It’s the end of morning yoga in the park. I lie on the grass in savasana and notice the sun, just emerging from behind clouds. The world seems to be opening to us, in some sort of blessing — ooh I hate that syrupy term but this morning, I admit, it fits. Birds arrive. Children are laughing at the playground. I hear the trucks and machines of the city in the distance, building, breaking, demolishing. I come back to myself, to today, to an unexpected solo class with Zoe the yoga teacher.
I lie on my mat, and I think how windy the road was to this particular morning gift, and the whole notion of found versus lost. I think of my wallet, my porte-monnaie, which was taken from me three weeks ago. Somebody stole it right out of my backpack at the marché, then disappeared. What happened next? Did he (or she) look inside, grab all the cash, dash out to the street — and then toss it on the ground? Throw it away? Hurl it somewhere? Was it out of desperate need for food? What did the money buy?
Perhaps then someone — I picture a dignified woman of a certain age, or a kindly Frenchman out for his morning coffee — picked it up. Did they turn it in to the market without a second thought? Did they drag it all the way to the Médiathèque, home to the city’s lost and found offices? I ponder its journey from here to there.
Two weeks later, I’ve given up on ever seeing it again. All the things that have gone wrong the past fortnight make me want to give up: the broken fridge, the hookers outside our apartment, the bugs that materialize from nowhere one morning, the dustbunnies, the grime, the lack of everything. No one will find it; it’s gone forever and I’ll never see it again, the fucking bastards. And I’ve begun to feel like this walking target for god’s sake, shouting TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME I’M NEW HERE. I’m giving up.
|dog photographer Sophie Gamand|
But The Frenchman hasn’t. He stops by the Lost and Found, just to inquire. And they have it! They have it! And there are things inside!
I pack up le petit garçon, fellow adventurer, to apprehend it. Mysterious building; escalators; secret doorbells. Adventure! We manage to make it before they close. The woman is welcoming, kind. Can I help you? Oui, je pense que vous avez mon porte-monnaie!
And then, in the middle of my triumph, just as I am approaching the finish line, my language facility fails.
[Quick backstory: I lived in Norway for a year when I was seventeen. The Norwegian alphabet is pronounced much like the French, except most vowels. In Norwegian — the foreign alphabet most deeply embedded in my brain — it’s AH BAY SAY DAY AY EFF GAY … etcetera. Whereas in French it’s AH BAY SAY DAY EUH EFF…]
But of course I say like the Norwegians say. PAY AY TAY TAY. I mispronounce my E, and she checks her records, then offers a puzzled look.
—Your mari was here in person?
—Yes, I believe so.
—Yes, this morning. He stopped by.
—Yes, this morning. He stopped by.
—Wait a minute. Wait a minute. PAY EUH TAY TAY. Yes!
—Pardon. It’s my French.
—No problem. I understand. I thought you said PITT.
So many things here in France which on first glance appear decidedly negative lead fortuitously to perfectly-timed insights, auspicious relationships, treasures.
When I realized the wallet was gone, I searched the floor near the bakery, I hunted all round the cheesemonger’s cases. He noticed me, and asked gently if I spoke English and then after some sympathizing said, Let’s go make an announcement on the intercom. He introduced himself (Daniel), and took me to the fishmonger who apparently oversees intercom announcements. He told me about the city lost and found, where he once found his keys two weeks after he’d lost them. So now, when I go to the market, I say hello to Daniel who knows me by name. I’ve someone to smile and say hello to. When my wallet was back safe, I rushed to show him, waving it and smiling. Which would I take, a warm human connection in a sea of strangers, or an inexpensive slip of plastic with a few replaceable cards inside?
So I’m thinking of all the found things that often accompany the lost ones. One of my tasks here, in France and through this blog, is to develop, as Geneen Roth would suggest, a practice of asking the question, throughout the day, What’s not wrong? What IS happening? What can I find right now? Notice it, take it in. Allow myself to be filled. For a melancholic like me — such a sourpuss pessimist sometimes, a textbook dysthymic — it’s a radically different orientation. Found!