I used to have a snow globe as a little girl. It was one I chose out myself around the Christmas season in my sixth year of existence, and that contained a number of dogs as the motif in the center. Naturally, it played “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” I couldn’t have known that the song would take on a far more perverse tone later on in my life, when I had “matured” into my twenties yet somehow still possessed exactly the same size tits as the ones I had at six, I had been known for making the mistake that many an ex-patriate in Paris can: believing a one-night stand has the ability to transcend into a full-fledged relationship. Because it was so much more of a novelty among the canals of Saint-Martin to finagle a man to go home with than it was in Brooklyn. Alas, I felt up for the challenge about two months into my stay in the diminishing foil for NYC, when the height of my loneliness had become so great that I took to talking to the floor plant in the living room of the apartment I was subletting.
When I wasn’t talking to Augustus (that’s what I had named him), I was actually answering calls from my mother, Fabienne, from whose heritage I had taken enough of an interest in to come to this godforsaken city that was really just a snootier version of Brooklyn. She would only ever seem to ask me, “Claudia, have you spent enough time there yet? Don’t you think you might want to get back to New York…enroll in business school again?”
It was beyond her that I could want to go to the very place she had run from all those decades ago when she had just turned twenty and managed to find a willing cohort to escape to Quebec with, that cohort being a Canadian-American man who gave me the jackpot of citizenship–and not much else thereafter. But it was only natural for me to want to return to the place from whence I (technically) came. Except now that I was here, I knew my mother wasn’t unreasonable in her urgings, that pursuing anything outside of a business degree in America was utterly unprofitable. And yet, I couldn’t prove her right. The entire point of a daughter’s existence was to be in every way unlike her mother, after all. And what kind would I be if I didn’t fulfill this mission? It was with this fortified zeal for defying everything Fabienne stood for (fast love and living in Paris) that I emerged into the night to find someone, anyone to keep me company and convince me I shouldn’t give up on staying here in the romantic way that meant living in the falsified fashion that Amélie was once able to.
It was then that I stumbled upon LeMauri7, one of those bars that would get described as “achingly hip” in something like Time Out. It was sparsely populated at 7:52 p.m. on a Monday, but by 9:32, there were at least three men and six women I would have gone home with. I opted for the only man who honed in on me, picking up on some sort of scent of desperation he must have liked. Jacques… I found out his name was the next morning–when he asked me for mine. It fascinated me that you could be more concerned with what a person’s body could do for you than his actual self–his true being, whatever that really meant.
I asked most of the questions, realizing that the only reason I seemed to sleep with people was to collect data on them. And as I inquired about his future and his past, I turned over to truly notice the contents on his windowsill for the first time. Mascara, hair ties and sample Chanel perfumes were amid the seemingly random contents cluttering the area.
“Why do you have all these feminine products?” I asked detachedly.
“Oh…” he paused, as though considering if there was a way to explain them other than the truth. There wasn’t. “I’m still waiting for my ex to come get that stuff. We broke up a month ago.”
“Ah,” I said, and though I wanted it to sound nonchalant, I knew the intonation of the word couldn’t be perceived as anything other than a combination of irritated and weirded out. But to offset this, I pretended I was unfazed, even insisted that I needed to sleep a little longer so as to indicate just how comfortable I was amid the ruins of his last relationship. I didn’t wonder about her, didn’t picture her in my mind. But she was there regardless. When I subtly glanced over to see if Jacques had fallen back asleep, I took the mascara. I was always running out of it, and it was expensive. She used Yves Saint Laurent. It probably originally cost something like $35. It seemed like fair recompense for Jacques’ slight. Thinking he could bring me into an environment so haunted and that it wouldn’t affect me. Then again, maybe I should send him a thank you card one day for propelling me out of Paris.
I came home in time for Christmas, and as I dug through our holiday decor to help my mother adorn the tree, I happened on that snow globe–the one my six-year-old self was so fond of–playing “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” without me even having to turn the knob at the bottom. And in my head, all I could think as I hummed along was: “How Much Are Those Feminine Products on the Windowsill Left By Your Ex-Girlfriend?”