Bébé à Bord

Having children must make you insane. Or force you to give so little of a fuck that you start speaking gibberish in public. Which is precisely what this clown of a woman was doing on a confined bus with her satanic baby. Perhaps her overzealousness stemmed from the fact that she looked to be of the age where she had barely been able to eke by the cutoff for having a spawn without use of a surrogate. For all I knew, maybe she did use a surrogate. In any case, the creature that I can only assume was her precious lone child proceeded to let out the type of sounds one could imagine coming from a hissing, clogged drain emitting sulfur. And when “Precious” started to gurgle more absolute nonsense, Psycho replied, “I agree!” as she then mimicked the same annoying sounds, thereby encouraging the little beast to keep carrying on. As though they were the only two people in the world.

In Psycho’s mind, they certainly were, for she had absolutely no ostensible awareness that there were other people on the bus just trying to get through the rest of their day without murdering someone. And that the presence of these sounds—what even Lloyd Christmas would rebrand as the most annoying sound in the world—were a severe detriment to that cause. Indeed, my threshold for pain was truly pushed to its brink when she started to sing a loud rendition of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” That really threw me, because I was so hoping that, at the very least, the cringe factor of it all could be mitigated by the expectation that the woman wasn’t American. But of course she was. Everyone in Paris is. It’s almost as though they’re the only people who can actually afford to live here anymore. And yet, somehow, I was here. The brokest of the broke still trying to “keep the dream alive.” Only thing is, I wasn’t quite sure what the dream even was anymore. It tends to get muddled among the day-to-day slog of “just trying to not die and/or be relegated to living underneath a bridge.” An unpaid full-time job in and of itself. Except when you’re a baby and you still have someone who thinks you’re “cute” enough to warrant being taken care of. Even though the ghastly demon in my vicinity was hardly mignon, so much as positively possessed.

No one says it, but babies are arguably the closest things to demons we have in this world. For they’re not born “pure”—rather, totally “uncivilized.” Still bearing that raw demon energy of the nether regions (literally) from whence they came. Precious was just such a baby, though it was hard to blame the thing for being so with an uncouth mother like that. Maybe Psycho hadn’t always been uncouth though. Maybe spawning had made her that way. Maybe she had the propensity to go mad to begin with. All I knew was, she was trying to drive me insane along with her just because she had made the fatal error of birthing and now wanted everyone else around her to be punished for it as well.

Was no other person on this bus sentient enough to do something? To stop this woman from her monstrous (and loud) activities? Or had they all gone into a fugue state after pretending to be “happy” (or at least “enthusiastically docile”) in front of their bosses for eight hours? I had done the same as well, yet here I was, highly attuned to the goings-on around me—chief among them being Psycho and Precious’ a capella act. It was possible that everyone else on the bus was French, therefore couldn’t be as irritated by the song as I was. And in their Frenchness, they likely relished seeing such sights as this, for no one loved a “family scene” more than the French. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the Italians. Since living in France, I had seen it all around me, this obscene reverence for and preferential treatment of “the family unit.” Despite all the mass shootings in America, at least the U.S. didn’t make you feel like half as much of a freak as France did for enjoying your “individual” status.

Since my arrival, there had been all manner of “pity looks” directed at me, likely for my manless, childless state. Here I thought sitting alone at a café was “the thing” to do. Well, sure it was. If you were a man. And as a man sitting alone at a café, you also enjoyed the benefit of being left alone. There was no “question” in anyone’s mind as to whether or not you “should be” on your own. They assumed you were some brooding, brilliant “artist” or some such bullshit. Whereas the woman on her own was “concerning.” “Warranting of attention.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe Psycho decided to have a baby just so she wouldn’t be accused—with appraising stares if nothing else—of being “alone” everywhere she went. The baby was an emotional sinecure. A preventive measure against ever being told, in so many ways, by society that she hadn’t “done her part” or “contributed.” Never seeming to understand that the greatest contribution someone like her could make would be not to spawn at all. But no, she decided it was her “duty” to, and, as a result, I was presently trapped on a bus with her lifelong error in judgment. The one she convinced herself was making her happy as she went deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of stark-raving madness by choosing to engage with this demon baby at its level.

When their a capella session of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” suddenly gave way to “It’s A Small World (After All),” I decided to get off the inferno of a bus (yes, Dante should have accounted for riding the bus with a noisemaking baby and its parroting mother as its own circle of hell). Mind you, I still had twelve more stops left until I reached my destination. So it was that, once again, the single person was forced to make themselves small for someone deemed by societal standards as worthy of being all too “large” in the public space.

Hoofing it a few blocks before deciding to stop and “dare” to sit at a café by myself for a coffee, I wanted to wait about an hour there until the peak of “bus activity” died down so that maybe I could get on one that didn’t have another Psycho and Spawn (the real title of any “Madonna and Child” painting) on it. In the roughly fifty minutes I spent there, not one but three men approached my table making the attempt to chat me up and inquire as to whether I might want some company. Fuck no, I screamed internally. But, naturally, what I said out loud was a polite, “Non, merci.” I paid the bill and left before a fourth man could approach, taking my chances on whatever awaited me on the next bus. Which, lo and behold, was not one satanic baby, but seemingly thousands. Every seat I passed was filled with mother (or nanny) and child. The aftermath of “propagation season” (winter) appeared to be in full effect.

Before the bus could start moving, I frantically knocked on the back door for the driver to let me out. But he wouldn’t do it. He was some kind of sadist, clearly, trapping me on that thing for another ten minutes of mind-numbing hell before I could emerge slightly more battered and mentally ruined at the next stop. That was when I surrendered fully to just walking home, something I probably should have done in the first place, but, silly me, I thought I was entitled to the same “public services” as those with children.

Trudging up the four flights of stairs after the trek, I found that “home” would have been the last bastion for peace and solitude were it not for my discovery later that evening that a family had moved into the apartment next door to mine. A family with two kids and a newborn baby. So that, through the thin walls, I would be able to hear their screaming “bundle of joy” as though it were right next to me. I was given no choice but to come to terms with how, in Paris—and throughout the entire world—there was nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide…from the incessant sound of “life.”


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