Le Dernier Jour (UN)

One more day… Sheila and I got up around 7:30 to get ready to go to Sweet Briar for my last two finals (Sheila had already finished both portions of her Atelier finals, so she only had the theatre one with me to take). Out the door, one last morning metro ride to Sweet Briar… it felt nice. I had stayed up a little bit past “my usual grandma bedtime” last night giving myself a pretty solid basic outline of how the metteur en scene (G. B. Corsetti) for Un chapeau de paille d’Italie did a decent job of staying “on point” of the true Vaudeville style of “order within the disorder” and I used his note d’intention (director’s note of intention)/the little note that he’d written that was published in the program as my proof, so I felt pretty good about the final. We took a terminology one first that took me about seven minutes to do. There was a schema (drawing/plan) of a theatre with some terms that we had to place on the proper parts of the stage (for the record, they don’t call it “stage right” and “stage left” in France, it’s coté coeur [heart side] and coté jardin [garden side]), and some other things like “what rules did writers in such and such a century have to follow.” I’m pretty sure I nailed that paper too. I made some mental notes of what I wrote (I still have the program, and the outline I made anyway) since they might be good things to refer to when I do my senior project next year. Adding a bit of a Vaudeville flair to my piece would be a really fun “French punch.” All of our dossiers were so different, which was awesome. Some people walked in with three page papers. I walked in with a 22 page whopper of a project. Sheila had done hers on a psycho-analytic analysis of Les enfants terribles, since she’s a Psych major. Max (a music major) managed to convince Mme. Hersant to let him compose his own overture for Les enfants terribles instead of writing a paper, so we got to listen to it! Max has some serious talent, and since I’m always looking for original scores to put in my original films (when I make them… which is going to start happening a lot since I need to get a move on for graduate school), I’ve already talked to him, and he’s said he’s super excited to help me. He sent me this song as his “working resume.” He says to listen to it when it’s the only thing open in your browser (it works better that way), with your headphones, with the music as loud as you can handle it. After that, we got tot watch an original short film from Juan, which was inspired by everything he learned in the class, with poetry and everything. Mme. Hersant said she got to take a look at my dossier (though she hadn’t read the paper portion I’d written yet, which was fine with me), and she said I’d done a great job on ALL of the designs (don’t worry, I’ll post pictures soon), and she loved that I was putting some Vaudeville influence into my set design, she could tell as soon as she looked at it. I think it’s safe to say I can chalk up another A (or a French grade of “professor”) on my semester abroad report card!

I headed into the composition portion of the Atelier final right after that for semester students, you had two options you could choose from: how reading and literacy was starting to become a dying art (if that’s how you felt), or what you were going to take away from your semester in France… thank you for the no-brainer, Mme. Mellado! I chose the second option. I talked about how I’ve changed (and how I could tell I’ve changed), and I’d go over all of that now, but frankly, that’s another post… I finished my composition, filled to the brim with subject-verb inversion and idiomatic expressions, in all of 45 minutes, then I ran out the door of Sweet Briar after saying my goodbyes for the last time… well… maybe it won’t be the last. Mme. Parnet mentioned something about how a lot of students like coming back as Fulbright scholars after they graduate…
