Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Road Trip

Do you want to listen to Adele again?

Oui! But first, let me get this fucking GPS to talk in French. I cannot follow the stupid American accent.  Petit Conasse, can you please read the address for me?

Absolutely, my little slut! It is, 140 E. Walton Place, Magnificent Mile, Chicago, IL 60611.

Voila! We are ready to go to Chi-ca-go! I am so excited! Let’s listen to Someone Like You.
It’s like our little theme song now. Two single women. Women or girls?

Girls. Let’s be girls.

Yeah. Two freshly single girls, if I may add. Singing Someone Like You loudly over Adele’s voice, going to Chicago from Lansing. We are so happy, yet so sad.

I am French. All of us are always sad.

In India they prepare you for lifelong suffering, right from birth. It’s okay to be sad. When you’re sad about the big things, you can get euphoric over the smallest of things. I cannot imagine always being happy. It would be exhausting.

Yeah I agree. Sometimes I force myself to think positive when I don’t want to, and then I feel very tired from all the effort I put into it. It is easier to be sad when you want to be sad. You can be happy later.

 I know! We have our entire lonely life ahead of us to be happy! Fuck this road. I wish I could add some hills along this way.

 I could cut paste some from South of France. Or you could bring some Himalayas.

But the blues are a calling at the end of this road! Maybe we will meet some cute guys!

Pff! I don’t care. I am not so good when I flirt in English. I get tired from translating in my head. But we can go to the French Markets and get some cheese. That’s as good as having sex for me.

Cheese that smells like socks.

Will you please shut your mouth about my cheese?

Okay sorry! We’ll get the cheese and I will help you flirt. But you don’t need to flirt. You’re so pretty.

Ah Non! My, what do you call it, the part between your knees and your feet?


No. Between that and the knees?

Yes! My calves are fat.

No they are not. And you don’t pronounce the ‘L’ in calves. It’s Ka-aa-v-s.

I don’t give a tiny rat’s ass.

Oh! You picked that up nice! I will teach you more.

I teach you French, you teach me English. I tell you about French mustard and baguette. You tell me about roti and paneer. We make an awesome couple.

Yeah! You know, our trips remind me of On the Road by Kerouac. Sur La Route. Except, he doesn’t whine about how monotonous the Midwest roads can get. He writes passionately about the corn fields and the clear starry skies instead.

How about the sunsets in the Midwest? Someone should write about it. Every evening the Sun gives a big hug to the corn fields. It is as if the sky is trying to make up for the boring earth. Sometimes, I just want to go right in the middle of a corn field and watch the sky turn pink, sitting next to a cow.  

You are so poetic! But there’s something good in every place. Today, we are bitter and lost. But in a few years, no matter where we are, this place is going to make us nostalgic. You, Ms. I-am-so-French, are going to miss The United States.

Non! Never! I will miss these times, but I will never miss this country.

You cannot separate time and place when your head is in the cloud of memories. You will miss everything. Even the big fat sugary muffin from the corner coffee shop. Our minds have the ability to edit memories. They are filtered to keep the happiest.  

In a way you are right. I didn’t like the time when I was in Toulouse. But now I miss it. Fabrice was never really in love with me but I was in love. And when you are in love, you remember those days with happiness.

Are you out of love now?

I don’t know. But I moved seven thousand kilometres to get over it. So at least I am far away. And you know, the idea that only one man is made for you is kind of crap. I think there’s only one rever, what do you call it in English, the story you see in your sleep and then sometimes you make one up, when you’re bored and awake?

A dream? Yes. It is a dream.  A reverie.

So you are just looking for someone to make that dream with. My dream is to live on a farm. I didn’t really want to get a PhD. I kind of kept studying and I ended up here. I would like to make cheese on my farm as a business. Live there with my three kids and a husband.

Cheese, which is organic and dairy free!

Oh come on! Don’t make fun of my Frenchness. For a long time, I was sure that it was going to come true. Now, not so much.

