Sometimes I feel like I should draw a line between my two lives except I’m really bad at colouring inside the lines.
There’s my life here, where I ride my bike to the market most days and get the cheese guy to pick me a really strong piece – something with a real bite to it. I walk across the way to the oyster guy, where all of these French people in their smooth clothes and easy smiles are slurping away and I think, maybe another day even though I know I’ll never do it. Oysters seem very intimate. I pick out some strawberries, some aubergines, some orange soup and grainy bread and OK, about six bright macarons but they’re gluten free so get off my back please. Probably I’ll get a few shrimp, the big kind that are already doused in something garlicky.
After I go out with friends for a three hour lunch and we move easily back and forth between French and English even when my accent isn’t great. Maybe take the ferry across the sleepy Rhone river to Ile de la Barthelasse and ride through olive groves, past houseboats moored along the canal. I don’t have anywhere to be so I end up going everywhere I can. At night I’ll walk to an old cobblestone street and listen to some music with strangers who smile at me. For a minute I’ll forget this isn’t actual life, this is a movie I’m writing myself.
When I get home one son needs me to call him immediately. He has about seven problems and his voice is tight and thick with all of the things I should be home doing for him. He doesn’t say this but we both know it so it doesn’t matter. All of the sleepy joy from my day feels like a price he is expected to pay because I’m “such a great mom.” Sometimes people tell me this and sure I love it but it’s not for them to say.
All of this wandering and learning and stretching costs my sons something, make no mistake about it. Just like all of my happiness has always cost them something: When I left their dad because I wanted to be happier; when they grew up with next to nothing because I just couldn’t make things work for us ever; when they had to walk to school through town because we didn’t have a car and they put on these faces and promised me it wasn’t a big deal and I pretended it wasn’t a big deal because it was easier for me.
The truth is I’m starting to get fooled by my life here. I’m starting to believe my own hype. I’m starting to forget that four men have paid a price for me to be here. They are in Canada alone. People tell me this is exactly what I should be doing because they are men and they need to figure it out but this is advice on paper only. This is not who we are, and it’s not even who I want us to be.
The truth is, we had one kind of life together and I left to live this other life. I left them to go find myself when we all know I was never missing in the first place. I have always been selfish about my own happiness.
The truth is, none of this will feel all the way right until they get here. I just need them to get here.