Diary of a Marked Woman
FRI 02: I was devastated by the news about Rose Anne and her children. I had learned that in order to prevent child sexual abuse, children have to be taught at a very young age to set boundaries, that is to teach them not to let anybody touch their private parts, but when the abuser is their father how can they enforce this rule? Quandary. Nevertheless I wanted to talk to Sophie about that to protect the children in the future from other adults so I called her at work in the morning and told her I would like to speak to her the same day. My idea was to see her for one hour after work, and to make it easier for her I suggested that we meet Place d’Italie so she wouldn’t have to transfer. She suggested that we have dinner together. I said that I didn’t have much money and she said that she would pay with her “Tickets Restaurant” so I agreed. Our appointment was at 6:15.
One hour before the appointment I left my apartment to walk to the Place d’Italie. I took my camera because I wanted to photograph the many mauve blooming trees on the place, and I walked at a leisurely pace in a relaxed and happy mood.. I arrived first and sat on the banquette, and put next to me my raincoat, my bag, my umbrella and my camera and ordered a beer. Sophie arrived within five minutes. She raised her arms to embrace me and smiled and I got up to embrace and kiss her. She asked the waiter “Do you accept Tickets Restaurant?” She seemed to have decided already that we would have dinner right there, in a café-bar that didn’t seem to be a restaurant. If she had asked for my input, I would have recommended that we go somewhere else. Anyway having dinner together was her idea in the first place. The waiter said they took TR. Then Sophie asked if I could buy her a drink because she didn’t have money. I said that I couldn’t because I had just enough for my drink and a pouch of tobacco. She was upset, blamed me and asked the waiter where she could find an ATM. He told her, she left her new mauve umbrella with me and went out, returning two minutes later with the news that the ATM didn’t work The weather had been threatening rain all day and the sky had become darker and darker around six. Still she went out a second time without her umbrella, and she had hardly gone out when a heavy downpour started. When she returned she was wet and furious. She demanded to sit next to me on the banquette and I protested because that forced me to move all my things to another spot. “Why don’t you sit on the chair in front of me?” I asked. “Why should I sit on a chair when you’re sitting on the banquette?” She had always insisted on sitting on the banquette everywhere we went during the past year, which made us occupy two tables instead of one, going as far as to pretend to the waiter that we were not together when the place was busy, which made me very uncomfortable. So I took my things from the banquette and put them on the chair and she sat next to me. She had a bunch of papers in one hand and put one in front of me. It was a copy of a paper from the Association of Victims of Notaries that she said she wanted to join. I had read the paper at her place a few days earlier and , knowing the contents, didn’t need a copy, plus I wasn’t interested in it, plus I didn’t want useless paper in my apartment. I was surprised that she had so many copies so I asked her how many she had. It seemed a little insane to me. “Six” she said. Then she attacked me viciously, saying I hadn’t thanked her for the copy. She acted as if I owed her some special reverence, as if she were superior to me and I had to humble myself before her. Then she demanded that I tell her what I had to tell her about her grand-children. I told her that I was too upset to talk about that. I told her that she was always blaming mother for past misdeeds but that she acted exactly like her. “Don’t you remember how she would spoil our mood when we were having a good time, playing and not bothering anybody? She would barge in and be furious for god knows what reason, and attack us verbally and make us feel guilty? Well, you’re doing exactly the same thing. I was tranquil and relaxed and you come and destroy my mood. I’m sorry but I’m too upset to talk to you. “Do you have to bring mother into this? Is she a reference? “Yes, she is.” “The truth is that you don’t want to give me the information, you want to sell it to me.” This was so outrageous that I didn’t bother to respond. I finished my beer and left. What did she mean about “selling” her the info? Did she mean that I would talk only if she bought me a lousy dinner with her damn 5,25 Euro “Tickets Restaurant” that she took forever to count against the bill? And her umbrella business! For a year she had been using a defective umbrella and every time she opened it she had to manually adjust it. How many times had I waited for her to fix it when coming out of a store? And she always commented on it abundantly to the store keeper “My umbrella isn’t working properly so I have to adjust it by hand every time.” Why couldn’t she spend 5 Euros to buy a new one? And today she had a new one but she left it inside before going out and got predictably rained on and was furious at ME! Is that the behavior of a sane woman? Or has she been subtly harassing me all this time while pretending to be on my side?
