My college roommate of two years lives in Paris and has been both my tour guide and translator through this exciting and strenuous adjustment period. When I told her my medical problems, she was concerned and recommended that I make an appointment with her doctor’s office at the Arthur Verne’s Clinic, located at 36 Rue D’Assas in the 6th arrondissement. I called on Thursday afternoon and scheduled an appointment (en français) for 9:30 Saturday morning.
7:00 AM–my alarm does not go off.
8:30 AM–I am abruptly awakened by a call from my mother in San Francisco, who is in a frenzy because she cannot find an umbrella she lent me two months ago.
9:00 AM–Un-showered, I have made it to the métro station, boarded the train and become crushed between a short bald man with a red tie and an old woman wearing a brown wig with a bob-cut. I flip desperately through my “Plan de Paris,” determined to find the quickest possible route to the clinic.
9:30AM–I am completely lost. I must have taken the wrong exit at the station. It becomes clear to me that I have followed the directions exactly in the opposite direction and that I must backtrack. I am very late and the more I run, the more blood I feel dripping down my right leg, which makes me woozy–I can’t even stomach ER re-runs.
9:45AM–Only 15 minutes late, I arrive safely at my destination.
The elevator doors open, revealing an even larger waiting room. Now there IS a wait. Everyone’s staring me; do I look that foreign? The woman at the counter is speaking French and it took me a few moments before I realize that she is talking to me. She asks my name and hands me a file. She tells me that I owe 25 Euros for the visit–more than reasonable. I pay her and walk to a chair in the direction she is pointing and sit myself down, relieved that they had not put me in a straight jacket…yet.
“Maybe today non, but tomorrow yes.”
No, not a problem. I have a strong feeling that I won’t be having sex for a very long time. It’s a terrible gut feeling like when Joseph predicted the drought.
It is decided that I will stop the birth control pill, but that I will also come in next week for some tests. Now it is time for my examination. I undress as I search for the Bounty paper towel gown. It’s nowhere to be found. I’m frantic and naked and really, really cold. Please God, don’t do this–I promise that I will learn French. There must be something to cover up with…I start to open the cabinet–and I’m caught. The doctor smiles at me uncomfortably. I wonder if there was supposed to be a gown there and perhaps someone forgot to lay it down and now the doctor thinks that I’m coming onto him…I situate myself on the table–legs in stirrups. The doctor looks up at me a little flustered. He starts pointing down there and mumbling. I’m confused. I can’t understand a word that he’s saying. Finally, I look down at what he’s pointing at—I had left a tampon in! I had forgotten to remove it. He turns his head away as I remove the cotton. I am shamed and mortified.
At the end of the examination, he writes me three prescriptions for different kinds of painkillers. I swear the French could survive solely on cheese and pills. We schedule an appointment to have the tests done, and he wags his finger at me a little about learning French as he says goodbye sweetly. I feel very safe and taken care of–he seemed to know what he was doing, but what do I know. I don’t speak French.
On the way home I stopped to purchase a few groceries. Steak. That’s one good thing about getting sick, you always get to eat the most delicious things, like ice cream. I was losing blood so I needed the red meat for my iron content. I bought two steaks, and I intended to eat them both–my mouth watered the whole way home.
I threw the steaks on the frying pan as fast as I could unwrap them and began boiling the water for my tea. One hour and three teacups later, it’s drizzling outside and the steaks are still rare. Did I forget to turn the stove on? No. I retrieved the package out of the trash bin to review the cooking instructions–my eyes grow large as they pass over the ingredients: 100% vegetable.
Deep breath. I grabbed my teacup and went to the window. I closed my eyes and dreamed of my apartment in Los Angeles, where I had an elevator and a freezer filled with Boca veggie burgers. My old roommate was probably eating one now without me, on our balcony where she’s tanning. They say that when people move to California they never leave. What had I done? Was I being punished for abandoning the golden state? I’m sure it’s just a case of the homesick blues. But still, I knew the weather report by heart and it was haunting me: clear skies, sunny, 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kirsten joins Bonjour Paris from Los Angeles, California where she recently graduated from the University in Southern California with a BFA in Acting. Last year she co-wrote the book and lyrics to a new pop musical which expects to open in Los Angeles next spring. Two years ago, while studying at a conservatory in London, Kirsten fell in love with Paris and decided that she was destined to return for some time. She’s thrilled to experience this dream come true.
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