One last ride home from ligne 12, back through Saint Lazare… and I was home. I packed up everything I had… and I was surprised to find that I HAD ROOM in my smaller suitcase! When I lugged my larger suitcase into Madame’s bathroom and set it onto the scale, it came up five kilograms under the Air France weight limit, so I felt alright. Sheila’s larger suitcase was a featherweight compared to mine, so I wasn’t entirely sure where I stood, but I was sure I’d only have to pay the 70 euro second bag fee tomorrow morning. I called to confirm our shuttle pick up for tomorrow. We’d asked for it at 9:30, and they bumped us to 9:45 since we’d be the last stop they’d make, and they’d go straight to the airport from our place. We figured this should be fine since it takes 30 minutes tops from our place to the airport after all. If we got to the airport at 10:15, and our flight is at 13:35, that’s plenty of time. I took a nap, and laid out tomorrow’s clothes and my pajamas since I had every intention to take the metro home tonight after we were out late (we wanted to try to tire ourselves out so we would sleep on the plane) and get some shut eye, since I don’t even like being around myself when I’m cranky, much less subject anyone else to it…
Madame made us salmon with her delicious crème fraîche sauce to go with it, spinach, and potatoes for our last meal. We chatted happily. Part of me is happy to go since she wasn’t exactly as sweet as I would have liked her to be (I think Mme. De Lapisse was more in the hosting student thing for the money than she was for anything else), but she was still a wonderful cook, quite funny, and very understanding of my gluten-intolerance, and that has to be taken into account. She asked if we were going out to enjoy Paris one last time before we went home, and we told her that our plan was to stay out as long as possible (perhaps the whole night) so we would sleep on the plane. She smiled, and said that’s actually a common thing for students to do. Sheila and I gave her our little gifts (Sheila had bought her a red candle for Christmas, and given her a Honduran key chain to go with the key holder that she gave her at the beginning of the semester, and I gave her two cans of “plain” almonds, some sour Jelly Bellies, and the California-shaped box of chocolate-covered almonds) after the meal. She was very happy to get them… and even bised us as a thank you! I was so surprised! I did a little happy dance when I got back to my room. I handled a few things on my computer, touched up my makeup, then packed it (I don’t like wearing any when I take flights since the cabin air dries out my skin, so I’ll put some face cream on whenever I go to the bathroom instead), and we headed out for our last soirée for this trip to France…
Sheila and I stopped by Carrefour on our way to ligne 3 so she could pick up a bottle of wine for Kyle since he was going to be running late. She’d bought one for herself earlier, and I had the bottle of Vouvray that Mme. Remion had given me in Tours in my bag, ready to go. We were all set up to rendezvous at Place de la Concorde at 10 PM, near the Grande Roue (Ferris Wheel). Sheila and I got there first, and snapped a few pictures. Joan walked… in wedges… so she got there next. That’s a bit of a lie, technically, Suzannah had been there before all of us, but because she was out of credit, she wasn’t able to tell any of us! We found her, and she joined our group. Rouge came up pretty quick, and Joan needed to eat, so she bought a hot dog (they come wrapped inside a baguette with cheese here), and we waited for Kyle to come. Once he got there, we popped open my bottle of Vouvray, and I insisted that we make toasts. We all went around, and the toasts that Joan and I made ended up making Suzannah, Joan, and Rouge tear up. Save for the personal parts (I said something about every person that was there), the gist of mine was this:
“To the country I never wanted to come to, and now never want to leave. To the friends I never thought I’d want to know, and now can never imagine life without, I’m sorry, but now you’re stuck with me. To Operation Laid-Back Claire, which was more of a success than any of us ever thought it would be. To all of us changing for the better because of study abroad, and to reinventing ourselves as a result. Bon santé!