SAT 03: I rode my bike to an art bookstore where I bought a book about Islamic art and another about the 20th district, then I went to Belleville for the stencil workshop. There was a group of about five men and women who I understood were friends of Cad or of the painter and instead of starting right away with the workshop we all went to have coffee at the café on rue de Belleville. I was offered a seat next to another painter (Thibaut) who I was told lived at Porte d’Italie, one subway stop away from me in the 13th district. There was a woman in her thirties who said she didn’t like Miss Tic, a stencil artist who had just had a book published, and in front of me a man who touched my leg several times with his foot or the flap of his bag, making me wondering if he was doing it on purpose. Cad didn’t have coffee with us. I was eager to talk about current events, but the only feedback I got was from Thibaut who said that governments were unnecessary. He spoke in a very cold and expressionless manner, as if he were locked in a fortress (I got that feeling from sitting next to him) and opening up just enough to pronounce one sentence at a time.
MON 05: I’m at Norbert’s place and he speaks about a film made by a woman about the life of a poet named Janet Frame that he saw recently. I say I read her autobiography back in RPC. I explain that I had started writing my life story and that I got a block at some point so I started reading autobiographies. The conversation doesn’t go anywhere, except for him saying that he really likes movies made by women.
For the second time he speaks about a woman who was nervous and upset at the payment window of France-Telecom, so the second time I say I’ve been there and was nervous and upset too and explain why. Diane says that it was not normal that I had to pay my bill in two parts.
Later Norbert mentions Viviane, the name of the seamstress I’m working with, and then he observes gleefully “That’s two Vivianes. One is my mother-in-law, the other is your seamstress.” He seemed to find this very funny.
WED 07: In the morning I went to an art store in the nabe, looking for a tracing substance I could use to mark fabric for embroidery purposes. I was rather inclined to use water-based paints or felt-tip pens because I didn’t like the chemical and toxic smell of the other stuff, and also because it was easy to wash off. I had hardly been two minutes in the store when a couple walked in and the young woman asked for water-based felt tips. They stayed for a short time and walked out without buying anything. It took me a while to find what I wanted because I hadn’t told the woman I wanted to paint on textile. So finally I got water-based textile paint.
On the way back I stopped at Toto’s fabric store. Outside were dresses and skirts hanging and I stopped to look at them, in particular one skirt and one dress. A woman came and looked at exactly the same items and spoke to me, saying that these were really good and cheap pieces so I agreed with her, and she kept talking about these clothes in a manner that was unusual. She talked to me as if we knew each other. Then I said that I was going to buy the skirt and she said “Yes, you should, just buy it.”
Then I rode back home and on the way a car was barring the bike lane, almost perpendicular to the traffic. Two men were inside and they were just staring ahead with their hands on their knees. I had to stop. “Don’t you see you’re barring the way?” I said through the open window. “The car broke down” the passenger said, but neither was doing anything about it.
Around 5PM I called “my” dealer for a piece of hasch. We agreed to meet at the same spot in five minutes, very close to my home. After ten minutes he still wasn’t there so I walked around the building and saw him in the distance with two or three other men so I walked back to the meeting place and waited some more. Finally he arrived with one man, walking very slowly and we did like we had done last time: we walked inside the S-shaped short-cut and once there we exchanged the goods, then we continued together to the other end of the shortcut and from there separated in opposite directions.
The first time I had discovered this shortcut was with my bike, on my way to meet Viviane at the notions’ store. I had found it fun to ride through and convenient but it occurred to me that it wasn’t safe to cross on foot because it was bordered by high fences on both sides and because of the S shape the visibility was very reduced, and besides nobody seemed to use it so it was deserted. If anybody was attacked on this stretch, there sure would be no witnesses.
I met Lens (my dealer) a few months back on the Olympiades terrace where I had bought the usual since I moved to my apartment. He asked me to show him what I had got, he said that if I bought from him he would give me a lot more for my money because anyway all these small-time dealers were buying from him. The next few times I met him at the Olympiades, he saw me coming and stepped away from the group and indeed, he gave me a lot more than the other guys had given me for my twenty. Once he gave me his cell-phone number and the next time I needed to buy some hasch I called him. We met by the post office, closer to home, and it went well. The next time he asked me to meet him in front of the garden, and when we met he took me to the short-cut across the street, and only when we got inside did we do the exchange. He said that there were lots of plain-clothes cops and he did that for his own protection.
So today was the second time we went to the shortcut but today was still different: there was a man with him who neither looked at me nor said a word. And Lens was limping, not touching the ground with his toes on his left foot, which made me feel skeptical, and I had seen him with several men when I went around the building to look for him. Plus he had kept me waiting when he had set the appointment at five minutes after my call. All right, there was a cute African woman with a little boy, both dressed in colorful African clothes when we walked through the shortcut this time. But since Lens kept changing the arrangement every time, what would the surprise be next time? Did I want to find out?
