The walls are lined with books, all in French. The literature sorted by period – the well-known classics, most of them from the nineteenth century and early twentieth. I pick up some of the more recent, read a few chapters, and set them down. Uninteresting? No. Predictable. You turn to the last page: sure enough the landing, as expected.
The boy comes back from his shopping expedition with two others in Toulouse. Tells me about his purchases and the highlight of their foray – a kebab shop where they ate so much, he says, that at nine PM, he’s not hungry yet. Large eaters they are not. He heads back to my place for the night, proud to have his own key, his own room – and the envy of some of his friends, still in the Home. Before leaving, he wonders how I can spend entire days alone. Reading and writing, I explain. The notion strikes him as too odd for response.
In fact, the writing is at an utter standstill. Something like a stunned silence with brief interjections from time to time. “I thought I knew, but I didn’t,” – that kind of thing. Totally off track, in fact. Imaginary friends are tricky that way.
Recent writings in French don’t appeal much so I revert to a battered old find. The lives of famous seamen, offered in the year eighteen seventy-five to a young lady, as first prize in religious instruction. Instructive indeed in terms of the White Man’s great mission of spoil and plunder. The racism so blunt and blatant it could be lifted straight off some contemporary twitter feeds and Facebook comments.
Dispossessed and at sea. Basic theme: I thought I knew and I didn’t. A familiar place. I’d like to visit other spaces where some of the people keep some of their promises some of the time.
I’ll find my footing again? Of course I will. But I expected better and will have to find some way to make it so for myself and for others.