You are absolutely right about the dream. But the trouble is, we are trying to cast actors who are not willing to be a part of our movie. Our dreams and their dreams don’t match. And in our times, dreams are the only flimsy strings, which tie us together. What do we believe in, apart from our dreams? Our dreams even come with a plan B.

We believe in our phones. And our music. On that note, could you play something nice?

Like Edith Piaf?

Non! Zazie! Je Suis Un Homme!

What do we believe in? Do we believe in God? No one gets terrified into being good any more. We are good because we want to be good. No one is forced to get married because they got someone pregnant. People get married because they share the same dream. And that’s good. That is how it should happen.

In India people get married all the time. How do they do it? Indian men are not as much afraid of marriage as the French.

Ha! That’s because they aren’t really free.

What do you mean?

You know, the Indian middle class kids, the ones you meet here in the US, are raised on an imaginary conveyor belt. They are raised to excel at everything that brings status. Education, employment, marriage, family! There’s no breathing space. You can’t be a chef if that’s what you are passionate about. You have to be an engineer. That’s considered good. They are produced, quality controlled and packaged before they are sent off to the US.

But there’s structure. Indians do certain things at certain times. When I was growing up, I used to see my father come home tired from the farm, my mother cooking our meals, and we used to help out in the kitchen. I don’t see that no more.

Would you prefer to cook meals for your family instead of what you are doing right now? And our life has a different structure. We take a two hour swim in the morning, eat fancy food grains, and do Yoga to calm the fuck down after six cups of coffee in a day. That’s also structure.

Non! I don’t mean it like that. I would love to have some of that family structure. At least the basic structure. I don’t mind if I come home from work and my husband cooks meals. I don’t even mind if it isn’t my husband but a boyfriend. As long as we have children and we live happily.

But this is an endless pursuit. Finding someone who shares our dream, then liking him enough to build a dream with him, sustaining that dream while keeping it together. Sometimes I feel like having a baby without a man.

Me too. That would not be ideal but it will be more peaceful than trying to find a man who lives in the same city as me, gets good money, is not a psycho and wants children.

You make it sound so dramatic. With a sense of impending doom.
What is doom?

It is the feeling you’ll experience if Nicholas Sarkozy gets elected again.

Ah putain!

So, what do you want to listen to next?

I don’t know. Something that makes me calm. Yoga music?

Alright Madame! Anoushka Shankar coming up for you. Just, for, you!

How did you decide that you’re going back to India so quickly? At first I thought you did it just to feel secure after your break up. I was kind of sure you will change your mind.

I love this life. But I don’t want to live this life forever. I don’t want to live here and also try to live in a parallel Indian Universe. The same routine: meeting Indian friends on the weekends, setting up a perfect American home with a small corner for Indian Gods. Going to the Indian store to buy dead eggplants and shredded coconuts. Talking to your kids in your language only to get a reply in English. I don’t want to be an Indian in the United States. I want to be a westernized, cultureless idiot in India.

Is it also because you are an only child? And you feel it is your duty to go back and be close to your parents?

Yes. That’s a big part of my decision. I don’t feel obligated. But I feel the loneliness in my parents’ voice when they talk to me. If I ever have a family, I would love my kids to be close to their grandparents. We do a much better job of inspiring kids as a grandparent than a parent. And I am sick of standing in front of arrogant American visa officers. I don’t want to depend on the American government emotionally. For them, I am just a number.

But what if you don’t find a man when you go back to India?

It is not about finding a man and settling down as much as it is about courage. For years, I have evaded the nosy questions about my apparently directionless life.  I have tried everything but I was never able to look them in the eye and say, “I don’t know when I am getting married. Fuck off”. I want to do that now.

That’s true. If someone overhears this conversation, they might feel we are making a big deal out of all this, but it does hurt. Even though I don’t have much pressure from family to get married, when I see my cousin with her two kids, I feel pain sometimes. It is not a good feeling but it happens to me. And then I feel bad.

It’s okay to feel envy. It gets better if you accept it. Makes it easier to move on. Maybe, your cousin also feels the same about her smart, world travelled cousin.

