Insidious, and consuming, this toil leaves you tired.
Tired of taking those feet-achy walks at Le Jadin Public, the tingly glory of the colourful arena pre-eminent in your being, one of Nasir’s hands cupped in yours, and his other liberal enough to nibble at a Canele. The ones you’d learnt to make from the bakery, when Monsieur Phillipe had been lost in flour, whistling to an indiscernible French melody off the radio, and you had craned your neck at his activities from the sparse kitchen window.
Tired of smuggling bread-sticks, flour, and pastry knowledge from the bakery, slipped into your workbag, and out the back entrance every Friday night.
Tired of pretending that you don’t know that Monsieur Philipe knows about it.
Tired of slipping antibiotics, or milk, or antiseptic into your service apron at the drugstore during frenetic working hours.
Tired of knowing that it is only the library that you can walk with the loosest of minds. Where you clean, dust, singing softly amongst the vintage shelves, and are allowed to take books home, and un-bolt yourself in the words.
These words that many times have left you crying to oblivion.
Tired of knowing that nobody speaks to you at the night classes, although they all look like you. Dress like you. Eat their homemade meals from warmers like you. Itch their stringy hairs at complicated texts. Yearn to share their native stories with hastily made friends, because like you, they also struggle to come to terms with soul, body, mind, and self.
But nobody there approaches.
And that would be because of that incident when you brought Nasir, like you always do, but this time he had cried so much that your seat neighbour volunteered to hold him so you could fetch his feeder from your bag.
As though to sub-consciously buttress your strangeness, too quickly you said, “No, no don’t take him, I can manage.”
You are tired of breathing in Bordeaux with a protracted strangeness, yet to be au fait.
You are tired of this tiredness.
The woman, before you, called her gang of friends of splintered women, deported from the back corners of London, with ungraceful home-comings from Italy’s rustiness, with compulsive Islamic adaptation from the majesty of the Arab, with haunting pasts as Au Pairs in the longs and shorts of France, and with America’s streaks of defiance still in their wilting hairs, almost to their scalps. But breathing antiques of great wisdom, of priceless experiences, are now tales forever stuck in their learned throats. All of them converge to dish out advice, at the eve of your leave.