Round 2: Laura vs. The Fly

Butterfiles Are Not Free

I opened the door and he dive bombed my head. He was enormous. His buzz—stealthy and loud and entirely room-filling—had a French accent.

I have no idea how he got in and imagined for a moment that he spontaneously generated, Darwin-style, on the top of some soggy wedge of camembert I’d left lying around. Or that he entered through the water pipes or slithered under the door. I’d say he came in through the bathroom window, but there isn’t one.

He was bottle green and goggle-eyed and I told him what I told my pals, the industrial-sized roaches, in NYC: This is a small apartment. One of us has to go, mon amie.

I tried sneaking up on him and hitting him with a shoe, but I only put a dent in my wall for which I will assuredly risk losing my safety deposit and hurt my finger, which was already sore from the assemblage and dissemblage of my bed. (See below.) So I decided to do what I did when the asshole girls used to tease me about my glasses in the 7th grade: I decided to ignore him in hopes that my obvious lack of interest would make him get bored and go die in a corner.

Except that every ten minutes or so, he thought it would be cool to dive bomb my head again. So opened the window in hopes that he’d just politely fly out. After all, he’d banged into my mirror approximately 8,000 times thinking it was another part of the room (Flies are smart that way.) so maybe he could bang into the outside and stay there. After the temperature in the room dropped below about 9 degrees, I realized that I needed another plan, so I decided to open the door and swat him into its general direction with a towel.

But as I have mentioned, I deeply fear my French neighbors. Mostly because I don’t know how to say anything to them. Neighbor-to-neighbor diplomacy is a tricky business when everyone speaks the same language. And do I really want our introductory conversation to consist solely of:

C’est une mouche!

Because that’s the only way I know how to say it. I can’t elaborate any further. And then they would do what French people always do when I speak even one word of French to them. They rattle off a trillion French words at breakneck speed and at very low volume and entirely in the subjunctive.

French people—even small children—use the subjunctive all the time. French culture is the subjunctive. I can pick out its noises almost instantly—all those nasal-y Zs zooming all over the place, buzzing like my fly. And I know, as soon as someone starts in with, “Vous étiez…” I’m dead in the water. I won’t understand a thing.

So because my French class won’t cover the subjunctive for at least another three weeks, I decided to close my door and try to hit the fly with a French-English dictionary. Which is sort of amazing, because it’s a pocket-sized dictionary. But it’s still a dictionary.

It worked. I swung like the bases were loaded and that bad boy hit the floor, bounced once, and said au revoir to Paris forever.

Maybe I should have tried that with the girls who made fun of my glasses. Or maybe, sitting here in Paris with my fly and my couch/bed and my endless cheese and neighbors who use a verb case that has no English equivalent, in some dim sense, I did.

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