessed. Moi, I'd be in tears in the courtyard.

I've heard of using credit cards to shim open a door, but carrying x-rays, that's a new one. Word is it costs an arm and two legs to get a locksmith to let you in when you've locked yourself out. Did the x-ray trick cost a lot too?


Cindy said...

This is a great story in and of itself, but it is made so much more so by your can truly bring an event alive! Thanks!

pilar chapin said...

Love it.

Emilie said...

shelli - the x-ray trick, it turns out, is only an arm...not the leg too...not too bad

Jill said...

Emilie, I love this story. I can just picture you laughing on the landing, realizing what you had just done. I bet Xavier liked this story. Very nice! I'm just glad that you found that clothes line!

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