You’re witnessing the first and only edition of an original feature at maryxo. An American In Where Again was a column by friend / musician / writer, Jordan Elsberry.
Flashback to September of 2009. A brilliant, mist-spitting gray hovers over the English Channel, the kind of blunt, muted overcast that’s half-blinding.
On vacation with my father and my brother, I took my first steps on French soil in the coastal town of Calais, disembarking from the ferry boat that brought us across the water from Dover. The boat was late, and with ten minutes to cross the town to the train station, activate our Eurail passes and board with three weeks’ luggage, we split a frenzied, bat-out-of-hell taxi ride with an English tourist named je-ne-sais-plus-comment. I would later understand the cinematic nature of the moments about to transpire.
Arrival at the station. In mediocre, nerve-wracked French I say to the woman at the ticket counter what roughly translates to « We need to use these things », extending toward her an American right hand filled with European train tickets. Smiling demurely, and not without pity or respect, she typed a machine-gun burst of characters on her keyboard, returned the tickets to me and replied « Allez-y, monsieur. Bon voyage et bienvenue en France ».
Dad and brother already making way to platform, I close in as boarding bells toll. Two minutes. Run to car, heave baggage, climb in. The doors slide shut. « Jesus Christ, we made it ! »
––– /// –––
Five years later, my long stay work visa is all but secured, I still drink too much coffee and I finally own a decent suit.
Two miles of paperwork,
a relay race in which it was she
who drew first breath,
a whirlwind bus trip to Chicago
(sleepless night, rendez-vous
in austere consulate office
of white-noise walls and buzz
of this is happening,
marathon of cocktail bars with TF
which ends by violet curtains
at a certain hour of the evening,
and again I sprint not to be left behind),
three months of heartache,
heartache because she is there and I am here.
The sacred mathematics
and ordinary chaos
of how things work.
Now, as I put pen to paper, there is here. I live with the woman I love in Besançon, France, capital of the region Franche-Comté, known best – if known at all – for its cheese, its salt, its idiosyncratic wine. The birthplace of clock-making, heisted by the Swiss – or so the story goes.
Vast, rolling, verdant foothills
of the Massif du Jura,
trees caked in glowing moss,
brilliant gray like the port of Calais.
This corner of the world lives up to the name :
you smell the old.
And I am here. To my left, a jar of flowers soaking in pure grain alcohol. To my right, a political map of Asia from the 1950’s that seems to obliquely allude to the singular and beautiful artistic eye of my Love. And before me, she, in red- & white-striped shirt. The leaves are barely moving in the wind.
––An American In Where Again
09 janvier 2015