Camille Bromley spent her childhood in Bloomington, IL and her subsequent life until now in such locals as Japan, France, and Senegal. She is currently enjoying her homecoming.
Now what d’ya think is on this cap? Look like a JB, don’t it. Could be my initials, that’s why I like it. But Camille’s right. It’s just a B. If that’s their way a writing a B—it look funny to me too. Don’t know why they put that swirl there, make it look like two letters. I got it right down from the Budweiser wagon at Bernadette’s sister’s place. They were handing them things out like candy. Had hundreds of them, stacked up real high on the side of the wagon. They were handing out t-shirts, these caps in about three different colors, bottle openers, all kinda merchandise you can think of. Them drink koozies made out a foam too. I was looking for a plastic cup with a lid, you know the kind you drink in the car and it don’t spill, but they didn’t have none a those. At the barbeque at Bernadette’s sister’s. Oh you didn’t know about it. Nobody told you. That was last August, maybe July. It was somewhere round about the summer. I remember Francis was out baling hay, so must a been about then. She won that Budweiser contest. It was a national contest, so they brought the wagon over set up a barbeque with all kind a food and free beer. They had hamburgers out, bratwurst, chips, slaw, cookies. She got as much free beer as she like all day, plus whoever come over. Bout a hundred and fifty people there, I suppose. Must a been bout the whole town come over. They set out a clean garbage can too and poured a bunch a wine bottles in there for sangria. We got big blocks of ice in bags, sunk that down into the sangria. You know what sangria is? I kind a like it,
it’s real nice and tasty, lots a chopped up fruit in there too. We used to have some down in Mexico, remember that, have that on a hot evening and you’re all set. Now the Budweiser wagon come over from Milwaukee I think. Maybe it come all the way from St. Louis before that, I don’t know. They were making some rounds in Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan too. So after Bernadette’s sister’s they hauled off to Green Bay. But she was the national winner, one a the biggest. She had to write an essay why she wanted a barbeque in her backyard. Don’t know what she wrote, but she won it. They had them great big Clydesdales and took her on a ride through the fields, crossed over the crik way down by the county line. She’s the only one got to take a ride on the wagon. The kids all were asking for it too, but she’s the only one got to go. Olivia saw her mom leave on the wagon was hollering to go, but they took off before she cried up much. Philip and Dominick ran chasing after it for bout a quarter mile. Real pretty horses. Never seen no horse bigger than them. You weren’t invited? Well you don’t need to be invited, just need to know about it. Weren’t up at the farm anyways, were you, so wouldn’t of made much difference. Thing like that only happen once in a blue moon and you either there for it or you ain’t.
Shadow looks like a monster, but she’s a real sweet girl. Got her off Craigslist, too. She’s a sweetheart. A bit crazy, real ADD. Whatcha doin’ girl? Where you goin’? She’s crazy. She’ll just do laps around the room for the good part of an hour. No reason to it. She loves her blanket. Most dogs don’t like being covered up but she loves it. She’ll go on the couch too, under her blanket. You’ll sit down and not even know she’s there until she’s crawling on you and licking you. Good girl, Shadow. She’s skinny, huh. She eats well enough, I guess. She won’t eat until she’s about half dead, if you call that eating well. She’s just picky. The woman I got her off of was feeding her the same food she ate, so she’s been eating people food all her life. No way I’m cooking people food for her. At first I would put some strips of bacon on top of her dog food, to let her know that that was stuff she was supposed to eat. Otherwise she’d just sniff and stay away. I already let her out this morning, but I won’t take her for a walk just now. It’s such a pain in the ass. She never got walked before, just doesn’t know how to do it. She’ll be pulling on the leash the whole time, walking in your legs and shit. It’s exhausting. She’s a big girl. Just doesn’t have a clue how to walk. The woman was handicapped, so she never got walked before. Maybe that’s why she runs in circles around the house, don’t know. Mostly it freaks other people out when I walk her, so I try to do it real early in the morning. One of the first times I took her out she broke the leash and went flying at this guy. He totally freaked out. She’d never hurt you, but it scares the hell out of people to see a big Doberman coming at them. Now I have this big old chain I use to walk her. Literally, it’s just a big chain. Picked it up at the hardware store. It was the only thing sturdy enough for her. It freaks people out though, like they’ll cross to the other side of the street when they see a guy with a big dog on a chain. And she’ll be pulling at the chain to get at them. She’s real friendly, just wants to play. The woman on Craigslist swore to me that she’d saved three lives. She was dead serious. She told me some story about this guy having a
heart attack, collapsed on the ground, and Shadow got on top of him and peed on his face to wake him up. So he lived. The most ridiculous story you ever heard. She gave me like two pages front and back of printed out directions for Shadow. This dog was pampered. Moses, who drove me down to the lady’s house to pick her up, swore to me after that that he’d never drive me to get things from Craigslist again. This lady was straight up insane. The dog was her baby though, she didn’t have anything else left in the world. No children, no family. But she couldn’t take care of her anymore. She cried her heart out when we left.
