There is a French television show called Plus Belle la Vie that Agnès and I watch some evenings together, sitting on her neatly arranged couch with our feet on the floor. The show is set in Marseille, the large port town just a 30-minute bus ride away from Aix, and features lots of tanned characters with dramatic relationships and secret dealing in the underground crime scene. The usual stuff of soap operas, I expect, but it's a pretty nice half hour that I spend with Agnès. I’d take any kind of connection with her at this point. Our time together, however, does not always go uninterrupted.
Agnès’s son is named Jérôme. He is 13 years old and spends most of his time when he’s not at school in his room, playing online games or doing homework. I’ve been living in this small apartment for weeks, and I’ve still barely spent any time in the same room with him. Jérôme opts not to eat at the kitchen table for dinner most of the time, which I had never heard of in a French household until now. When he decides that he is hungry or just wants an answer to a homework problem he can’t solve, he shrieks Maman! Viens! in his shrill, pubescent voice. Mom! Come here!
And just like that, Agnès wordlessly gets up and goes. I stare after her every time, wondering why.