I didn't live a long time as a flounder, on the bottom, just a couple of days. I've been so ill that I asked to be tested for COVID, and it came out negative, just to give me the insight on how quiet and efficient the things are here in the West, at the height of an apocalypse. It was the very same day that the vaccine was announced, and it was as if I suddenly realised that Christmas is coming.
Maintenant c'est moi qui descends Rue Descartes, quand la Ville se comporte toujours fidèle à sa nature, Gardłowym śmiechem odzywając się w ciemności, / Wypiekając długie chleby i w gliniane dzbanki nalewając wino, / Ryby, cytryny i czosnek kupując na targach, / Obojętne na honor i hańbę i wielkość i chwałę,
J'ai acheté des crevettes et du vin blanc, et je n'ai pas voulu des patates douces, je les deteste (mais ils sont en promotion, Madame, seulement pour ce weekend). J'ai l'envie de la viande de crocodile pour le Noël, accompagnée des feuilles vertes de manioc. Je fais l'amour pendant qu'ils font la guerre. En Pologne - c'est à dire nulle part - wiadomo: na świętego Marcina zadyma się zaczyna.
Ce que ce pays donne au monde, c'est moi. Juste comme Roumanie a donné au monde Cioran, qui ne voulait parler roumain à personne. Ils m'appelleraient traîtresse de la race, s'ils savaient combien je désire les mains poilues d'un de ces frères à moi. Et pourtant, to wszystko już było i zmieniło się / W pomniki przedstawiające nie wiadomo kogo. Et la civilisation, c'est moi, pour eux à jamais perdue, moi et cette sacoche et les livres qui sont dedans.
Opieram łokcie o szorstki granit nabrzeża quand je suis de retour du pays souterrain et je vois en lumière. J'écoute une cantate de Bach pour me sentir européenne, car c'est ça, l'Europe, une cantate de Bach ouie entre le souvenir des feuilles de manioc et des huitres passées par le feu et du rougir des lions et les mains poilues de ce frère à qui j'ai promis tous les plaisirs de ce monde et de l'autre. Et je ne veux surtout pas qu'on me parle roumain au lit.
It's the second (third?) day that I am sick. Is it the virus? Or just the triumphal return of my nose problems? Brought about by a strange return of the old memories of Poland?
The statistics, made public very late last night, indicate almost 87 thousand of new cases in the last 24 hours. Out of the depths of his Bedouin survival instinct, my husband says: it is the sign that the end of this pandemic is nigh. Is it? Constant exponential growth exists only in mathematics. In reality, there is always a point of breaking the wave.
I've been living on the bottom, honestly speaking, since I came to this flat and this country, six weeks ago. I really wonder what happens to me. My hands tremble, and I feel a strange disinterest in life. Not only in the books I've brought from the library. It is a singular void of dreams, fancies, desires.
Perhaps the only positive aspect of the current crisis is that the other Veronique finally died. It was difficult to break my relation with the old country, as difficult as it was, in a time, to break the relation with my family. Both inevitable, if I want to survive.
Poland is far from me now, the discourses that they go on reproducing like yet another viral machine, distant and isolated from the world. And it leaves me homeless and lost in the middle of the current situation, in the world in mutation. I am here, but I lack any attachment, including the attachment to the ground under my feet.
I should be attached to my studies, to my projects. I should grasp them as the only stable thing, I should be attached to my identity as a scholar, the only one that remains. Yet books don't captivate me, and my brain is like white cotton. I wish I was the scholar I used to be, I wish I could write learned articles again. But everything is empty, like this flat with white walls. I hate white walls. I miss a home in dark red, an Afghani carpet under my feet. I only want my life back, as it was, with only a tiny correction.
I suppose my salary, the biggest salary I ever touched in my life, is landing smoothly on my French account. One day, when the pandemic is over, I might be able to use this money to rebuild my life. To discover that, after all, the bottom was a metaphor.
It is highly probable that the lockdown that started this Friday prevented me from perpetrating my zina. Finally, I got dearly attached to those exquisite, non intrusive manners of my banlieusard lover, named after that old Arabic poet Ibn Mamar who loved Busaina. The only love affair of those last 15 years, and who knows, maybe the last love affair of my life. At least it provides me with a good recollection, even if it is only of those avid kisses the first time he came chez moi.
As I said, it is the religion that tears us apart, so that I hesitate on the brink of committing my zina, for the first and only time in my life. Perhaps it would be easier if we lived in the Bedouin Arabia, in the time of Jamil and Busaina. But it is the Parisian banlieue, 15th century Hijri, and I am afraid of disillusionment. I got too much used to those extra sophisticated erotic gadgets that my husband sends me through the Amazon to enjoy an intercourse with a live man. The thing would be obviously too short and of too little excitement, and it would cost me my religion.
On the other hand, the events in Poland cause me a creepy sensation. As if my zina could put me in a real danger of unwanted pregnancy. It is not like this, of course, I have my pills and my condoms and my right to abortion granted by my religion and entirely covered by my medical insurance. But it brings me bad memories, the memories of my youth, of that creeping anxiety I used to experience as a young woman.
I was 21, if I calculate correctly, when the abortion became illegal in Poland. And even when it was legal, oh, how much abuse, how many traumas I could bring to my narration. We never felt safe, me, my mother, whoever. Certainly, now, as I am 48, the probability I might ever become pregnant in my life slowly goes down to the round zero. But I lived all my womanly life in the shadow of Polish fundamentalism. Only now the women of my country are awaken from that long slumber. Awaken only to see their rights shrinking.
I do not believe in the victory of this Polish revolution. To the contrary, I follow with increasing preoccupation the growth of violence against women. Those fascist boys of Poland got an explicit permission to attack, an invitation. They have metal bars and steel rosaries. They are told to "defend their churches" against the protesters that are explicitly qualified as "satanic".
There is an abysmal difference between my religion and their religion. Perhaps because mine creates those smoothly mannered, non intrusive men who kiss avidly and keep telling me: Tu n'es pas obligée... And of course, this is what creates the biggest temptation of all.