Now, I am ok. I am not working very often. Actually, I have some problem, so my boss told me to stay home sometimes. So tonight, I did not work late like every day. But I think the problem is not work. The trouble is I usually get all panic. This happens when I am alone, at my house. At work it’s fine. I feel better if I am busy, so that is why I am usually work late. I don’t know the cause. I feel like panic and I cannot breathe. I sleep not a long time and I get very tired. I don’t want to go to hospital, but it is a very bad feeling. Very, very bad. I am look forward to go to Michigan. I am starting prepare my suitcase, because I leave three months from now. In Michigan I will be ok, I think so. I will stay in Michigan during one year, and after that I will decide to the future. It is a very good program at Michigan University. But my parents want me staying in Japan. They introduce me to a Japanese man but I was not interesting. I was seeing Ken some times, it did not work out but he was nice man and we speak English together. I was seeing Ken only about two months. Mostly I did not have time because I work a lot. He was very busy working too. We decide just to be friends. And then after Ken, the panic feeling came back. There are some problems with my mother and father. I get panic when they are there. They don’t really want me to go to United States, so our conversation is not much. I tell them that I will not stay in United States, but they prefer me to stay in Nagoya. Not to leave. They say I have a good job in Nagoya. I did not tell them about when I get panic, because I don’t want them to be worry. Then they will not let me leave for U.S. For now, working much is ok. At work everything is fine. I think the problem is not work.
I haven’t completely decided. I have two similar ideas but I’m still not sure. It has to be a surprise, and it has to be crazy. She does this thing where she sits on the couch and watches TV a lot and I’m going to have her mom or sister or family member come in with the mail and bring in a letter for her that has no return address but is just marked “Haley” and this will start the treasure hunt. I’m going to use her family for sure. It’s ok, they like me. The letter will have something in it like a clue that will lead her to the next clue, which will give her another clue, and so on. These will be all around her house and
will lead her to her car eventually. And then when she comes outside and sees her car, because she parks in the driveway, her windows will be covered in butcher paper, do you know what that is? Just long rolls of really thin paper we use to make banners in school, and it’s just going to have something markered or painted on there that will say BRANDON WAS HERE really really big on the windshield and on the driver’s side door it will say OPEN and inside on the seat there’ll be a teddy bear—or a stuffed animal of some sort, it doesn’t have to be a teddy bear—and it’ll be holding a huge card like this big, just a giant card of some sort. And there will be some sort of other clue because at this point she knows I’m going to ask her to prom, at least that’s what’s going through her head because she’s very very smart, and so she’s expecting to open the card and for it to say “Haley, Will you go to prom with me?” or something like that. BUT my plan doesn’t stop there, because the card will actually say GO TO YOUR TREEHOUSE because she has a treehouse, her dad made it from telephone poles that he stuck in the ground really far, it’s really nice, it has stairs going up, pretty cool, and then I don’t know maybe I decorate the inside of the treehouse in some way and then I’ll be there and I’ll ask her there. So what I just explained to you, that was my middle option, a variation of my first conceived option. My first option would have ended at the car and the car would have said LOOK BEHIND YOU and I would have popped out of the trunk and scared her, just because that would have been funny. No, it’s an SUV so the trunk’s like open. Not a real trunk. In the third option I would skip the treasure hunt part in the beginning just in case she was lazy and wanted to finish her show, so I wouldn’t be waiting in the treehouse for like thirty minutes until she got to her car. I’m really glad that you think this is ridiculous because that’s the point. It can be as ridiculous as it needs to be so I can just
have fun with it. We’re just going as friends, and I know she’s going to say yes. It’s better than spelling out PROM on her driveway with rolos. Or writing a poem or something, that’s what Lance did. No, it didn’t take me that long to plan it actually. Anyway, it’s something I always wanted to do, ask a girl to prom in some crazy way. Why, how were you asked to prom? Yeah, I’m already going to prom with her but that’s West’s prom. I still have to ask her to my prom.
