“Et prenez garde—”
On the train, these three words were always the cue for Mark to start giggling.
“— à l’intervalle entre le marchepied et le quai!” he would complete using the same intonation pattern.
I should send his resume to the SNCF—he would be a great fit if the French train company ever needs a new voice for on-board announcements. He really masters the “mind the gap” warning and he can pronounce the name of unlikely stops most French have never heard of, unless they somehow got stuck there for an hour or a minute—for instance, Montaigu-Vendée, L’Herbergement – Les Brouzils, Belleville-Vendée, La Roche-sur-Yon and La Mothe-Achard on the way to Les Sables d’Olonne; Rezé Pont-Rousseau, Bouaye, Port-Saint-Père – Saint-Mars, Sainte-Pazanne, Machecoul, Challans and Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez on the way to Saint-Gilles. Mind you, I know Caraguatatuba and other tiny dots on the map because they were hubs or border crossing towns—things travelling teaches you…
Some passengers sigh when they hear the “mind the gap” warning for the fourth or fifth time. I do too. There was even an article about these repetitive and noisy announcements in Libération—the best way to deal with them is to use noise-cancelling earbuds.
But maybe I need to hear this advice because I’m terrible at handling gaps.
Gaps are very tricky.
I’m mean, not the actual gap between the train and the platform, but most gaps, including physical ones—like Mark, I always push my bed against the wall for a good night’s sleep, as monsters could crawl out of a two-inch gap left after making the bed earlier in the day.
But the worst gap ever is metaphorical, it’s the weird gap when I’m about to leave but I’m not there yet, the gap full of packing, planning, checking, the gap where it’s impossible to imagine my other life in another place because my current life somewhere else is just fine, thank you very much.
It’s been a great summer. I’ve just counted, we took 20 day trips, mostly to the beach but also to Angers and Saint-Nazaire during a rainy week. I saw most of my favourite relatives and I think Mark had fun too.
But now, it’s time to go back to Canada and I’m not happy about it. I don’t want to be in Canada. I really don’t want to be in Ottawa—nothing new to anyone who knows me in real life, maybe a shock to anyone reading some of my enthusiastic articles about my North American life. It wasn’t a lie, by the way. I enjoyed living in Canada for years. It’s no longer the case. I enjoy some aspects of the life I built. It’s… it’s complicated.
If I’m on the—still metaphorical—train, Ottawa is the platform and I’m going nowhere once I’m standing on it.
I hate going nowhere.
Alright, I have to finish packing. We’ve got a plane to take and all, I’d better sleep.