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COFFEE, CIGARETTES AND CRISIS by JANA MISHO
A girl in a loving relationship with Paris, with two best friends and a father figure she found in Pigalle, leads a perfectly designed life, in her Gare du Nord apartment, with a wonderful job and a lot of coffee.
Yet, one spilled coffee, one lost job, and one small flood later, Paris fails in always being a good idea, and manages to mock the heroine in every step. She slowly forgets what peace and boredom feels like, and learns that quarter life crisis is not only a thing, but it’s happening to her. As if that’s not enough, she finds herself batting her eye-lashes at a man she didn’t even notice before. Mothering complicated and eccentric friends, fighting with the person whose indigo shade of eyes she noticed just five minutes ago, also contributes to a chaos which is very unnerving for a person who simply doesn’t like turbulence. And when your father figure is in fact a bohemian art enthusiast who works at/owns a strip club on Pigalle, all the advice you can get puts things into a rather unique perspective.
Growing up can be quite difficult, especially when it’s happening some time after you decided you’ve completed that process. Especially when all you can think about is escaping yourself, and Paris simply won’t let you do that.
COFFEE, CIGARETTES AND CRISIS by JANA MISHO
STUFF YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR BROKEN-HEARTED FRIEND
The shiny, magenta letters on my computer screen composed the title of an article that was supposed to inspire me how to get my friend out of the house, after her boyfriend of a hundred years told her he didn’t want to get back together.
A week ago, Edith called me screaming on the phone, and it took a while before she calmed down and explained that she finally called Daniel, but he was “a different person”, and “didn’t sound like the Daniel I know” and “doesn’t want me back, I’m going to DIE”. So I was babysitting for a few days, reading magazines online when she was asleep, and I found that appropriate one. Not knowing what else to do, I clicked it. In a less interesting font, the article went on:
1. Have sleepovers like when you were in high school.
Did that. Didn’t get much sleep though. We didn’t braid each other’s hair either, she was sobbing, and asking why, while I listened and tried to say things that didn’t even matter at that point. It wasn’t even arranged and anticipated, I just couldn’t leave her alone and miserable, so I decided to just stay on her couch. We talked about boys, the way you do at a sleepover, only I didn’t, because, after her umpteenth “he would just give up?!” I couldn’t just mention ‘so, you know, this guy came by the other night, you might know him…”
2. Have a girls’ night out.
How did I even stumble upon this article? Did that as well. After two days of break-up holocaust, I managed to impose my makeup philosophy on Edith, so for five seconds she felt confident and allowed us to go to a club, which I detested, but I was willing to sacrifice my evening for friendship. It proved to be fruitless, because fifteen minutes after we got our drinks, Edith felt it was a good time to stop being tolerant to alcohol, so before she vomited extensively, partly from bad quality, partly from misery, she realized that clubs were ‘for unhappy and single people,’ which she was, and it was then that she took it all out of her system. Literally.
3. Have long conversations
Really? Really, article? Longer than analyzing every mistake ever made in the longest of long relationships? We spent hours double-checking if what she said to him was appropriate, if it would make him want her back, or just push him further away.
4. Cook together
Seriously, the person who wrote this had probably never heard of the hardwood floor forming in your throat when you are love-suffering. Edith (like me) was not capable of eating, so cooking would have been a total waste of time and groceries.
5. Workout together
Go to hell, writer of article. Basile would have fired you immediately.
6. Watch comedies all the time
That one was kind of good, if I could get her to stop staring into nothingness all day. I tried luring her into watching Tais-Toi!, but half-way through the movie, she remembered that the first time she watched it was with Daniel, thus inducing more catatonic behavior, so abort.
7. Surround them with fun, interesting people
…like members of the family, for instance, brothers. No. I shoved Max into her face. This was one of the rare things that worked, because Max was impossible to ignore, plus, he was fun to be around. He selflessly shared one of his rare love stories with her, about one of the few steady relationships he was in, how it ended, and how he moved on. He told it in a casual way, with no regrets or sadness in his voice, and that amused Edith. She was okay that day.
