Ajaccio. 06/07/08 6.35pm.
The somnolence of a Sunday in Ajaccio. A heavy drowsiness permeates your bones, muscles, brain, willing you to sleep, sleep.
Now, in the evening, a breeze blows in from the sea, and people come alive again, the ‘second’ wind. The heat pushes you to stop in the afternoon, but relents at dusk and invites you back out to play. People rejoice in the reprieve like death-row pardonees.
The buildings are age worn, peeling paint in faint shades of dirty white, sad yellow, betrayed pink, dying pale green. All with shutters of canary-egg blue.
I’m sitting at “Le 1er Consul”, 2 Rue Bonaparte, drinking a Pietra, a Corsican beer. I can hear the fountains, cars honking, motorcycles, the drifting voices in French, tumbling over each other like waves on the shore. Pigeon’s wings flapping behind me, cooing.
The sky is completely cloudless and blue to match the window shutters.
I love listening to people speak French. They always sound like they are sulking about something. It sounds French if you pout and say any string of noises with the vowel sounds “oo” and “oh” and “on”. “Foo on coh soo”. And the “monsieur” at the end, the drawn out “ssss” always sounds like an insult. “Foo on coh soo too mo boo, mohsssssyoooor.”
The cheese I bought at the market today was hard and crumbly and oily and eating it felt like committing an act of child rape, something of the utmost carnality and sordidness. It was heavy and indolent and arrogant in its almost lack of flavour. It almost dared you to enjoy it. It was a 20-year life sentence in a closet-sized cell that tasted of urine and stale blood. It was a peasant’s cheese, a cheese to eat out of desperation when the cupboard was bare and your ribs were poking out and you had already eaten the scraps out of the garbage. It was the last straw cheese, the end of the world cheese, the back against the wall cornered rat cheese. A cheese you wouldn’t bring home to mother, a cheese that had spent its life inside a tomb, no light or air for 10,000 years, a cheese that contained all of the curses of all of the mummies, the mold behind the closet in the house that the old, old, impossibly old woman died in six months ago and they only found her when the neighbours noticed the smell cheese.
And I loved it. Tomorrow I’ll go back for more.