I never got around to telling you about the last night I was in France. Pete had decided that he should make an effort for us to be sociable, because we often are doing a million different things and having him meet a lot of different people when his is here.
So in the hopes of convincing me he was not a hermit of the hopeless variety, he arranged a dinner with some people he knows in France. It was Rose, his landlady/neighbor, his tax lady and her husband, and the man who does roofing and other such work for Rose occasionally, and his wife. All except the tax lady are English ex-pats. The tax lady is French, originally from Paris, but had been living in Couhe for the past 15 years and married to her husband for most of that time. The other couple had been there for 9 years or so, and Rose has been there for 16.
L., the Frenchwoman, recommended we have a typical French meal so we went to the restaurant that is part of a small hotel in the village. Typical French meal meant lots of wine being served, mostly, but also starters (appetizers) of strange shapes and sizes and the main dishes being followed by a huge plate of cheese. Then dessert! Apparently this ‘cheese-as-palate-cleanser’ is all the rage now. Sorbet is for losers.
Overall I had a tremendous meal. I had some fishy something-or-other baked and breaded into a seashell to start, followed by Ostrich cooked medium-rare in a black pepper sauce that was divine. The Ostrich was like eating the filet mignon I didn’t get in La Rochelle…it was that good. Served with this were the most delicious thin French fries I have ever eaten. Then we had some cheese (so bizarre) and then I ordered a dessert that I ended up not eating as it turned out to be a flan-like custard sort of thing—and honestly I think flan is one of the most disgusting things people eat on this earth. It’s mostly a consistency issue…too gelatinous and mushy.
The roofer and his wife are from northern England, while Rose is from the middle and Pete and the L’s husband are from the south. The differences in accents were remarkable, and we had much discussion on that. The northerners, to my ear, sounded very much like the voices in Chicken Run. We talked of how accents vary a lot in different areas even when speaking the same language and L. said that when she first moved to Couhe from Paris, she couldn’t understand anyone.
The entire experience was comical, for me, if not at times a tiny bit painful. L. and her husband M. I enjoyed very much and in fact would have loved to talk to L. at much greater length. Rose is a bit daft, but incredibly sweet even if a bit nutty. J.’s wife was kind but sadly spent most of her time being embarrassed by her husband, whose behavior was nothing if not familiar.
This guy was a drunk.
When we had first arrived with Rose, Pete and I got some water while Rose had an aperitif and we waited for the rest. L. and M. showed up and each had a drink and remarked on us drinking water. We laughed and I just said I didn’t drink, but thanks, and while they did not understand, it seemed they might let it go. We decided to go sit because Rose said J. was always late and might not come at all. More comments about my not drinking were made, and I said no…really, no. Rose later told a story about a woman in her 70’s she knows who drinks gin and tonic (mostly gin) all day long. At night she puts her glass in the fridge and takes it out first thing in the morning to start again. I looked at M.
“That," I said, "is how I would be.”
He finally got it.
When we were eating our main courses is when J. and his wife showed up, and I am fairly certain he had already been drinking. He was incredibly loud and obnoxious…came booming into the room yelling for more wine and kept rubbing Pete on the head and hitting him in the arm, made idiotic sexual innuendo jokes (some just blatant) about every 2 minutes, and tried to get me to kiss him on the lips but settled for not stopping the kiss on each cheek that Europeans do by continually turning his head.
Then he saw I wasn’t drinking, and he could not wrap his mind around that one. He tried to find a glass but my glass already had water in it as he poured wine to the rim in everyone else’s and when he asked me wouldn’t I have a drink, everybody said NO. I think he tried to pour me wine about 15 more times after that, even going so far as to actually pour some in my then-almost-empty water glass before Pete yanked it away.
Not to judge, but I know that only an alcoholic would be that concerned with the fact that someone in the group was not drinking. Normal people just don’t care about who is drinking and who isn’t! He just could not let it go. Nine and a half years sober, and I honestly don’t think I have ever had someone be so insistent on me having a drink before. I’ve been around alcohol, and it doesn’t bother me at all anymore. Pete drinks on occasion, but chose not to that night because he saw I would have been the only one and he is wonderful like that. If he wanted to drink, I would have been okay with it. I lost the craving for alcohol and drugs very early on in sobriety, and only occasionally does it cross my mind. I feel strongly that while early on it is best to avoid situations involving alcohol, if I am doing the work in recovery then I can go anywhere and do anything without fear.
That last hour at dinner, however, was painful. I felt sorry for his wife and embarrassed for him, and annoyed with his behavior towards each of us. I had patience, however, because of the familiarity. I knew he was not fully aware of his behavior or his drunkenness. I know him as I know myself…and it helps me to remember. Pete said he had never seen him like that, but Pete had only seen him occasionally when he was doing work for Rose. They had never been together socially. As we all said goodbye to leave, his wife had to drag him away because he wouldn’t stop talking to the owner. When we pulled out in our car, we saw that he was driving his.
“The arrogance of the drunk,” I thought.
I said a quick prayer.