8. Go on a trip
You know how people go to mountain tops and deep in caves to find wise men and ask them questions? Well, the wisdom we needed was just outside Paris. We visited Adele, Edith’s grandmother, who lived in the Paris suburbs. Her house was a miracle, as was she, and after Max, it was that day with her grandmother that Edith went back from the (un)dead. Adele was beautiful and powerful, and her words could uplift a prisoner sentenced to life. She made strong coffee, and as she brought her graceful, fragranced self to the picturesque backyard, she asked why Daniel left Edith. I focused on the perfect smell of freshly ground coffee, not paying close attention to Edith’s answer, partly because I knew it, and partly because it was in French.
‘Well, he said I’d been taking him for granted, Grandma…’
‘Yes, and he’s right,’ Adele said absently, as she finished filling her own cup.
‘So you’re saying it’s my fault?’ Edith exclaimed desperately.
‘No, you can never blame only one partner, you cow,’ Adele said peacefully, leaving me amused for the millionth time she used simple animals to address people. ‘Even if it is the best and the worst people in the world in a relationship, both of them are to blame in the end. You took him for granted, but the jackass could’ve told you that he’s not happy like that. Yet, if only people would immediately know what troubles them…’ she smiled.
‘Yes, he could say something!’ Edith said, unnerved. ‘He says he’s been putting up with things for a long time, and he couldn’t do it anymore. Why put up, why not mention them and find a solution before it’s too late?’
‘Would you have accepted everything he would bring up as a problem?’ Adele inquired wisely, and Edith didn’t say anything. ‘There are things that last forever, my dear Edith. But if someone is willing to let you go, when he doesn’t have to, then that’s not forever. It’s just a pity you weren’t as lucky as your brother to have a shallow-headed hen beside you, those are easy to forget.’
I could start paying attention now, though.
‘Will I be able to forget about him?’ Edith asked hopefully.
‘You’re not supposed to forget about him, mignon, he is a big part of your life,’ Adele chuckled with her velvet voice. ‘But if you’re asking me if there will be a time when you think about him as a wonderful part of your growing up, or a kind friend you sometimes like to have a drink with – then yes, I promise there will be.’
Wisdom was pouring out of Adele like her warm coffee was pouring out of her kettle, filling our cups for the third time. It was a long afternoon and the best girl time I’ve had in my life. I felt like I could listen to Edith’s grandmother for days and months and not get bored. She was smart and experienced about every important thing that exists in this world. And later, when we prepared to leave, she asked us to come more often than between relationships. I asked her to come live with us.
‘Oh I wouldn’t go back in that jungle and in my twenties if you paid me, my dear,’ she said as she kissed us goodbye.
9. Find her someone new
Let’s not push it. When we went to G20 to buy something for dinner, she kept glancing at the janitor, “his eye-brows are so much like Daniel’s”, and I had to guess which isle held “Daniel loves brown rice and always said it was so healthy”, so we don’t catch another crying spell.
10. Do something crazy
I am a new author and I write things I want to read. I spent my whole childhood going in and out of Paris, and it is my inspiration on every level. I love Salvador Dali, espresso and urban scenery and even though my first book is Chick Lit, I love Tolkien and I’m biting my nails until GRRM’s The Winds of Winter comes out.
I am 27, I paint and drink coffee a lot. If you want to make me miserable, all you have to do is put me somewhere in the country, with no buildings, no asphalt and no service. I’ll probably bring my laptop and write there anyway, and my shoes will be totally inappropriate.
Links to Jana’s website, blog, books, etc.
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Jana is giving away a .mobi or PDF copy of COFFEE, CIGARETTES AND CRISIS to one lucky reader who comments on her Monday Interview or Wednesday Book Bench blog. Don’t miss this chance to read this great story! Thanks, Jana, for sharing your new release with us!