Back In Paris by M H Carlson

Gelledge woke up in his alcove on the 1st floor of his new home. It was an apartment in a renovated castle known as the Reine Blanche, actually one of the oldest buildings in Paris.  The alcove was Patches’ unused office space  – now unreachable with her wheelchair. Though Patches had installed a system whereby she could actually go upstairs – an electric chair that slid alongside the wall on a rail – someone had to pull her out of her wheelchair, then put her into the other one attached to the wall and then once upstairs move her again into another chair to get around once upstairs. AND of course, being the pack rat that she was, there really was no room for a wheelchair upstairs. So she’d given up on using her upstairs office space  and elected to organize a downstairs office space. Her living room would never be the same.

Gelledge was her most recent renter.

On his back, Gelledge could overlook the living area down below through the stairwell bars in front of him, could see most of the corridor leading to Brandon’s room and the adjacent bathroom that they shared; he was surrounded by self help books and a multitude of:  administrative files, brooms, magazines, a tire pump, a rowing machine, a paper shredder as well as a ton of objects that were unidentifiable and misplaced.There were several cardboard boxes too stacked in corners, an old black PC sat on a big wooden desk, forgotten. Who would or could organize someone else’s personal belongings, someone in a wheelchair who would never use most of it again? Even a pair of unforsaken underwater diving fins sat nearby, carelessly shoved into a cubicle of a closet, bright green ends sticking out a few inches like small fingers. “Help me, save me, use me!” they cried out.

It was a terribly messy room, but Gelledge had brought some order to it, what with the few things he had retrieved from his recent move from Provence. There was:  his Wilson tennis bag, a large white tennis bucket, books, files, guitare, a pair of shoes, his Mom’s afgan on the office swivel chair in front of that same large wooden desk, a mattress which he shared with his two yorks’, which he folded after getting up – the space was so limited.

This morning as he opened his eyes he could hear plastic wheels being rolled on the cobbled stones of the courtyard down below. Someone was always coming and going with a wheeled suitcase around here – though you’d never know who it was. The Gare de Lyon (train station) was only about a kilometer away.There was a small window, which was difficult to access looking out over the courtyard from the alcove – one could see one of the two small towers across the courtyard and a rooftop apartment and its’ terrace overflowing with green plants.

Fatty and Finny (the two yorkies) wiggled on their backs and waited for their tummy rubs; Finny getting up every 30 seconds and sitting on the pillow next to Gelledge’s head, an efficient strategy to get Gelledge up. It was a morning ritual, all the hugging and tummy rubbing and kisses and licking going on between the three of them. Gelledge loved the two little dogs, had had to steal them back away from his “ex” a pathological space case.

It was time to take the dogs down to go pee and to do a poop. Gelledge always went first before going out. Once outside there would be no possibility to go to the toilet (unless you paid) once downstairs with the dogs. And being stranded like that – needing to go to the bathroom (especially in Paris) could be very uncomfortable. He missed those open spaces in the countryside or forest where he could just pee outside.

“Hold on, hold,” he said to the dogs who waitied outside the bathroom door. He quickly flushed and ran back up stairs to get some poop bags for them. There were three bathrooms in the apartment, but he usually used the one downstairs on the way out the front door.

Once the dogs’ harnesses were on, they took the red carpeted steps down to the security door, crossed the courtyard, took the next iron clad security door (complete with code) and then the last security door with a buzzer. Finally, they were out on the sidewalk with speeding cars rushing down the cobble stoned road. Why were people always in such a hurry here? Berbier du Mets (the road) was actually an ancient river bed that had been covered up after years of being polluted by Parisiens over generations. The entire quarter had once upon a time been a community for dying linen,  and of course, the toxic products had been thrown into the Biver River. It had become something of a garbage water route, people throwing anything and everything into it. Not to mention during rainy seasons when it would cause havoc by overflowing.

They walked a road over to Cordelières street where several poppy trees were aligned along the road – with small squares of grass at their feet – an ideal place for dog pit stops – though it was best to get there early before all the good spots had been taken. Most people picked up their dogs fecal matter, but there were always some that did not. Gelledge did and it wasn’t the  possible 35 euro fine that made him do it. It just made sense, there were so many dogs in Paris and if you didn’t pick “shit” up, you’d be walking knee high in it real soon. And dogs didn’t have a toilet at home to flush like humans did.

Sitting on a park bench on Aragos Boulavard on the way back, Gelledge considered his life: he was back in Paris after 25 years. His 10 year relationship with O. was now over. The Borderline Personality Disorder had won out, the mother-in-law too (apparently she also had BPD) confirming ‘the two peas in a pod’ theory…All that energy, all that money, all that hope, all that rennovating and hammering, screwing, maintenance on a home and the immense garden that was now vacant. Why was that? Had O. sold it? And then, all the energy he had put into helping O. get well again. That had no price –  O. seemed to have forgotten all that Gelledge had meant to him; all that he  had done for him while asking for so little.

There were many questions to be answered – to some it was obvious, but to Gelledge it was not. He had known O., believed in his possibility to change, to be a better person and yet, all of the proof showed him to be a liar, a manipulator, someone who could not deal with his emotions. O. had to have drama;  a never-ending cycle that had to be redone over and over. He remembered now when O. would talk about the bad occurences that happened only to him – that no matter what the circumstances, crazy things would come about….O. would often say, “It always happens to me.”

He scratched F and F’s head with a distracted air, wondering what O. and his mother would be doing. What was the situation with O.? Why hadn’t he returned to live in the house in Trets?

Next, he wondered about his situation. He had worked out things to be in Paris – the administrative battles had been worked out. Following his break up and subsequent move, it was as if he had disappeared, falling off the grid, so to speak to those administrative structures. How had that happened? Before with O. they were recognized as a couple so all administrative documents were in both names. How could it be that because they had broken up and Gelledge had moved to Paris, that he’d strangely disappeared from their radars? He wondered if O. or his Mom had lied and said something to make that happen.

It seemed possible after all the nastiness that they had thrown his way. After all, the key to the house had been taken (the only one AND to the door that Gelledge had found and installed). After their breakup, O. had told him to forget everything that they owned together, that everything was in his name – to just get over it. Following that, the house key had disappeared when Gelledge returned briefly from a summer job in England due to a sprained ankle. O. had screamed “THIEF” when Gelledge had transferred money that belonged to both of them into their mutual bank account to pay for bills, then had gone to the police and said that Gelledge had stolen their car, had stolen their motorcyle ….Also their on-line bank account had suddenly become inaccessible, (he had changed the code) his email account too –  it was officially in O.’s name.

And that hadn’t been all the nastiness thrown his way. O. had sent an email telling Gelledge to get his stuff off of HIS property – that people were coming to do that for him if it wasn’t done by a certain date. “What an asshole,” thought Gelledge remembering that. Funny though, because he was already getting his stuff out by then. He thought about the house payments made by him alone those last few months, the incredible energy he had put into that place, the animals, the garden, the sewer system, the two-roomed veranda he’d built, the wooden cabin (a gift from his Dad) put together by the two of them, the thousands of hours put into the garden too, the fish pond….dealing with O.’s BPD and alcoholism, the multitude of times putting his drunken ass to bed, having those repetitious conversations where O.’s brain just blocked up, where there was no opening, his horrible family…

And suddenly he was going back home after fifteen years…Suddenly Fatty threw herself on her back next to his feet. It was time for another tummy rub…

M H Carlson


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