We’d had some plastic champagne flutes, so we used those to “be classy” while we drank our Vouvray, and once we finished the bottle, we got on the Grande Roue. None of my pictures turned out all that great (there was a glare from the plexi-glass), so just take my word for it when I tell you the view was incredible! It’s a little pricy at 10 euro per person, but we know it was something we wanted to do on our last night in Paris. We had a nice couple take some group photos of us in front of a giant Christmas tree (it’s called un sapin here) after we’d photobombed their own photos a few times, then we headed off to Bulls Brother’s. Since it was only just past 11, we knew we’d be able to get in (they seem to stop letting people in around one). Rouge uncorked her bottle of red wine and started drinking it while we were on the metro. We got off at Châtelet and walked over the Seine into the Latin Quarter to have some more time to drink while we walked over. We couldn’t finish the bottle by the time we made it to Bulls Brother’s, but Rouge had a plan. She’d hide the bottle in her purse, and periodically would take Sheila, Kyle, or Joan down to the bathroom, and they’d go into the same stall to drink it for a few minutes. Problem solved. We went inside, and I grabbed a menu. I thought about getting a cocktail for a while, but I wasn’t sure about it. Kyle decided for me, I was definitely getting one. He wanted me to get one of the strong cocktails for 13 euro, specifically the T.G.V. (tequila, gin, and vodka), but I ruled that one out. His next choice was a normal cocktail for 11 euro, a Zombie (light and dark rum, apricot nectar, lime wedge, and grenadine). Even Suzannah was considering a cocktail, and since we’re the grandmas of the group, I figured it’d be appropriate for us to drink SOMETHING on my last night in Paris (Suzannah’s an annual student). Before either of us could make up our minds, an announcement came over the loudspeaker… everyone was supposed to go up to the bar and get a… free shot? To celebrate the end of the world?! I didn’t want it (mainly because I wasn’t sure what was in the shooter), but I took a note from all of my friends, and from Dom Mazetti: YOPO (You Only Paris Once), and I took it. I knocked back the shooter, so I didn’t taste it. I ended up buying that Zombie a few minutes later, and it was a very good decision. I’m going to have to figure out how to make that drink when I get home, it’s very good! I couldn’t even taste the rum. Kyle ended up getting a T.G.V. for himself, which was a horrible decision, it tasted awful! We ended up making him chug it, and I stood by with my drink at the ready for him to use as a chaser. Suzannah ordered a Tequila Sunrise, and everyone else had Energy Islands (the same alcohol that’s in a standard Long Island Ice Tea, but with energy drink instead of cola). Suzannah left at 12:30 so she could take the metro home. I made the decision to go home when I was tired, since I knew the nocturnal buses would be running all night. I figured I could “grow up” one more time in Paris… Rouge and Joan ended up doing tequila shots later on in the night, after the rest of the group had finished all of the wine we’d brought in the bathroom, but I didn’t have anything else to drink. We stayed at Bulls Brother’s until it closed at two, then we hung out across the street from it for a while since Joan and Sheila had bummed some cigarettes off of a couple of cute young French guys named Nico (he was 18, majoring in English and Italian), and Alex (19, majoring in engineering). We talked to them for a while, and they both said we all spoke French incredibly well. Both of them said my accent was on point. I chalked it up to my theatre studies. They were impressed. They both bised all of the girls when they left. I think I’m going to miss that… Joan left to go home and rest since she had class tomorrow shortly afterward. I’m not much of a crier, so the fact that Sheila and Rouge were bawling and I wasn’t was… polarizing. Joan will be coming out to California to see all of us pretty frequently, we’ll be sending her lots of care packages while she’s still in France, and there’s always Skype, so it’s definitely not the end of the world. Rouge and Sheila were crying for a while after she left, though. Rouge had one really good quote, though… “This freaking sucks… I’m leaving my petit ami, my best friend, and I’m going back to America where there’s guns everywhere and crazy people… and there’s NO GOOD CHEESE!” Leave it to Rouge to say what’s on everyone’s minds…
None of us really wanted to go home just yet, so we opted to go down to the Seine and sit for a while instead. At three in the morning, we walked back to Châtelet since I wanted to try to take a nocturnal bus home. Sheila kept trying to run everywhere, which was a little disconcerting, but that’s part of what happens when we go drinking. Thank goodness I’m patient. Between some of the shenanigans that were going on at this hour of the morning, how tired I was, and the fact that I was leaving my “real home” in a matter of hours, j’étais à ça de tuer quelqu’un. Thankfully for Kyle and Sheila, it wasn’t going to be either of them… We located a bus stop, but it wasn’t the right one, then I managed to get us walking in the wrong direction for a while… then a drunk guy outside of a bar took a fancy to Rouge and started to walk with us trying to talk to her. Here was the guy I was about to kill. “C’est quoi exactement, le fin du monde?” (What’s the end of the world, exactly?) He asked poor Rouge that about five different ways. She grimaced and turned to me. “…Claire?!” “Monsieur. S’il vous plaît. N’insistez pas.” (Sir. Please. Don’t insist/get the $%^& away from us in the most polite way possible.) He stopped and threw up his hands. “D’accord. Je vous respect.” (Okay. I’ll respect that.) 
