I’m presently sat at the kitchen table in my apartment writing this. The assistant from Sartène is sat in my bedroom which is behind me through an open door. She is in there because the Wi-Fi connection is better.
Two weekends ago, me and her were in Ajaccio catching rays of sun and civilisation with the other native English speaking assistants. One of the three Italian assistants had coffee once with one of the American assistants, but the other two hadn’t been in contact. Over coffee she told her that she was lonely, missed home and wanted more friends. The Spanish guy also hasn’t been in contact. Inevitably someone will bump into him soon though. Ajaccio is too small not to.
On the Saturday night last week, we all went to the American and Irish girls apartment for dinner. Cool Chloé and her yappy dog weren’t there, so we had the place to ourselves. One of the American girls put a full jar of cayenne pepper in the chilli and I spent a sizeable chunk of the evening running to the bathroom for toilet roll to cry into. Luckily we had a large pot of natural yogurt to share and I put so much of it on the chili that it changed colour from red to pink.
I’m still sat at the kitchen table in my apartment writing this but it is about a week later than before.
After the chilli, we played cards and shortly after I went to sleep on the sofa in their living room. The house is infested with mosquitoes and before I fell asleep I could hear three or four buzzing above the blanket covering my head.
The next day I went to the beach with the Irish girl. We had pizza from the bakery at lunch. In the evening I stopped off at the house of the girl from New Carolina. I ate pizza with her and the assistant from Sartène who was staying at hers. I tried to stop the cat, which she has named “needy cat” and which I’m convinced is really a dog, nibbling on slices of my pizza while it sat on my knee. If you stand in front of it and slap your thighs it will jump into your arms.
The American girl from cool Chloe’s flat called whilst I was there and said I should head back soon because Chloe was back with the yappy Yorkshire terrier and she didn’t want it to wake Chloe up, which would happen if I came back to late and she was already asleep.
When I arrived at the apartment, the Irish and American girls were at the door trying to shush the dog and they spoke in whispers to me. I could hear the TV from the living room in the hallway. I presumed Chloe was in there, but she didn’t come out to say hello. I went into the American girl’s room and began arranging my bed. The American girl sat on her bed.
“So you know when you use the bathroom?” she said.
“Yeh” I replied, rooting through my bag for my toothbrush.
“Well you know there’s like shower gel and shampoo and stuff that you can use in there”
“Okay” I said, still unable to locate my toothbrush.
“Cos last time you came Chloe took me into the bathroom and was like it smells really strong and I don’t know if it was your body wash or deodorant or whatever but like I think she’s just not used to it and I didn’t notice at first but then when she pointed it out I was like yeah.”
I turned around and laughed nervously. “Aha yeah sure that’s fine”
“Like I don’t want to be…”
“No it’s totally cool” I said and smiled. I turned back to my bag and started rooting but couldn’t remember what I was looking for. The American girl got up from the bed as if to leave but stopped in the doorway.
“And she didn’t know you were staying too,” she added softly as if an afterthought.
“Okay” I said, locating my toothbrush in the lining of my bag.
“Yeah she wasn’t too happy about it.” I straightened up and looked at the American girl in the doorway. She was studying her nails closely. I don’t know if she saw me.
“Not happy about what the bathroom thing or me staying here?” I asked.
“Both” she said.
I laughed. “Okay, like I can always stay at Lucy’s and what not ha yeah like…” I smiled at her and after a pause said “it’s cool.”
“Feel free to use the coffee machine and take a shower and whatever tomorrow though” she said, suddenly facing me with a large smile.
“Yeah sure it’s cool.” I smiled back one more time and snuck past her to the bathroom.
The next morning I got up at 6 with the aim of getting a shower, eating and getting out of the house for the 8am bus before Chloe awoke. I was drying myself in the bathroom when someone tried the doorknob. It was 6:20am and the American and Irish assistant didn’t have school today. I hurriedly dressed and crept into the bedroom, before Chloe could pass me in the hallway. I was putting my trainers on by the door, when the shower fell silent in the bathroom. I ran outside and slammed the door. Three minutes later I was walking beside the dawn Ajaccio seafront. The wind was cool and the nur of passing mopeds cut through the seesaw sound of breaking waves.
We will never tell Chloe about the chilli night we had. I don’t know when I will see her again. She is no longer the cool, jazz loving, independent divorcee she was before.
A teacher at my school said she didn’t like Ajaccio. “C’est snob” she said. And what if Chloe is too? The white Adidas Stan Smiths. Light blouses. The cream cropped trousers. Big sunglasses. Short hair with a side fringe. The small yappy dog. Even the jazz.
On the bus I sat in front of a overweight guy from Wakefield who told me he travelled abroad every weekend. Next week he was going to Georgia.