Not a Girl in a Box

Antonia in a mirror box, Paris,. 1963

When I was editing this I realized this post title is twofold. I was originally referring to what June says in the scene in Handmaid’s Tale when she gets her music box and says she “will not be that girl in the box, she will tell her story even if no one listens". But I guess it can also refer to my little chambre de bonnes. 

Now I dance around my living room to Sunday Bloody Sunday on 11 and annoy my French neighbors. I’m Irish by ethnicity so I blame that for my rebellious spirit. Too many generations of rebels and fighters seeped into my genetics and created an anarchist who revolts instead of cowers. Immune to fear, threats embolden, a fight invigorates, acquiescence and submission make me want to scorch earth. Destruction may be mutual, but I’ll make sure I take an eye. 

I didn’t have a typical lockdown but I still feel like Moira and Emily after they get to Canada. So much trauma in such a short span of time but then back to normal. Maybe not inside but from the outside it appears so. To fit in a functioning human society you have to appear normal right? 

I imagine returning to life will feel weird for most people once they go back out again. Granted they didn’t experience trauma in addition to living through a worldwide plague, but it’s going to be weird no matter what. It will feel like no time has passed, but here I am two years older. All of us have lost a year of our lives. 

I guess for me it’s weird because I’ve gone from life to life in a short yet insignificant span. Or rather what I knew as my life. Somehow it rewound and I ended up back in 2018. Those scars on my mental state from a horrible, traumatizing relationship are all buried deep within with a walk down Grenelle. 

You see that’s the funny thing about Paris. I walk around my neighborhood, the neighborhood I knew from 2015 to 2018, and nothing has changed. Rue Cler is still the same. Saint Dominique is still the same. It’s like no time has passed. 

There are certain tiny differences if you look below the surface. Masks are normal. Certain places are gone for good. All of the cafes, shops and boulangeries are a tiny bit different. Even Starbucks, which is usually filled with annoying kids from the American University, is not quite the same. I can't say that I'm not unhappy that the French have finally learned about personal space. 

But Paris will go back to normal. She always does. Despite French machismo and misogyny, despite the media of the last 50 years telling you Paris is a boring, shallow, pretty woman, she is actually hard, defiant, and cunning in her own French way. She is not a girl in a box either. Through a thousand years of war and violence, Covid has nothing on her. She always rises again.

Pretty soon you’ll be able to go to the theatre, and the ballet, and the Opera like nothing happened. Pretty soon we’re going to have Fête de la Musique, RentréeNuit Blanche, and all of the things that we’re used to. Pretty soon you’re going to see those damn Vivaldi posters and feel a tiny pang of relief that in fact nothing has changed. 

Humanity is weird like that.