All noise disappears as we find our way out of Rennes and into the simple fields of the Normandy countryside. My new friend, Megan, her girlfriend Margot, and I rode as passengers in the back of a small gray sedan dubbed Cleo.
Our tightly packed car wound down these dirt roads and up the slightly swollen plateau at the town’s center. We parked between Gorron’s Le Marie and La Cuisine de Bubba, the Pizzaria owned by Megan’s family.
The slightly fogged windows called us to warmth, and we quickly slipped into the cozy restaurant. Despite pizza’s Italian roots, the Hearn family brings a slice of English culture to the small French town.
Voices ring through the open hall in English tones, serving the spirited regulars oven-baked pies with a fair share of beer and wine.
We collapsed into the first open booth, finding space for our bags behind the bar. As I ordered my “hot & spicy” pizza and watched Margot take orders, I felt familiarity cover my limbs like I was back on my old neighborhood hill in San Diego.
Passers-by called to Megan, and tables sent hugs to the whole family before ducking through the door into dusk. Tipping hats with neighborly affection.
So many weekends away
Where I know nothing and no one
But it’s only a matter of time.
You can burrow a home anywhere
Nuzzle your crown into broken twigs
Soon enough they’ll turn green again.
Another safety net sprouts
Familiar faces hold your gaze
And mouths will say words you finally understand.
But my mind hasn’t learned the difference
Between an embrace and a chokehold.
White knuckles cant soothe me, racing
Head spinning and turning
The same panorama burned like a silver CD
Behind my eyes.
Playing like a skipping tape
Over and over the same sky.
Each day, a groundhog peaks out of a hole
Surveys his surroundings
And I scream.
We washed down pizza with a glass of rose until its closing time; then I took my place as a foreign friend in their right-handed car.
It was dark by the time we pulled into their driveway, and the nightly stars did not do the converted cow shed the same justice as dawn’s rise the next morning. Opening the sky over green and growing land, this sun shone through the windowed wall into the kitchen.
Beams held two lofted levels while the kitchen looked up to the original peaked roof. Stainless steel appliances divided this lower floor between living space and tv room. The hearth wafted warmth through hung clothes and clung to the couch’s pillowed blankets.
After drinking my coffee and filling my stomach with Biscoff and toast, Margot, Meg, and I went on a meandering walk of their farmland neighborhood.
Cows stood lazily in fenced fields, and trees made shallow forests between plots of land. Wind lifted our hair in short exhales as we strolled, finding footing over fallen leaves and around muddy tire tracks.
Out to Pasture
Life passes in seasons,
Trees fall without sound
And the deaf breeze paints crinkled leaves across the sky.
A rubber-gloved hand pulls life from inside me
And my underbelly is sore
From new mouths.
Life passes between metal links,
A fenced existence I don’t care to dispute.
At times I drag myself, heavy,
Onto dirt road,
Just to feel something in the seconds before a car downshifts
And hands roughly push me in my tired direction.
Life is in a silver, open cage
And I watch the sky.
Another season comes and so does my cellmate.
Another cell swells inside me,
And this time, I pass life to them.
We crossed the blooming man-made pond and constructed rocky steps that pave the backyard. Running our muddy boots against the rough doormat, we returned to home base.
It was finally time to dress for the Halloween/birthday party hosted that evening. My wardrobe lent itself easily to Jules from Euphoria, so I excitedly smoothed blue tights over my legs and zipped a white and orange swirled skirt over my hips.
A gold chain belt of flowers clipped over these layers, and I doubled up on green with a long-sleeve pattern and simple tank. I linked necklaces over each other and clipped rainbow earrings to my lobes before finishing the material portion of my costume with a borrowed mini backpack.
The final touches were space buns and white ink outlining my eyes, just as Jules would have wanted.
Meg and Margot secured felt petal hats over fairy dresses, becoming two adorable flower fairies before me.
Meg’s sister claimed 18 as the party commenced, and we slurped homemade jello shots from shallow paper scallops in her honor. The disco lights lit our night from the inside, flooding the windows with light that spilled onto the patio.
As we warmed our legs by her father’s bonfire and listened to the youthful music from within, I let the fire hold me, grateful for the kindness of temporary strangers.