The stuff he gave me made me feel very depressed and paranoid. Later in the evening I smoked another one, same thing. So Lens had a bad batch and he had given me some of that bad stuff deliberately. I felt betrayed.
SAT 10: I made a joint with only a little hasch, so I got only a little depressed and only a little paranoid. To hell with it! I threw the piece of haschisch through the window in the middle of the avenue. That was enough. I had stopped smoking pot back in 1994 and took it up again in 2001 in RPC, when a group of guys offered me some, and then Roland invited me to share a joint, and from then on the one who paid for it, at the rate of about $100 per month from her meager earnings was none other than me. I had lived without it for seven years and hadn’t missed it and the time had come to go clean again BEFORE THINGS TURNED UGLY. I lost twenty bucks but who knows what I won, in addition to the money saved? Maybe Lens was in cahoots with this murderous family of mine, using my weak spot to set me up (Plausible Deniability: “Well, it was a drug-related hit. She shouldn’t have been smoking hasch.”) He/they were using the technique of the frog-on-a-stove in a pot of cold water. Getting used to the progressive increase in temperature, she would boil to death, poor little froggy.
SAT 10: Last March there was a new designers’ show in the Marais. Diane had given me the phone number of the organizer last winter, I had called him, and he had explained that all I needed to apply for a spot in his show was a few photos of my stuff plus the fee for a spot. No tax number required. Last March I was only beginning to make bags so I wasn’t ready for that show but I went to see if my creations and the show were a good match. I talked to a few people, picked up a few business cards and learned that the next show would be in June. It happened at a time I was looking for unusual textiles to make my bags.
Just outside the exhibition hall was a store named Babylonia, and since it was the time of the war in Iraq and I was so saddened at the destruction of the cradle of civilization, I walked into the store, looking for textiles. I ignored the jewelry, rugs and furniture. At the end of the narrow store, on top of a tall dresser was a basket filled with rolled-up decorative bands and I went straight to it.. The store owner said: “You really know where to find the good stuff!” and he explained to me that these were the borders of antique saris. He said that they had been woven on mechanical looms (as opposed to electrical ones) and that when the saris were old and torn, some people recycled them by cutting out the borders and sold them, so he had five or six different sari borders, each about six meters long. He sold them at 15 Euros per meter. So I bought two meters of a silver and orange border on a bright green background, and two meters of a gold, red and black border on a black background. Then I went upstairs to see the furniture, the man followed me, I looked around and the only piece of furniture I opened and inspected was a very well made dresser with a concealed trap-door. I took my time opening the trap door and the drawers and the doors and closing it with the brass fitting. The whole experience was very enjoyable because all the pieces fit perfectly and all the moving parts moved smoothly, even the noises were pleasant to the ear. “You went straight to my favorite piece of furniture.” the man said. There was a picture book about Central Asia on a table and I looked at it a little and told him how fascinated I was by Central Asia. We sat on low woven-leather chairs and talked. I told him I was just back from 19 years in the US and was in the process of re-discovering Paris. He told me about his travels in Afghanistan and India. We talked about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, about the destruction of ancient civilizations and the development of pipelines by the US throughout Central Asia. Then we got up, went back downstairs and I saw a dresser with glass windows, and inside were folded textiles. I pointed at one that looked interesting and he unfolded it for me. It was all embroidered by hand in one color. He explained that it was a shawl for a tribal chieftain. I said “It’s beautiful but you can’t cut into something like that.” For the second or third time he asked me what I would do with the textiles but I didn’t answer him. He seemed to share my interest in antique threads but deplored that so few people really appreciated them. Finally I left, asking for his business card, saying I would come back in a while. He walked outside with me, all smiling and I said “Good bye, see you again.” Thinking about it later, I thought I had made quite an impression on him. I could tell from a few signs. I thought that maybe we could become friends, maybe travel to Central Asia together on a textile buying trip, maybe more, who knows?
So a few days ago I called him and asked if he remembered me. He did. I asked him if he wanted to see what I had made with the sari borders I bought from him and he said yes. I said I also had a great book about traditional textile techniques and I would bring it to him. So it was my plan today to visit him after the stencil workshop.
So I took with me some stencils I had cut (the “biohazard” symbol and two Arabian friezes) and two little purses I made with the sari borders, plus the book about traditional textiles. But first I went near Gare du Nord to buy a can of spray paint, then I went to Belleville.
