After staying two or so nights with the sunny California strong woman, she tells me she is moving into a colleague’s room as my french male friend had now arrived to meet my BaD DaD. I will refer to this person as “AngryEyes”. AngryEyes was indeed very angry at himself, his THEN, his PAST and deep sexuality conflicts; AngryEyes was full of hate and love toward me and even said why, I was not a gay man, ( he came out to me after I slept with him in Paris after a Laurie Anderson performance). He was in love with me and hated me for it. He was even angrier at the dysfunctional sad world from which he came. Raised by his father, a bigoted, stammering alcoholic who was unable to love him or his mother and sisters, he had never fully shined. None of his childhood friends knew he was gay nor did his family. His mother was an overworked, red cheeked, Catholic who sought no way out of their farming village which was about an hour outside of Nantes. She wore dowdy dresses over her short and stout build and everyday, wearily clad in handsewn aprons, she did chores sun up to sun down. The washing machine was outside under a wobbly semi tin roof that covered the open aired space and only could wash with cold water. She’d hang her muttering husband’s navy blue work jumpsuits out on a rope strung line near the peach trees. With wooden pegged pins she neatly hung rows of men’s checkered boxers, her own large white cotton under garments and lots of black socks. She wore one of two proper dresses to mass twice weekly, came home and dutifully rinsed out her knee high nylons by hand and hung them over a metal towel rung in the tiny bathroom. She would hang carefully her church clothes beside a pea green wool coat covered in plastic. In her closet were two pair of shoes, brown leather flats that tied just at the bend of her forefoot and ankle and a slippery, shiny, white pair of slip ons. The laundry told a story in it’s simplicity. It fluttered in the wind and the neighbors could see, she may be poor and married to a nasty man, but she was God fearing and clean. There were no frilly blouses or pretty colors, just the plain daily wear of plain lonely people. No one came by her doorway to visit very often except a young woman who was going back to school to be a nurse. I knew her as Gigi. She confided that once she finished her studies she would leave her husband who only thought of football and spent most nights drinking beer in the village pub. I saw mutual desperation in each of their eyes yet nothing more was spoken about. I liked Gigi who’d grown up with AngryEyes and along with other farming family friends from this idyllic countryside. We’d sit with wine, make fires and gather to share nonsense mostly. Gigi had a much loved black dog, a hapless breed that followed her everywhere. Across from her lived Madame Vinget who was the matron of this portion of the village. Madame Vinget lost her husband when young and never had children. She did have a dachsund she called Chou-pete but when she had had a little too much of her homemade pear or peach liquer she called him inside with a slur that sounded like “Tu-petes” which means in english, “You fart”. Madame Vignet called me in more than once to taste her strong liquer and always pointed out that she had indeed been many places other than the village, Le Bois Jahan. One night after a ridiculous game of hide and seek in complete darkness AngryEyes and I jumped a fence and heard some loud snorts; we were near some large angry bulls. We warned Gigi not to come for us as we were knee deep in cow dung and decided to bolt for the lone asphalt road that led to the church and town center. Gigi’s dog barked and chased alongside the fence seperating us from them and just as we came to the road we saw headlights flash, the sound of a horn and then a painful cry from Gigi. Her sweet dog had been hit by a car and she began screaming in that deep, remourseful way that some people do when they lose someone they love suddenly. Without much thought I scooped the bloody critter into my arms and we rushed to AngryEyes parent’s teeny stone house. I laid the loyal canine on the freshly mopped floor and gave him first aid by covering both his nose and his mug with my mouth. He began to breathe and opened his eyes and Gigi cried happily for just under three minutes as she held him close. Her joyful tears turned to those of grief once more as he coughed up blood and died in her arms. She ran to her husband who never hung around any of us and he blamed her for being a stupid bitch; what did she expect to happen if running along the road in complete darkness? AngryEyes could also show tremendous sensitivity; while the husband slammed the door in his wife’s face, AngryEyes went for a shovel then returned to the unhappy couple’s backyard and dug a hole. The husband never came out or ever acknowledged any of it. With newspaper wrapped around Gigi’s dog AngryEyes gently took the dog and placed him in his grave. There was love in the village after all and an understanding that most people were rarely happy.
Outside AngryEyes parent’s little white stone house chickens ran amuck and wild cats begged for food. The once smiling bride with warm dark hair milked cows, sheared sheep, and more than once I saw her grab a chicken by the neck and swing it around fiercely only to casually drop it by the kitchen door to be plucked later. Cats would be scared off by the stomping of her feet inside black rubber boots. The fowl’s feathers would blow about the grassless, meek courtyard signaling to others what their next meal would be. In time she worked her way back to the stone house doorway where she often would sit with coffee or in this case, to pluck the unlucky Clucker. Perhaps this would be her only rest of the day. I eyed her taking a pause now and then and she’d hold her face up into the sunlight, eyes closed and seemed somewhat peaceful. The stone doorway led directly into the tiny sparce kitchen. A wooden oblong table sat in the middle of the perhaps 50 square meter room. A gas stove, white porcelain sink and a small mustard colored refrigerator were lined up against the back wall. There was a small sideboard for her to chop and knead and pummel out meal after meal. Her hands were plump and chafed, her brown eyes gentle and subservient, rarely caught mine. She spoke in a whisper and at each meal she placed a large decanter of red wine in the middle of the table and a pitcher of water. The other staples, a baguette or two with strong cheeses and butter, endive salad with blood red vinegar and olive oil, and potatoes boiled in their skin were carefully arranged. The chicken was butchered into smaller pieces and sat in the same pan it was baked in, at the exact same place where the main course would always be, that is, directly in front of her husband’s plate. Meals were interchanged with hearty portions such as pork cutlets, an unknown large fish with the head still on, a pot of stew with undetectable ingredients or a souffle. She then did all the washing up and swept the bread crumbs in one swift move of her hand onto the kitchen floor where she would then sweep briskly and then wet mop every night. Her husband left immediatly after every meal to stand by the barn in one of his blue jumpsuits, in black clogs and a dirty gray wool hat with a small rim to smoke hand rolled cigarettes and drink until bedtime. Once, when AngryEyes and I were poking around in his father’s corner of the barn we found on top of a tall cupboard stacks of magazines with naked women spreading their legs wide apart and AngryEyes shouted, “Putain” and continued to rummage through each one surprised by his belligerent father’s stash. I was not at all surprised; my own BaD DaD had heaps of porn he never bothered to hide from me; “He” kept stacks of Hustler and Playboy sitting on the back of his and my former and beloved stepmother’s toilet tank. (Yes, in time we will get to those days says “little me”). Somewhere between my life with BaD DaD and AngryEyes haunting solemn stare he held while he sat across from his drunken father, we understood each other’s pain and the dark memories of our youth that were yet to be explored. In time these memories would envelope us.