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Thursday, March 23, 2006

it's time to wake up

I will never be a perfect au pair.

Yesterday morning I woke up, switched off my alarm clock, and fell back asleep.

I woke up an hour later with a message on my phone: Where are you??

I turned white. Madame had an interview that morning, the kids had to be taken to tennis, and I was supposed to be at their apartment ten minutes ago.

I threw on whatever clothes I could find, somehow managed underwear and deodorant, and grabbed my purse. My head was pounding and my heart was racing. I could hardly breathe. There would be no time for layers, make-up, hair brushing or coffee. I was late.

As I was locking my door my phone rang: “Where are you?”

“I’m just leaving my apartment! I’m so sorry! I’m coming!” I choked out.

“You’re just leaving now? You have to be joking, get here soon,” said a voice so cold I felt a knife run through my stomach.

She had a reason to be upset. I was supposed to be there.

I ran down the seven flights of stairs, the crumbly grey walls staring back at me, the sky weeping outside, my sneakers hitting the steps and everything feeling like a nightmare.

When I arrived Madame had just left, and a pot of milk was boiling on the stove for the kids’ hot chocolates.

The kids sat dreamily watching cartoons, but switched the TV off when they saw me and said “Bonjour Gilliane!”

Stunned, I spilt milk all over the table pouring them hot chocolate, and went to fix my hair while they poured themselves messy bowls of cereal.

When I was getting the girl dressed, she stopped and looked at me. “Why are you talking like that?” She asked curiously.

I’d been speaking in mumbled whispers. “I slept in,” I told her, “I woke up five minutes ago, I’m still a little tired.” She smiled at me. “You look tired.”

The last time she looked at me that way was one day in the kitchen, when I told the cleaning lady I felt like crying. She was busy in the corner, but stopped, looked at me with great intensity, and was gentle with me all night.

We made it to tennis, got on the right metro, and were there with time to spare. I caught myself smiling as I chased after them. Rain drops fell down my face as my sneakers hit the sidewalk. Life, suddenly, was pulsing through me.

Back in the apartment I was helping the young girl with her reading, when she stopped and looked up at me, inspecting my face, “You don’t look tired anymore,” she said. “You did before, but not now.”

They were sweet and polite all day, we made crafts, I helped the boy with a project, and I slowly woke up from my morning in the merde.

We went to the big park across the river, where a heavy rain beat down, and I quickly realized we were the only people there. I stood with my hood on, the boys scarf tied tightly around my neck, and the bag of cookies clutched to my chest until I felt I should take them home before we drowned.

When Madame came home in the evening she wasn’t upset. I expected the worst, seeing her side of the situation, and took a huge sigh of relief when I discovered she could see mine.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said, “it happens to all of us. It just happened at a bad time.”

I woke up again, saw that the world wasn’t against me, and went back to my apartment to clean up the mess I'd left that morning.

my apartment

9 Comments:

Anonymous Nico said...

Great story. I love how kids can do that, blow one's mind away. Times to be cherished...

Love that picture at the end, for some reason it goes very well with your last words of the day...

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, I had that feeling, I've done it twice in my life, once woke up at 10:30... and was supposed to be at work at 8. Once woke up at 8:20 and was supposed to meet the HEAD of the MIT chem dept at 8:30... across campus... it was a sickening feeling. But everyone else got over it. :)

Jenn

7:34 PM  
Anonymous T said...

Is that your apartment?

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just fell upon your blog, very nice post. ugh, thats the worst but it happens to the best of us

9:06 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Thanks. You're right Jenn, it is a sickening feeling. Et oui, this is the hall down from my apartment, which is on the left.

2:47 AM  
Anonymous schuey said...

it has been a while but this post is a "bijou", the picture at then is a beauty

4:26 AM  
Anonymous Allison B. said...

Hello!
Came upon your blog through the friend of a friend. Really enjoy it! I am commenting to tell you that I have finished reading the entire archive, so now you must post with increasing regularity so that I still have stuff to read on a regular basis.
...please?
Big grin!

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Sedulia said...

I've had a bunch of au pairs (all wonderful except for those two weird Hungarians) so it is fun for me to read your blog and see it from the other side. I think they're lucky to have you!

9:03 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Thank you guys...you make the terrible morning seem worth it. Allison b: I dedicate my last update to you. Sedulia: it's not an easy job, but I'm sure your au pairs have been lucky to work for you as wel!

9:42 PM  

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