Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Charades


In the beginning, there was the question. What do we tell Monsieur et Madame Monnaie?

Back when we signed the lease, it seemed simple. They wanted to rent to a couple? We were a couple. Matt and I had been dating since 1997, when we met one magical summer at camp. We were at the camp to learn (imagine us looking longingly into each others’ eyes at the landlords’ dinner table)… French. How could they resist renting to such a young and adorable couple, who, after seven long years of distance, was coming to the world’s most romantic city to make a home?

Over the next week, Matt and I put together the details of our fake romance just in case the Monnaies asked questions. With the landlords for next-door neighbors, we had to be oh-so-careful. Soon, though, we realized the grand fault of the scheme: Matt was planning on moving out in May, but I was staying on. How would we explain the break-up?

As early as January, we floated plans over the tables of Paris cafés. Perhaps we could stage a messy fight. I would cut up an onion and head next door in tears, sobbing about failed romance and Matt’s imminent departure.

Or, we could let them catch Matt with his girlfriend in the hallway. In this scenario, Madame Monnaie would take it upon herself to invite me for afternoon coffee and reveal the double life of my lover. I would cry (if I could muster the tears) and tell her that there was only one action to take: I would have to make Matt move out. In May.

Or, Matt could simply leave me. They would pity me and my sad face—a result of the deep depression that would follow abandonment—and let me take a new roommate.

In the end, since Matt remained hopeful of a fall return to Paris, we had to reevaluate. What was I going to do, take him back? Not after what he put me through. There was only one card to play: the family emergency.

“Pick someone who’s already dead,” I told him. “That way you won’t jinx it. What about a great aunt or something?”

“Nah, I have a great aunt.”

“Okay, what about grandparents? Who could die again?”

And so we chose an already deceased family member. Matt would have to return to the United States to help out. We didn’t know when he would come back. He was still sending me checks from the States, of course, and in the meantime, well, since I don’t like to be alone… What a coincidence. My friend Chris was looking for a place to stay, and I didn’t mind the safety of an attractive, strong man in the house. We imagined the landlords exchanging skeptical looks. “Have you met Chris?” I would ask. “I don’t think he likes women…” Their faces would slowly register my comment, and all would be well in the world. Or at least, at 41 Rue du Temple.

When the time came, unforeseen obstacles thwarted our well-rehearsed plan. We didn’t count on Mme Monnaie’s extended stay in the Looney Bin. She was supposed to be my shoulder to cry on. I couldn’t imagine myself having a heart-to-heart with Monsieur. Matt was his favorite, the guy who kept him company during his many visits to fix up the apartment.

And so I did the only thing left to do: opt to keep it under covers.

Matt’s departure happened quickly and went unnoticed by the neighbors. Chris moved in a few days later. In addition to a few duffel bags, though, Chris brought a quite remarkable shift in mood to Rue du Temple.

Where Matt listened to rock on his headphones, Chris blasts timeless classics by Whitney Houston on the speakers. While Matt enjoyed the giggles of someone who could have been mistaken for me, Chris enjoys giggles of someone whose register is a few octaves lower than mine. Surely the Monnaies have heard this, or at least heard the rumors. The gardienne has seen us together on many occasions, be it heading out for groceries or a night on the town. One recent evening we saw the across-the-hall neighbor halfway down the block, so we broke into a sprint so as not to fall into step with him in the courtyard. Panting at the top of the stairs, Chris officially changed his name to Anne Frank.

That was the last sentence that I’d typed this evening before shutting my computer and heading out to Dinner Club.

At the other end of the courtyard I saw Monsieur Monnaie. I was convinced that I’d jinxed myself by starting this essay, and that the grand finale was coming my way.

I kept my eyes on the cobblestone, looking up at the last minute to offer a hurried “bonsoir.” I was golden. He returned my bonsoir and continued to examine his mail as we passed each other.

A few more steps, though, and I heard “up up!” I paused. He remembered my name and called it. “Emily!” We walked back toward each other. I was determined to play it cool. He mostly just likes to hear about how much I love this damn city. But then I noticed that he was uncomfortable.

“Emily, well, I have a question to ask you. I just… I just need to know what’s going on.”

I was rehearsing the speech in my head and doing my best not to look like a big fat liar. Matt back in States. Short time. Working papers? No. Relative. Right. Be vague. Family emergency. Do they say that in French? Coming back soon. Still paying rent. The other guy? A friend. Of ours. Speak of self in we form. Right. New roommate not new lover. Not cheating on Matt. No way no how. So sad he’s gone. Miss him. Cue tears.

Monsieur Monnaie was still gesturing awkwardly, beating around the French bush, preparing himself to ask me how long we’d been pulling the American wool over his eyes.

“And, well, I just need to know, as your landlord.”

Here it comes. I smiled my most innocent smile.

“How long are you planning on staying? Two years? Three? I just need to know if I have to rent the apartment to someone else in October.”

He didn’t know?! “What? Oh! Yes! Well, it’s sort of up in the air, but we hope to stay. I’m changing jobs, and trying to get that worked out, but I’ll be able to let you know in a few weeks.”

“And your boyfriend?”

He didn’t mention Matt by name, so I took care of that, and fast.

“Matt. Yes. He’s planning on attending school in the fall, here in Paris, so we’re just working on getting all our papers sorted.”

Monsieur smiled and told me that his daughter was still at university. Ah, a common bond.

“And how’s the weather? Not too hot over there?”

“No, not at all, though I think it might get worse in the next few weeks.”

“Yes, you have the afternoon sun.”

“That we do. …Well, have a good night.”

And with that, he returned his attention to his mail, and I was left to wonder who he meant when he said your boyfriend. Once again, it’s only a matter of time before the sad truth is revealed. The truth about Matt cheating on me with a Turkish woman, fleeing the country to live in Istanbul, and leaving me alone to raise his unborn child.

10 Comments:

At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strong, handsome? Is your new roommate single?

 
At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Susan! said...

You need to hook anonymous UP!

Hey wait what's the deal? Are you staying in Paris now? Email me at work.

 
At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Sierra said...

A baby would give you an excuse to make all kinds of racket at night.

"Sorry, M. Monnaie, the baby was crying all night." says the apologetic tenant.

"It sounded like there was a heavy metal band playing."

"Colic."

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger Lara said...

i just peed myself.

it may or may not relate to my reading of your blog.

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Neha said...

hi.me confused.is matt ur boyfriend or chris? n how come u people styaing together? i mean, here in india it will be scandalous........

 
At 8:53 AM, Blogger Emily said...

Neha-

Neither. They're just roommates.

Love,
Emily

 
At 11:56 PM, Blogger Buffalo said...

Bravo! Well done.

 
At 3:33 AM, Anonymous ddj said...

I hear that it's insanely difficult to evict someone in Paris. If they ever find out, it's likely you won't have to move out anyhow.

 
At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

She's not my girlfriend, but I love emily. A lot. So much it's not even funny. goodness, i'm lonely without you to leave dishes in the frig for weeks (make that months) and talk through massive amounts of everything on the metro and i certainly miss the holes in your sweater and you doing situps late at night and drinking coffee by the window on saturday mornings and having visitors and trips to monoprix (pricks) when you walk really fast back home with 40 kilos of groceries and, really, just the perfect life.

long live the stuffed animals and find me a job in paris now!!!

ps - i might have found a good contact. some old man and his wife who sell houses to americans. they told me i should have gone to hotel school.

love,
estranged roommate?

and nicolas, you are the coolest man ever.

where is the commander?

 
At 4:59 AM, Blogger Buffy said...

Love your blog darling!b

 

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