coup de fil

The phone rang, a not too frequent occurrence around here. The time difference, something – even my own family can’t seem to get the coordinates right to reach me except via email. But the same goes for bill collectors so that’s a plus.

It was Annie, the pilates instructor.

“Saw you and Eric on bikes yesterday, riding into the village.”

And I was off. As the words spilled out, the most boring mundanities tumbling into the receiver, I realized I hadn’t spoken but a few sentences to anyone except Eric in weeks. The dam had burst, but the reservoir was full of recycled lines from an especially dull episode of The Archers. “Yes, we’re trying to get fit. Bike riding, walking, weights and no bread or dessert. It’s so hard!”

Too polite to interrupt, she let me ramble on. “They’ve been putting gravel down on the sidewalks out front – it’s been a nightmare. When are they going to finish the roadworks around here?”

“And it’s still so cold! But the other day there was a beautiful blue sky and some sunshine. All the flowers are starting to come in, so that’s nice.”

Silence.

“I mean, it’s better than being sick – we’ve both had our fill of that this winter. And running out of fuel all the time.”

Someone stop me, I thought. But I kept on. “Have you noticed the price of produce just keeps getting higher and higher? I spent four euros, that’s right, four euros – on a barquette of strawberries yesterday.”

She finally broke in to tell me she’d be starting up classes again. And that she had to go.

I hung up and opened the door to the studio. There was feedback, organs howling, tambourines shimmering, guitars and vocals careening around the room. Eric stood between the speakers, looking triumphant.

“Who was that?” he asked.

I just shuddered. Then climbed back into the time machine.

7 thoughts on “coup de fil

  1. Ed Ward

    Well, it's funny, but it's also not. As someone whose life is entwined with the English language but lives in a place where it's not much spoken, I find myself doing this sort of thing all too often, and feeling embarrassed by it afterwards. I had visitors waiting out the volcano, and found myself wondering after they left if maybe they hadn't had a bit of an overdose of me just from the five nights of dinners and occasional walks in town. But they're friends, and maybe the Pilates lady isn't, and then again, maybe this situation is universal enough that she could just laugh it off after you hung up.

  2. amy

    They won't need them this year Rosie, as they speed by on the new road surface. But seeing the occasional 75 on a number plate fly by does add an air of glamour to the place.I'm glad, Lianne!I wonder does it start to affect writing too Ed? Did all the time in Germany bring about a shift in how you use the English language? And will French affect it in a different way? I know for sure that having the French language demystified has changed something in me forever…Or maybe it is coming to terms with all my preconceptions about the country versus the day to day reality.

  3. Ed Ward

    I've always thought and written in a very distinctive, clear English, and that hasn't changed. But the me who's writing isn't the me in the streets, either. Both of us like a good conversation, though.

  4. amy

    Alex, they're getting closer- I think. It has been almost 2 weeks, and I finally got an email that a delivery was attempted! so they're somewhere, at last. I bet they'll turn up tomorrow.Ed, you're such a fine writer. And that hasn't changed – so if I feel like I'm less able to write these days (due to fewer opportunities to speak the English language), I have no handy excuse!

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