Dominique lives in Paris, and turning 50. Métro, Boulot, Dodo. Follow a life with random thoughts. I’ll be writing it, producing animations of an unraveling story as I go. No deadlines here, come along for the ride.
Dominique- she wakes every morning, folds up her bed, has a hand held shower in her bath tub, makes sure she doesn’t cut herself on then broken cold tiles, when she steps out of the old deep ceramic tub. She makes herself earl grey tea, four cups and rides the metro for 35 minutes to the boulevard Haussmann.
She is late for work unintentionally. Today she turns 50, and she is thinking of her birthday cake.,. And one more tea.
Four cups of earl grey
It ‘s a cup of tea, Earl grey, steeped in a cobalt blue tea pot from two tea bags, the triangular mesh french ones, found in the corner “alimentation” store in the 16th arrondissement. The taps are those old taps, the sink ceramic with cracks running around from the base of the tap to the missing metal sink plug hole. Hot water trickles out with reluctance as it has for 6 month. The landlord, monsieur Lucard spends money on those who complain, not Dominique, who brushes her teeth and applies the red lipstick. The light edges through les vollés, the creaking decaying external shutters, onto a unmade bed were she sits and takes a sip of the second cup of tea. Lights the cigarette, and allows Paris to flood into the room, folding back the shutters after opening the window. It is raining in the courtyard below as she watches Madame Moussier brush her hair ten meters away through her third floor window.
The grey light is bright and endures to break through the darkness of her apartment, fresh air allowed to venture in, interrupting the envelope of smoke engulfing Dominique’s thoughts. Clarity doesn’t come easily, even when the second window is prized open with a manic sudden force which only thoughtlessness manifests. Madame Moussier is startled but not surprised, this cacophony is familiar, for it echoes in their courtyard every morning at 7am, except on Weekends. Today is Tuesday and it’s Dominique’s 50th birthday. Her mailbox marked “Mmes Pouffet” in the entrance foyer of the 60’s renovated apartment block, filled with one expected letter late last night, and opened after a distracting night at the Paris opera. Carmen played resoundingly! Her birthday present to self. It’s not that she couldn’t afford such an exorbitant indulgence, she thought. A present to make the now pleasant, and give reason, to mark her significant day in an evening, surrounded by a city of cultural effervescence.
It was from her Aunt that wrote to her. Tati, from a small village in the Dordogne, South West France, and of course co-signed by her second husband and adopted Uncle, Oncle Henri. Written in French running writing. Only an eighty five year old, a close remaining relative would remember to place a small message in the mail on milestone days. Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and without fail, on the anniversary of her sister’s and Dominique’s mother’s passing.
Tati always reminded Dominique of tragic triggering pivotal moments. Her cousin died in a car accident in Switzerland sliding into a wall up in the mountains at a ski resort coming home from work. He was like her brother, growing up together in provincial French in a farm house village on the side of a major highway and looked after by their grand mother in Versanne. Both daughters went to bigger towns to make money for their schooling, and at the age of twenty one having just married the months before a misjudged glacial turn and drove into a wall out of control to his death. This defined a melancholy shared by all the family.
The other birthday messages were expected to come via telephone. Usually expected around or about the 26th of June. Later at night.
“Comment va tu mon petit frére?”
“Not bad mickette, et Toi?”
“Ca va” she would say, to her youngest brother who lived in Sydney, Australia, 31 hours away. The other Brother live 14 hours across the Pacific Ocean, to the west in the middle of Canada “with the bears” as she used to say. He usually phone the day after.
On the metro, time passes by reading and best done with eyes down. A lesson learnt after 33 years ridding underground to work in the centre of Paris without a companion. She cultivated an urban existence, a single lady, self sufficient and discreet. The station, Exelmans in the 16th, on the No9, mustard green, Mairie de Montreuil line into town is intimidating as all undergound stations are when empty. Le Metro carriage is comforting filled with many commuters and peak hour purpose. Dominique had routine, a framework to guard for her safety. Secretary to the retired “Ministre de finance” and now honorary chairman of a big French bank, housed in an office opposite the shopping centre La Galarie Lafayette on the Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th Arrondissement.
Lunch manifested the next daily routine at 12.10pm sharp or “Douze heures dix, pill”, in the same “Cordial cafe, bistro” every single working day. The waiter had “Bonjour Madame!” and a glass of Perrier waiting for her at the same reserved table, up against the back wall under the fading pictures of Marilyn Monroe, and without asking the “voila, Votre Plat du Jour madame!”, would arrive before she disrobed the heavy bright red woollen overcoat and placed delicately opposite her in the empty wooden chair.