I know. There’s always the second side. We feel sad because we want everything. This and that too. But when I am old and lonely, my travel will not make me feel better. If I have grandkids, I will have something to look forward to.

What if you die today?

Pff! Now you’re being a big drama bitch.

No. It could happen. You never know! What should I play next?

I know what I want to listen to. That Indian song with French rap.

Delhi 6? Awesome! Rahman coming up!

Sometimes I just want to get a big glass of red wine, sit in the bath and listen to music with no thought.

And sometimes I want to analyse what all this angst is about. You feel it. I feel it. It is about something that hasn’t yet happened. Maybe it won’t happen at all.

But many of my friends are married or living with their partners. They post photos of their family online and invite me for baby showers. My uncertain future is their present already.

Yeah. Those pictures really screw us up. It used to be nice when pregnancy news was discreet. Now it turns into a fucking biology lesson. But someone might be saying the same thing about our photos. You know when we went snowboarding, or our pictures from Vegas. They must be calling us fucking show offs.

Vegas was a really good time connasse. You almost killed me by making me laugh! That’s what I really like about you. You can really talk. Something I wish I could do. Maybe we could be roommates forever.

Yeah and maybe we could also do a sitcom! I think this is a pause in our playlist. This time in the United States. We are going to come back to this pause again and again. We are going to remember it fondly all the time.

Do you want to get a coffee and a bagel?
Yes! And shmear it with cream cheese!

So? What next?

I don’t know. I am kind of lost now.

No. I mean what you want to listen to.

You decide.

Okay. We will play some Louisiana. Kermit Ruffins! I still can’t get over Nawlins. If I really had to choose a city to spend the rest of my life in, I would choose New Orleans. I wish I could just set up an office there.

Ha! And do what?
That’s the problem. I have to invent or discover something I could do in New Orleans. Can you imagine how great it would be to walk those roads every, single, day? The food? The beer and the music?

Pff! No! I don’t like New Orleans. It is too loud for me. I like Chicago.
That’s where we’re headed. So I am sure it will cheer you up.

I am not sad. I am just French.

But look at it this way. We are so free. We can do anything in this world.

 I don’t think freedom is really helping me. You want dark chocolate. You go into the grocery and there are seventeen kinds of dark chocolates. There’s too much choice. If I go back to Europe, which country do I go to? If I stay here, where do you I move next? I meet men all the time. But I have this awesome ability to always choose the bad ones.

First world problems.

Eh come on! Don’t be like that with me. I will make you get out of the car. Then you will have to walk to Chicago like people in India do.

Hey! We have cars in India, bitch! Both of us are victims of the opposite kinds of syndromes. I love being directionless. When I was a little girl my mom always made me drink milk. I didn’t get any tea. And I used to imagine my life as an adult. In that daydream, I had twenty cups of tea in a day. That’s why I want more choice.

It is such a pain in the ass to choose. So these days, everybody is a kid. We have toys we put around ourselves. Phones, video games, video chat, online movies and shows, headphones. And we think we are cool. We think we have everything.

Yes Grandma.

No! Seriously! We are thirty! Our mothers were done having babies at our age. My mother already had three! And I don’t even have a stable boyfriend.

But maybe we’ll produce kids of better quality. So one would be enough! When you meet the right guy, you could even have a baby in a year.


Why do we hanker for this milestone? Why is it so important? Is it because everybody does it at some point or is it because we really want to do it? What if we just decide to get over it? We settle down in life. We choose a permanent place to be, we buy a house, hell we even have babies but without a man. Why is it so hard to imagine?

But nobody does it that way unless they are really late at everything.

Elephants do it. Elephants are raised by females. The females stick together and look after all the kids. Maybe be we could follow elephants.

You’re crazy. But it would be great to have kids and live with each other. I will name mine Mirabelle. What would you name yours?

If it is a boy, I will call him Kabir. And if it is a girl, Ananya.

Wow! Such beautiful names! Actually Mirabelle is the name of our cat back in France.
You just picked your cat’s name for your child? You’re a monster!

Petit Conasse! In all my fear and confusion, I am just so glad I am with Someone Like You.

Me too!