It became a recurrent problem between us. I would cry about it, actually break down in tears. We were together for five years, and he never changed. Either he wasn’t able to, psychologically, or he wasn’t willing, though I realize the line between those two is far from distinct. I suggested therapy once, and he took it very badly. In general he acted like it was all a big joke, like it was nothing, or like I was the one who was crazy. Maybe he was right, in the sense that the real problem was the two of us together, his psychological aberrations plus my reactions to it, which frankly at the end bordered on hysteria. In any case we had very few conversations about it, although it was a source of constant tension. In my memory of living with him I was like a child, but he was a grown man. There were five years of difference between us. The gaps between years are farther apart, I feel, at that age. I was a student, and would often go out without him, or have activities to pursue that were outside his routine. He worked rather normal days, nine to six-ish, and would come home after work, watch some TV, eat, take care of the mail or some extra business. He often worked evenings from his laptop, I think out of boredom. At the time I thought that my lifestyle was too unsettled compared to his, but I see now that if I would have compared myself to other students, my life was fairly etched in routine. This was his influence. He was a working professional, after all. He paid for the house. I was happy to live in such a clean, spacious house. Everything was new, or looked it. The neighborhood was what you would call quiet and respectable. We had a yard. The bathroom—this is important—was at the end of the long entrance hall. When you entered the house by the front door, the bathroom door was the first thing that you saw. Naturally he had a proclivity to close the bathroom door when he was in there. I think we all do to some extent, but the layout of the house encouraged it. If someone came into the house, they would immediately see him. I understand how you would not want that to happen, but on the other hand, we always kept the front door locked and friends very rarely—never, actually—came over without letting us know ahead of time. So there was no reason that anyone would come into the front door without warning, unless it was me. The bathroom door was always shut and locked when he was in there. Sometimes he was in there for a period of time, and if I approached to call through the door and ask him a question, he would either not answer or his reply would be curt and very, very irritated. It was useless to try to get through to him while he was in the bathroom. I understand that men typically spend periods of time in the bathroom, that it’s nothing unusual. But there was something about the silence in there that was . . . cold. The worst, of course, is that often it wasn’t silent. Not that I heard any of the usual unpleasant noises coming through—noises, I emphasize, which are natural and common to every human on the planet, barring some bizarre mutation or disorder—well, anyhow. Close interaction with someone you love should render these normally unpleasant noises and odors familiar, and if not likable then neutral in some way, or at least not repulsive—much like the sound, sight, and odor of our own waste is far less repulsive than that of others. I’ve spent time thinking about this. I have turned the matter around and around in my head, and I swear to you I would have welcomed all these noises and more, in fact I prayed for them. The worst is that he would turn on the tap. He would let the water run, at full stream, for minutes, to hide the sounds of his own expulsions. He never failed to do this. After some time I wondered how this didn’t strike me as odd from the very beginning, but I eventually realized that when we were first together he never went to the bathroom in situations with any degree of intimacy. It was not until I had been moved in for a month or two that the neurosis became visible to me. At first I thought it was funny, teased him about it—in fact, logically, turning on the tap makes no sense because although it covers up the actual sounds of the deed it doesn’t cover up the fact of what you are doing, and conversely actually emphasizes the act as well as your own shame which ultimately, I think, is much more embarrassing than letting a few plops