Friday, June 21, 2019

Weight




I smiled at her right before she stole my phone. 

Her, the pick-pocket. Dyed blond and young. "She would be prettier," I had thought, "without such pronounced eyebrows." A la mode, those heavily-drawn features that have nothing to do with Liz Taylor, Ava Gardner. My heroines of glamour.

I had just posted on Instagram with a photo that I thought quite smart. In the subway, a poster that had originally been an ad for Chanel - oh, that iconic bottle - but with many layers of other advertisements scratched and torn above or below it. Nothing is simple in our modern times. How tired I felt, but I had seen something interesting and that always does me good. And besides, I was in the City of Light. With a twinge of worry I thought of Christophe, whom I was going to meet. This is our dance, l'Express Avignon-Paris, le Paris-Avignon. He lives here, I live there. I dug into my bag and grabbed for the lipstick that I had thrown in at the last minute, a little too pink. But I dabbed it on in my blurry reflection of the métro window with a steady hand but clucking inwardly at the shadows drooping beneath my eyes ("Will he see them?" I wondered. He did, it's clear, but gentleman that he is said nothing.) As I rubbed my lips together with a pop, I felt someone slide into the seat next to me. Me, puffy and overheated in too much clothing (Hello, beginning of menopause), my roll-on awkward between my knees, my tote lop-sided on top of it, I took up too much space. 

I smiled at this young gamine apologetically and shifted to make room as tourists do, trying to make myself smaller. It is then that I am sure, or just after, that her hand reached into my sagging coat pocket. And from there she stole my phone, leaving at the next stop. I had thought it odd that with a slight lift of her chin and nothing more her gaggle of friends had followed, silently. Some thirty seconds later, perhaps a minute at most, instinct kicked in and I reached for what was no longer there. 

It's funny that dance that we do when we lose something. We keep searching the same space as if the object will magically reappear or look to places that it could not possibly be, "just in case." But I knew. So I dragged myself and belongings off the train at the next stop, sweating profusely, to ask at the ticket booth what I should do. "You could go to the commissariat, but..." she smiled wanly and shrugged. "Ca arrive tellement, tellement souvent...tous les temps." And she is right, I had heard the announcement in several languages repeatedly over the speakers, "Attention, there might be pick-pockets onboard." 

The photos. With a wave of nausea, I realised that all of the photos of Christophe and I together, of Rome, of his recent surprise of an overnight stay in the Vaucluse...but mainly of us, laughing...were on the phone that I had foolishly not backed up onto the computer. Gone. I count on my photos to boost my memory problems and look at them when I am having trouble to soothe me. As I approached his apartment, the weight of that loss grew, as did the simple fact that the phone had been a gift of his part, given lightly despite the financial value, which had made the gesture all the more touching to me. 

Admittedly, I arrived on his doorstep with over-the-top drama. (Hello, beginning of menopause, part deux) "I have some bad news." I watched his smile of welcome melt and the corners of his mouth turn down. I ignored Noumea, his bijoux of a dog, who was jumping excitedly around me, tail wagging ferociously. "Your phone was stolen, I was pick-pocketed. I am so sorry." "No, your phone was stolen," he replied calmly. "Ok, well, sit down and we'll call who we need to call to get things sorted out."
It's interesting with Chris. When he is upset with me, which isn't too often, thankfully, he will rarely say anything right away and never with anger. So when, nearly an hour later, he quietly exhaled, "I thought that something terrible had happened...that someone had died," I knew that I had gone too far, had created an All About Me, out of guilt, or self-derision. I apologised to have scared him so. A loss about loss. 

And then began a loop de loop of paper trails and phone company pleading. Such moments are rarely simple in France, especially if you wish to keep the same phone number that you have had for years. I trotted to here and there, being told no or maybe, and was once caught in the rain, heavy ink drops on my coat, head huddled while passing couples pressed together under an awning, as if in a movie about Paris. But it was Paris. It is.

