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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 16 - Falling in love with Maryse

There is a newspaper cutting hanging inside a cupboard in Maryse’s kitchen. It has been very carefully cut out and pasted so that when you open the cupboard with all the plates, there it is. It is of Hussein Bolt standing on the podium, but he is standing on the tier below the winner. He came second. Maryse says it is the look in his eyes. He knows he is no longer on top.

Over the weekend, I moved from Josette’s to Maryse’s apartment. It took me two trips to move all my stuff, and I left a note with my keys on the high bench to say goodbye. In between my two trips to Maryse’s, she insisted on taking me to lunch. She says j’invite, which means she will insist on paying. She has put her bright red lipstick on.

We walk in the door of a timeless French restaurant just across the road, which Maryse says used to be the Headquarters of the right-wing people, so her father boycotted it. There is a Spanish man with a long dyed black ponytail parted in the middle and a very straight back who should be swishing a red cape, but instead nods his head to acknowledge our existence. Maryse sweeps past him and up the stairs like a confused queen who has stepped out of an old painting. A junior waiter of great importance accompanies us to a little table by the window, which is the best table in the house.

He brings us our menu like an unsuspecting well-meaning insect, walking into the web of a benevolent but bored spider who wants to play a while.

"So where are you from?" Maryse asks as she bats her lashes under her glasses, rendering him immobile by the intensity of her gaze. There is no escape.


"Mais vraiment de quelle origine etes-vous?" (but where are you really from?) she purrs.


"But I love Algeria. I have been in Africa 5 times. I had a love affair with and in Algeria."

He smiles weakly as Maryse progresses through the Algerian sea, the Algerian mountains, and the Algerian desert. He loses attention for a moment. She taps him on the shoulder and says, "attendez monsieur, I need to give you some advice," but then she forgets what it is and laughs, and her teeth are all smudged with lipstick, but it suits her.

We have a pichet of red wine, chicken, and mashed potato, and Maryse, of course, has steak tartare. The time is ticking, and I know I have to clear out my last bags before the American arrives.

I set off again on the metro, full of optimism about my new lodgings. There is a marvellous little scene that plays before my eyes, where three players sit on the same seat. One is an old man who dreams of his past, and then when he gets up and leaves, two young lovers take the same seat.

When I come back with my second load, Maryse is waiting for me with such enthusiasm, just like Bella, my dog used to do, as if I had been gone for a hundred years. She grabs my face and kisses my cheeks firmly. We go into my room, and she sits on my bed, and I open my suitcase to put a few things into a plastic box and the back of the door. I have lost my lovely hair tie that makes me look as if I have some hair, and finding it becomes the focus of Maryse’s attention. She goes through all my things, and she strokes my clothes as she folds them gently, asking, "is it ok? is it ok?" I am touched by the fondness she is showing my clothes and the obsession with finding my hair tie. She orders me to ring Josette.

Josette says she hasn’t found it, but she has a lovely American boy staying in my old room with her who speaks perfect French.

As early evening falls, we move onto the balcony for Maryse to smoke, as the only place in the whole of Paris she doesn’t smoke is the grandchildren’s (now my) bedroom. Unbelievably, she smokes as much as Michael, but everyone smokes, and everyone is thin. I must tell Boydie (my brother-in-law who tries to stop people getting fat) that smoking, coffee, walking fast, eating custard in all forms, and putting sugar lumps in coffee produces a city of thin citizens.

Maryse tells me about Alain, the man she married. His father had been convinced by a poster in the railway station in Paris that Chile was the new frontier and that France was politically in ruin. The day after getting married, he took his wife to Chile. She left everything behind and cried every day when her husband, who was an engineer, went off to work in the copper mines. She had two children, six years apart. The eldest, a daughter, stayed in Chile, and the youngest, Alain, returned to France with his mother after his father died and was buried in the mine.

Alain met Maryse in Grenoble, where she had been sent by her parents to get her away from a lover they disapproved of. She stayed in Grenoble for two years, working as a waitress, playing tennis, and going skiing, and lived with Alain for financial expediency. Her parents approved of him because he had class and elegance, even though he wasn’t handsome. They married in 1963, and Maryse passed her diplome d’amour. Alain was interested in politics and science, but making money was of no interest to such a man.

After they were married, Maryse got an Arts degree at the Sorbonne, while Alain failed to get a doctorate in Latin American studies because he never submitted his thesis. He became a librarian, but the library of Latin America didn’t pay him well, and he didn’t work hard.

He was an artist who did the occasional sculpture, and everyone loved him, especially Fanny, whom he took to the cinema. But Alain was torn between two worlds, and his father had died when he was very young, so he became an alcoholic and died 12 years ago.

She inhales and exhales in the same breath.

"I say, Maryse, I am very hungry." We have had a whole bottle of wine. As she pours the last drop, she says, in France when you pour the last drop of wine out of a bottle, it means you will get married next year, but she says she doesn’t want to get married again; she just wants to be there for Fanny in case she needs her.

She takes me to the freezer, and we have some frozen fish and spinach.

She holds my hands across the table.

"I have never told this story before," she says, "but it exists inside me. I left my husband.

I was invited to my friends in Algeria, another couple, a husband and wife. The husband and I fell in love. His name was Rashid, and he was Algerian. We loved each other for 10 years. I left my husband, but he didn’t leave his wife. He stayed in Morocco and then returned to Algeria to become a great writer. I could not make love with my husband anymore, but there was an immense friendship, and we still protested together. It is an immensely complicated life.

I am still sad," she says. "The other man does well with his wife, and they both accept what happened, but I am alone.

I had a nocturnal dream I would be alone with my daughter.

My parents knew all about Rashid. They weren’t strict or Catholic; they were of literary facon. They never said don’t do anything. You confide in your parents.

They understood he would never leave his wife.

It was a coup de foudre with Alain, a loving of love, but I would have stayed with him if I hadn’t met Rashid.

I’ll get the pepper.

My parents and my brothers helped me buy this apartment when Fanny was 12. I modernized it, and it took me 20 years to pay it off. Age is funny; I’ve lost all these years. I worked so hard because I had borrowed the money.

I worked as a professor, and I read books and gave my opinion.

I had Fanny and a man who came from time to time.

Ashlee, life flashes by, confidants change, all becomes clear; you know the real problems, and then it closes.

She spies a loose cord on my slippers. She really has remarkable eyesight, and she cuts it.

I give her an ancient piece of wood from a ship that sank in New Zealand called Midge. The ancient pattern on the wood is truly beautiful, and it comes from an old wreck. This cheers her up.

I crawl into bed, and I remember an expression I learned at French class: jeter de l’huile sur le feu. From the fat into the fire. But this fire will warm me; I can feel the glow. Maryse is going to show Paris to my heart.

Enjoy the photos:

133 views3 comments


Jun 20, 2023

Gosh the painting of the woman's face looks like you I see😍xxxxxgw


Jun 16, 2023

Bravo Ash... and Maryse. Safe travels Joxo


Jun 16, 2023

Having endured the Romanian horreux version of Paris, and the rigors of intransient French parlez vous, you are now experiencing the joys of three love affairs (the third with the city itself), and potential loss of all these will torment you for your return and perhaps all time. The very essentials of a great time away! (today it rains here in AK) WG

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