By the time we turned around and I found the bus stop I wanted… the bus wasn’t going to come for another 50 minutes, and the metro was already open, even though the first train wasn’t going to come for another hour and a half. We went inside and sat on our platform… for an hour a half. Sheila fell asleep. Rouge got a phone call from Nico and took it. Kyle and I played Zuma’s Revenge on my iPod Touch for a while. Around 5 AM, people started to come onto the platform. Sheila is not the quietest person in the world when she talks, nor is she one to restrict her use of gros mots. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how she is, and we understand that, and we love her for it. A man walked onto the platform eating a kebab sandwich and told Sheila to shut up in French. She shot him a dirty look. “Do you want me to call the police?” Rouge said “Ce n’est pas necessaire.” (That’s not necessary) Sheila, without missing a beat, turned her head, and told him “aller vous faire foutre” in English and continued what she was talking to us about. We told her talk a little softer, so she started to. Instead of leaving well enough alone, the man came up to us, and started insulting Sheila (he used ta guele which is “your mouth” in terms of “animal mouth” which is a huge insult) and saying that what she said was very disrespectful, and that as a foreigner, she had no right to say that to a Frenchman of his age (he was 36, he said so). Kyle and I were petrified. Rouge spoke up. “Elle n’a dit rien à vous, Monsieur.” (She didn’t say anything to you, sir.) He kept going, saying things like “I’ve got a 14 year old daughter, and if she talked like you did, I’d beat her.” and “You’re not in your country, so you need to be respectful and follow our rules.” He then walked away a few steps… and threw his kebab at us. Things like this really irk Sheila, so we had to do a lot of work to get her to NOT say anything. She was right, this guy isn’t her father, and he had no right to try to parent her, much less throw his sandwich at her. Rouge did what she could to diffuse the situation, and she kept asking me if she could have done more. The only thing I could think of was to say “elle est désolée” (she’s sorry) but Sheila piped up. “But I’m NOT sorry.” Fair enough. We stood up and moved away from the bits of sandwich and take away container on the floor where we were sitting, and stood by the doors where the train would be. All of us were scared. Kyle and I acted as “body guards” between Sheila and Rouge and that guy… but he came back over even though none of us looked at him or said anything. He wanted to talk to Rouge. “Tell your friend to clean up her act.” Now he thinks that Sheila doesn’t speak any French. “I have to get up every morning and be at work by six.” Sure, man. Because every self respecting 36 year old Frenchman who conceived a daughter at 22 eats a kebab for breakfast and smells of alcohol at five in the morning. “Does she work?” “Pas ici.” (Not here.) “Who’s going to pay for my sandwich?” Dude. It is not our fault, nor our responsibility that you have anger issues and you will go hungry because you threw your sandwich on the ground at us. None of us said anything. He walked away. We all got worried when metro security walked onto the platform and talked to him… thankfully they walked by us. Up until that point, I was going to miss Paris and its metro…
Sheila and I got home at six. I knew I needed at least a nap… I packed my pajamas, and changed into the clothes I was going to wear on the airplane, then set my alarm for 8:30 so I could get up, wash my face, pack my alarm and the last few things I’d need to pack before breakfast, then Sheila and I would have our last breakfast, and get our bags downstairs to meet Rouge in front of our place at 9:30 for our shuttle to pick us up to take us to Charles de Gaule at 9:45.

Bientôt nous plongerons dans les froides ténèbres;
Adieu, vive clarté de nos étés trop courts!
Chant d’Automne”

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