All of these efforts were tiring, so we decided to have an early apéro. The rain said goodbye; the sun came out. We found a table at Café Chéri where the bijoux dog could find space at our feet. Chris and I. Right there, the surrounding crowds forgotten. Nothing between us. Not the siren call of a texto or an Instagram count to check for likes. I couldn't have anyway, for that girl, that deceptive blond, had stolen my phone. I felt giddy all of the sudden. And truly, think about it...how often does one feel giddy these days? Internally, I was exclamatory. "The light on the trees, was it ever that bright? My goodness, look how everyone is walking with faces down, affixed to their portables. How do they not run into each other? Would they notice if they did?" The birds were chirping something that sounded suspiciously like, "Free, free, free." I looked at Christophe. He was telling me a story. I held his gaze and let a certain weight - not necessarily linked to any other - burn off with the last drift of the day gone by. Good for good, and surprisingly, happily, done.




And as today is La Fête de la Musique tonight in France...a bit of something sweet and nostalgic that seems right to me for this post.



Happy Solstice...
Happy Summer (or Winter!)...
I am, as always, so very grateful that you are still here reading even as time goes by.

With Love from Provence,
And joy in my heart,
Heather

37 comments:

  1. How lovely to hear from you again! But, I know how hard it is to lose photos, especially when they memorialize special moments in your life, I think that is the worst part of losing our phones. I try really hard not to be too tied to my phone, as in not staring at it every 2 seconds, and am saddened when I see families at lunch or something, each staring at their phones and not interacting with each other. We miss too much of our lives to those tiny bosses. :)

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    1. Exactly. I really understood that and now that I have a phone again I am trying to not let it be the boss of me. ;)

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  2. Oh, my. I’m sorry, but what an incredibly beautiful picture you have painted because of it. Sending love.

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  3. Happy Solstice to you, Heather. What a wonderful time in your life on this first day of summer! 🌿☀️

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    1. So beautifully put Laura...a big warm hug to you!

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  4. "No, your phone was stolen," he replied calmly. "Ok, well, sit down and we'll call who we need to call to get things sorted out."

    Well, Dear Old Heather?......when the man’s first response is that (see above)?......all I have to say is that you’ve found a sweet man. He sounds kind.

    Surely you know this song?.......go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq2jhs19_V8


    All the best wishes for you,

    david terry
    Quail roost farm
    Rougemont, nc
    usa

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    Replies
    1. He is kind, David. And sweet, yes, but also very strong and with a biting humour. You would like him, I think.
      And as always, I am fascinated by your song offering. On we go...
      xo

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  5. and every time I am hearing from you, a "weight" is lifted from my mind...

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    1. Oh my sweet Maria...don't worry please. I am battling on but still here! ;)
      xoxoxox

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  6. they have stolen my whole bag from me three times so far! everything, money, mobile, state papers etc. Hmmm...

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    1. That is terrible. I was truly aware of that at least it was only my phone and not all of it. I imagine that it is the same in Greece...to get new state papers in France is so difficult!

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  7. This is the most beautiful stolen-phone story ever. You capture every detail so perfectly.
    A friend was just pickpocketed in Paris, from a cross-body bag tucked under his arm. They are so swift and slick.
    I agree with David Terry--Christophe sounds kind. All the best to you!

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    1. Wow. That comforts me a bit, oddly. Because I truly was berating myself "Little Miss Former NYC got her phone stolen"! It happens.
      And thank you. xo

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  8. Pickpockets are a traveler's pain in the pa-toot! Sounds like all was well and maybe even better. . .

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  9. Your Christophe sounds a bit like my Paul and you know that is a good thing. One day he will get upset and then you will go weirdly calm -- if you are at all like me ;-) When we sitting outside in a Paris cafe about 15 years ago, I had my shoulder bag draped over the back of my chair. A French woman came over and told me in English, "Hold on to your purse, this is Paris!"

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    1. Wow your response made me smile, Judith. You know why. Much love to you.

