Unedited excerpt of my memoir – ©2019 Sylvaine Francine
On the other hand, I had a good life in Paris: student with a part time job and a place I call home. When I left the Left-Bank neighborhood, I rented two rooms on the edge of the Marais district. I like my new arrangement; each room has a full-size window that opens on the courtyard. Recessed from the noisy boulevards, I like the quietness. One drawback—the two rooms are located at opposite ends of the seventh floor. In the morning, I move from one room to the next one, stopping at the communal toilets on my way. It is freezing cold in the winter. This is everyone’s life on this floor.
Without electricity, the first room can only accommodate a mattress which lies directly on the old wood floor and my traveling battery-operated alarm o’clock. My backpack leans against the wall and, still prevails as my dresser. Slanted and low ceiling, I bumped my head a few times then learn to keep it low.
On the bed, and after sunset, I spread my books and class notes and study, propped up against the wall or laying down on my side. Safely, I anchor a couple of large votives on a plastic tray. I can also use a flashlight when needed. In my new lodging, I still wear hat and gloves to keep warm. Studying on my bed, I warm up my bedding for later. I tell myself that I don’t need electricity when I sleep. Propped up against the wall
At the end of the hallway, the second room—a spacious twelve by twelve, has electricity, and in a corner, a white ceramic sink and cold running water which I use for washing myself and doing laundry. With its red octagonal tiles on the floor, and a window which opens to the courtyard, I like this room which fills with light. This luxurious space comes with a small piece of furniture where on top, I cook my morning oatmeal on my brand-new one burner camping stove. The shelf below houses a few dishes. A month after I move in, I buy at the B.H.V department store a sleek laminated white platform supported by a pair of shiny metallic trestles. It takes me two trips to carry it all to the seventh floor but it is perfect to eat oatmeal, write letters and study. On my multi-purpose table I pile my school books and whatever else I want to keep off the floor.
Above it, I tack on the wall two posters of Impressionists paintings which bring colors to the room. Easily, I can store away my wooden and foldable only chair .
Across the courtyard and two floors below, an apartment owned by a surgeon provides plenty entertainment. The large Parisian lodging spreads over the entire floor. Tastefully furnished, it reminds me of my parents’ house. Last year, the surgeon’s wife killed herself and now that time has passed, I see him sometimes dancing from room to room as he waits for his girlfriend. I am happy for him.
On Thursday afternoons after my morning classes, I will meet with my student tutor, and then, will search for glass bottles along the banks of the Seine river or in the waste baskets of bus stops and parks. I recycle glass for food money, sandwich money—an afternoon off work, free of stress when I take the time to live, or maybe just to breathe. On Thursday, I don’t work at my afternoon job, I arrive on time for my evening classes.