out—but his responses to my little jokes ranged from extreme discomfort to violent self-defense. And he never stopped doing it, not after six months, not after a year, not after four and a half. The water waste was one thing. But what killed me inside, really killed me, was that he couldn’t bring himself to be, let me say, real in front of me, to show that he was a real person, to show a bit of ugliness. To let up the front, the act, the whole buttoned-up and made-over exterior. And of course we could get into the whole deal where he thought the actual act of defecation—as opposed to acknowledging or revealing the act—was shameful and ugly, and showered twice daily, and wasn’t capable of having anal sex without it becoming this debased spectacle of vulgarity and abuse. But to stick to what went on in the bathroom, it became a sort of obsession with me to make him open the door. To get him to do it in front of me, or at the very least turn off the damn tap. I resorted to doing it with the door open while he was in the house, or taking pains to be obvious about it. Referring to the act out loud, being vocal about how it was on that particular day. He was unyielding, invariably disgusted. “This is something you need to keep to yourself,” he would say. “It’s called respect for other people.” I actually tried forcing the door once. I begged him to open it, to let me see. He would get angry even talking about it, saying it was all too ridiculous to address. In the end I left. I think he’s still there. Or he may have moved to a bigger house. He ran a website organizing bachelor parties and it was very successful.
Now I was just telling Sophie about a man I met on the tram today. This man. I could not believe it. I was riding the tram back after work, as usual. You must know this is the part of the day I most despise. I was carrying my grocery bag on me as well, because I had stopped off at Lidl, and my feet were sore. I swear to you I could not feel a single toe. I had spent the entire day standing, running around, busier than a beehive. Now you know how crowded the tram is at rush hour, and nobody will give up their seat for another living soul, not even for their own grandmas. The only ones who manage are mothers
with suckling infants. But this man stood up to offer me his seat, as gracious as could be. He said very simply, “Madame, please.” Just like that. So charming you couldn’t refuse. Not that I would have considered refusing! He was wearing a hat—how I love a man in a hat!—and spectacles—not glasses, but spectacles. You understand the difference, I’m sure. Absolutely tremendous style. He was really very friendly and we got on chatting like old friends. Some people, you know, you can talk with so easily without any effort at all. It turned out he was a pastry chef, just think of that! I asked him for one of his secrets to making pies—just one, I let him off easy—and he told me—listen to this now—that he rolls out the dough on a floured surface sprinkled with turbinado sugar. And so the sugar mixes in the dough and caramelizes the bottom of the pie when it is baked. Also, the sugar jazzes up the crust with nice little sparkles inside. Now isn’t that genius? We discovered his daughter is the wife of Patrice, you remember him don’t you? Patrice from the school. He was a very good friend of Santiago’s. The world just gets smaller every time I turn around. Now for the tragic irony. A woman standing in front of us was reading GreNews and I happened to catch one of the headlines about Ségolène coming to Grenoble on the 14th. This was just as we were veering around the corner to the Maison de Tourisme. I asked him offhand, without even thinking, “Are you going to hear Ségolène speak next week?” and do you know what he said? He said not if he wanted to learn a thing or two about how to run this country, and—and!—he wouldn’t think of missing Sarkozy’s address for that! And some crockery nonsense about losing jobs, national security. I couldn’t even listen. It was like a smack in the face. The whole time he was from the right! Can you believe that? Thank goodness it was my stop just then. I was so disgusted, I don’t think I could have held it in for another minute. And to think, I had been talking with him the entire ride back from work! The only word for it is betrayed. Utterly betrayed. Twenty-five minutes, talking to this man from the right! Ah, what a mean trick.