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  10. Wat I hate is the missing photos. Beautiful photos and thanks for the warning! I usually loose my iPhone but somehow get it back. But it's always my fault not some pick pocket. Good luck.

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    1. Thank you. That one is gone for good but Christophe helped me get a "new" secondhand phone from a colleague and that helps a lot!

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  11. So good to hear from you Heather. I am sorry your phone got stolen. Hopefully you will be able ro recover it or get a new one. Mine is pretty ancient. I doubt anyone would want it - but you never know.
    I've been thinking about you a lot lately. I read a book called "Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew". It's a fictional account of the days van Gogh spent at the asylum in Saint Paul de Mausole with flashbacks to the time he lived in Arles. I loved it.
    Then, my husband and I watched 'At Eternity's Gate' which is a movie which, more or less, depicts the same period in van Gogh's life. I really loved the scenery of Provence. It reminded me of the photos you shared on this blog.
    Take care, Heather. Hope you post again soon.

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    1. Thank you my beautiful friend. I want to read that book and see the movie!!!! I have heard so much about his time here from locals. It is a complicated story. When I do my guided walks in Arles, I often finish with talking about Vincent. Its so ironic the legacy that he left behind especially as he was so detested while here.
      Speaking of irony, what is ridiculous about the phone that was stolen is that the screen was slightly cracked so they couldn't resell it. It probably ended up in the waste bin five minutes after it was out of my hands.
      Thank you for thinking of me. Bisous to you

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  12. Wonderful writing!! Losing your phone is a good reminder to be without one for awhile!! Like we used to enjoy our lives!!

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  13. In spite of all this, there is joy and love in your post. <3

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  14. I know your pain: We were in Paris in December 2017 and my husband was purchasing metro tickets when the guy behind him pick-pocketed him and stole his phone. Thankfully, a French woman notice it and alerted us. Sadly, we didn't get the phone back but we were able to have apple wipe the phone clean, and we shut down the phone service making the phone a piece of junk. We were in Paris early this year and we both got pick pocketed again, this time on the metro. It is very upsetting to be violated.

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  15. It's uncomfortable when people take your personal stuff - and easy for that anxiety to emerge as drama - were the eyebrows a distraction technique, I wonder? Much love on your journeys, and hope the latest phone stays safe and doesn't weigh too much :-) xx

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  16. Oh, what is your Instagram name?

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  17. Hi there

    Most unfortunate re your stolen phone. I hate theft. I am one of the few people who does not have a phone.
    This spring I was in a little Chinese bakery - jammed packed. Surprised to see signage on the counter re beware of pick pockets. Pick pockets in a bakery? Well later when I went to get on the bus my transit card and my glasses were gone. Had them in my pocket. Most annoying. Bus driver let me ride for free, Luckily I had extended medical coverage so my payout for glasses was minimal but still annoying having to get a new pair.

    Rose

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  18. "look how everyone is walking with faces down, affixed to their portables. How do they not run into each other? Would they notice if they did?" I went through a long period where I traveled sans camera, because I realized I'd been looking at the world through a lens. Now, my mental pictures of those times and places are fewer, but a few always stand out.
    I am so glad to hear from you. And this is a happy story, despite the sticky-fingered gamine.

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  24. I’m so sorry about losing your phone and pictures. I can so relate to the story as my sister had the same thing happen to her in Cusco Peru. The entire story played out for her on our trip of a lifetime. She had the same realization as you had and found her phone missing from her coat pocket. We spent an entire afternoon retracing our steps without any luck. Once she acknowledged the inevitable it was for her a humiliation as she had lived in NYC for 20+ years and thought she was invincible to such occurrences. And sadly we spent much time trying to deal with the repercussions throughout our trip. However, in some ways it was a blessing as she wasn’t focused on texting and we had many uninterrupted conversations! Who knew that phones are such a commodity. We thought with all the security why would anyone bother? But they managed to get into her accounts pretty quickly so be aware. Thanks for sharing Heather.

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