XX. Provence

postcards from france

Juliette’s apartment is covered in America---vintage tin Coke placards, the boxed set of all the seasons of Friends, posters of scenes of Central Park. She has small bowls full of Native American arrowheads she collected from a trip to the southwest of the United States a few years ago. There is even a print of the classic Uncle Sam illustration, with his stern eyes and accusing finger. I lean in closer to read the caption. I want you . . . to speak English.

Juliette’s love for all things Americana now includes me, and in the month that I know her before I board my plane back to Ohio she invites me to her house several times for baking cheesecakes and having dinners with her friends. She loves showing me off, telling her friends to pay attention as I switch from speaking English to her young daughter to using French slang with ease as I describe to them the plot of Gilmore Girls. I think she does it to prove that the America she loves is signified by someone like me, not the politicians and the obesity and the reality TV casts broadcast throughout France.

At this point, I’d do anything to make Juliette happy---after months of being an unwanted intruder in Agnès’ apartment, I feel welcome here. And I don’t mind being showcased like one of Juliette’s souvenirs. Sometimes I also need to be reminded of what the real America is like. If I can prove it to someone else, then maybe I’ll start to see it, too.