Cad opened his shop at 49 rue Ramponeau. On top of the table were some photocopies. He said that these were writings by Anaïs Nin and that I should read them. “Oh,” I said, “I read Anaïs Nin back in the 70's, I’m done with her.” For the second time he showed me a carton with stencils in it, but I never saw the positives he made with these. He showed me how to spray the stencil. It was clear to me that you don’t have a second chance with this stuff. If you botch it the first time, too bad. Plus it goes so fast! One, two seconds max and that’s it. I wasn’t too pleased. So we had been working about forty minutes when a woman approached from the hill. Cad introduced her to me as Arielle, a woman in her forties with long, shiny hair, and an ugly face with buckteeth. They kissed. Cad said she was an artist. I was going to leave but Cad took three chairs from his little store as if it was understood that I was going to participate in their conversation, which surprised me somewhat. All I said was that I preferred to remain in the shade and he put a chair on the doorstep for me and both sat down outside on the sidewalk.
It was only in the evening, while I was reading in my bed that I understood that the whole conversation had been carefully scripted, and the main purpose of this little show had been to threaten me with burning my face if I didn’t take down my website.
In fact it hadn’t even been a conversation because whether it was she or he speaking, whatever they said didn’t call for a reply. There was no give and take. It was as if each of them had a list of topics to say something about and then they moved on to the next topic, which precluded any input from my part. In fact, even when I managed to say something, ask a question, they would not answer because if they had it would have made them lose the thread of their script, which was very frustrating to me. So both of them jumped from one subject to another, the woman mostly, who was an unstoppable motormouth. Without ever coming out openly with a statement that they had read my website, they made several references to it:
- She talked about a large room filled with mounted trophies of horned animals.
- He talked about having had an accident, breaking his leg and having a hard time getting analgesics.
Then there were two references to face-burn:
- Abruptly she asked me if I knew that in the projects in the suburbs, young men would burn the face of young women when they were upset about their behavior.
- Then when I was gathering my things to leave after lighting a cigarette, Cad said; “Now, one very, very important thing about stencil is that you should never smoke while doing it. I had a friend who did it and he got his face burned badly. He sued the manufacturer, he won the lawsuit but...” And he let me finish the sentence for him “it was cold comfort because he was disfigured anyway.”
Last, there were two references to masturbation:
- The woman told me out of the blue: “You know, the TV is getting worse and worse nowadays. You almost see women masturbating on the air.”
- A little later a woman (bleached hair) was walking up the street and said hello to Cad, then she said “Oops, it’s my vibrator again!” and she pulled her cell phone out and walked away, saying “Allo” in the phone.
Since I had talked to Sophie about masturbation just ten days ago, it seemed pretty likely that there was a connection, which means that Sophie, my sister, had betrayed a confidence I had told her in my home, on a day I did everything to please her including flowers, pastries and chocolates, and exposed it in the mouth of perfect strangers, to make me feel ashamed I suppose, and INTIMIDATE ME INTO SUBMISSION. Well, Sophie, F U C K Y O U. If anybody should be ashamed, it’s not me for having masturbated, it’s you for having betrayed your sister.
They’re so pathetic! Masturbation is the worst dirt they could dig up about me. God forbid I had some sexual perversion, they would blackmail me to death. Blackmail, yes, that’s something they feel quite comfortable with. As a matter of fact, my father always said, about doing business with somebody “You must always hold them.” (Meaning, with some shameful secret) So she learned her lesson well from her daddy. Good girl. Does she think, poor thing, that she’s gonna blackmail me with masturbation? HA!
Another thing Cad said was that diseases had a specific smell (I knew this) and that some people could smell cancer in people who didn’t know they had it. I tried a few times to steer the monologues into a conversation that interested me and at some point I said that the SARS epidemy was manmade and had been deliberately released by the US to create a diversion from their fiasco in Iraq. This didn’t get me anywhere. Thinking about Roland who would need a workshop to paint in, I asked Cad how much he paid for his little store and to my surprise he didn’t have an answer. There was a heavy silence for a while, and finally he said that I would have to ask the people at “Frichez-nous la Paix” who were responsible for the rental of the spaces. Uh!
I tried several times to leave because all these disjointed statements by him and her prevented a real conversation and they were boring me, but every time I made a move to get up and leave the woman would increase her speech in speed and volume and several times I aborted my departure. I showed them my two little bags. Cad asked me if I had registered the trademark. What a question! The woman said she needed a new bag so I said if she came to my neighborhood to give me a call and I would show her what I had. I gave a business card to both of them and left to go to Babylonia.
[cont'd: May 3/4 ] [to ToC] [Home]