After a weekend trip to London, I open my door to find France standing there.
ME: Why bonjour, France! I didn’t expect you to be dropping by today.
France shrugs and leans in to kiss me on both cheeks.
FRANCE: I am out of butter.
ME: Um…okay, so you came all the way over here for some butter? It’s not like you live in the building.
FRANCE: I am France, huh? I am everywhere. Mon dieu…toujours le meme.
ME: Sorry, sorry, come on in.
France marches into my apartment and starts scanning the room.
FRANCE: It looks like you have been on a trip, non?
I begin to feel a little uneasy.
FRANCE: I see your baggage is out. So you have been on a voyage, I believe.
France pulls a cigarette out and starts to light it.
FRANCE: I can smoke in here, oui?
France lights the cigarette and walks further into the kitchen.
FRANCE: I think oui. So, where is it that you visit on this voyage?
I walk over to the fridge as a trickle of sweat begins to roll down the center of my back.
ME: Let’s get you that butter.
I curse myself for my shaking voice.
ME: Nothing but good Breton butter in here…
France stares me down and takes a drag off the cigarette, blowing the smoke back in my face.
FRANCE: Is that so? Well, then I must see for myself.
ME: No, I can get it, don’t bother, it’s nothing-
I’m too late, France is already standing at the door of the open refrigerator, staring in open hostility at one of the shelves. The cigarette drops to the floor and I hurry to pick it up…France does not seem to even notice.
ME: France, just calm down a minute, I can explain.
FRANCE: I welcome you to my country and this is the thanks I get?!
ME: Well…I think “welcome” is a strong word-
FRANCE: ҪA SUFFIT!
France leans into the refrigerator, pulling out a bottle of ketchup.
FRANCE: As if theez were not bad enough, theez monstrosity-
ME: Oh come on, let’s pump the brakes here for a minute. Americans use ketchup on burgers and fries, but I’ve watched you pour in onto a plate of spaghetti, I mean, you want to talk about gross.
France turns slightly red before getting angry again.
FRANCE: It is not zee point and you know it! Always, you are changing subjects. Let’s talk about the “hippopa-tame-moose” in zee room!
France glares at me and lights another cigarette.
FRANCE: What do you have to say for yourself?
ME: It was just a weekend.
FRANCE: Pffff…I have heard this before. You think I was born yesterday? UH?! For centuries, it is like a “rabb-eet” on my back.
France gives me an irritated look before continuing.
FRANCE: Once, it was even 100 years straight, do you even know what that is like? Pfff…of course not, you Americaine. You have a problem with another country and then you become best friends the next year. So fickle…perhaps I should not be surprised.
ME: Aren’t y’all like BFF’s with Germany right now?
FRANCE: Arret! You can never just listen, maybe it is true and you do all have this deficit of attention disorder. We are discussing your betrayal, uh?
ME: France, come on, I just wanted to check it out. See what all the fuss was about.
FRANCE: Just “check it out?” Well, then what is theez?!
France reaches back into the fridge and throws a wax paper package of cheese at me. I stammer in response, holding the guilt-ridden cheese.
FRANCE: FROMAGE! BRITISH FROMAGE! You can explain that?! I cannot explain it, it shouldn’t even exist! I am so upset, look, you have made me raise my voice…disgusting. I need a pastis.
France raps on the counter as if ordering a servant.
FRANCE: Something French, toute suite! That is, if you still keep French things in your house, TRAITRESSE!
I try to stop myself from rolling my eyes as I reach for the pastis.
ME: Don’t you think you are being a little bit dramatic?
FRANCE: MOI?! Dramatique? Pfff…I am France, not LES ROSBIFS!
I can’t help but start laughing at the name the French use for the English.
FRANCE: I see nothing amusing.
ME: Roast-beefs? It’s so funny, come on…you know it is.
France shrugs and takes a sip of pastis.
FRANCE: Maybe you would like to be a rosbif, huh, yankee? You two, with your “special” relationship.
ME: It’s not like that, France. You know how I feel about you, you read my blog.
France almost spits up a sip of pastis.
FRANCE: I do not read your blog, you think I have time to read some little blog. Pfff…
ME: Then who keeps commenting as “FRANCE #1 4 EVA?”
France looks away and takes a drag off the cigarette.
FRANCE: How I would know, huh? Sounds like a name that many people would want to use.
France takes a sip of pastis.
FRANCE: So, what did you do in that horrible, rainy place…Londres?
France says the name with disdain and I bite my tongue as I consider the weather patterns of Paris.
ME: A lot of touring about, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, The Tower-
FRANCE: Ah, ze Tower…now this is something that is okay. You know who built it, oui? Guillaume the Conqueror – a French man. Very important, perhaps the most important King in English history, you know? Really, he practically started the whole country.
ME: Uh…yeah, sure. But really it was quite impressive.
FRANCE: Oui, mais bien sur!
I smile to myself, sensing that France has been mollified.
FRANCE: Alors, theez cheese…what it is like? Disgusting, non?
I look at the super delicious Welsh cheese that my husband and I bought in London and know that I can’t tell France that we loved it.
ME: Nothing compared to French cheese.
France picks it up and smells it, then opens the package and takes a look.
France sounds nonplussed but I notice a slight uptick of one eyebrow.
FRANCE: Then, you won’t mind if I just take it.
ME: What? Why?
FRANCE: I thought you didn’t like it, you are now attached to it?
ME: No, it’s just that-
FRANCE: I will take it to throw it away, of course. Pfff…what else would I do with it?
France grabs the cheese and walks back towards the door.
FRANCE: A bientot, Americaine.
I watch from our front window as France exits the apartment and places the cheese into a jacket pocket while walking past a trash can…and I smile.