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A letter from Monique

Posted on Sunday, February 8, 2009 in Letters, letters To Stu

Aout 2, 1978

Hello Stuart,

No, you are not dreaming. It’s me, the little French girl who is writing to you. No, I am not starting up a new correspondence. I decided to just write you when I feel like it. It’s quite egoist, no?

Life is so funny. I spend all the summer in Lievreville, and I could never imagine how deep this place take part in my life. How much I love the poplars surrounding the house, the wind blowing through the leaves, the garden, this little flower bed just beneath my window full of roses.

You know, since my father’s death, I look at my mother in a whole different way. I see how much she represent to my life, how much she did for us. I do kiss her now whenever I feel like it. Maybe it’s the love that I can’t give to my father that I want to give to her.

I guess we will move soon. Now that I am gong to leave behind me the farm of my youth, I understand much more what you were telling me. “How lucky you are to live on a farm.” At the time I just couldn’t catch the meaning. Why are we so stupid that we see the value of the thing only when we are going to loose them? It’s really the truth that we don’t know how to look around us.

I am working in Chartres as a barmaid. It’s not really exciting but it’s OK. Now I will go in the garden to pick strawberries, greenberries, etc.

You know what Stuart, I really learn a lot from you. I throw all your letters away, but I remember them all. Do you still be a writer? Or are you something else now? Did you keep my letters? Sometimes I wonder. I
wonder if it’s so good to keep letters from a long time, or to dispense of the past.

Well, goodbye for now.

Love,

Monique


I met Monique in 1976 on a train going form London to Paris. She was not especially pretty, but I loved her immediately. She had a very French face, and extremely small breasts (my favorite kind) and she wore these big horn rimmed glasses. During the trip she fell asleep on my shoulder, Later, I looked over and I saw that her nose was bleeding just a little bit. I took my finger and swiped away the blood on her upper lip. I thought about licking my finger, but I don’t think I did.

After I got back to Los Angeles, there was a letter from Monique waiting on my bed. Over the next year, we wrote to each at least once a week. Monique wrote on this very thin paper that was almost like tracing paper. She was living au pair with a family in Tubingen, Germany, taking care of the children. In her letters, she was extremely reluctant to show her feelings, but gradually I broke her down. I was absolutely merciless.

Soon, Monique was writing me ten, then twenty page letters. She liked to draw little pictures in the margins…mostly of cats (Monique sort of looked like a cat). One day I received five massive letters (the longest one was over 40 pages). The letters were fairly incoherent, and, as they were written half in French and half in English, I couldn’t really make much of them. Her thoughts were erratic and disjointed. At one point she would say that she hated me…. then a few sentences later, she proclaimed her undying love for me.

In one of letters she had fashioned a crude drawing of dark girl with her face split in half. It was a terrible drawing, and it frightened me. I didn’t know exactly what had happened to Monique, but I knew that whatever it was, it was bad. Worse, i knew I had played a big part in causing whatever it was.

The next day I telephoned the house where she’d been staying au pair. Frau Probst, The German Lady Monique had been working for, answered the phone. She told me that her neighbors had found Monique running frantically around in the streets, half naked. At one moment, she’d be laughing, and at the next she’d burst into tears, tearing frantically at her face and hair. Frau Probst said that Monique had told her she’d seen visions of her mother hanging from a cross. The next day, Monique’s parents arrived, and took her away. Frau Probst said that the the parents were “terrible.” They whisked Monique off to a waiting car, without saying so much as a word of goodbye. They took everything…except one old pair of shoes, which sat, discarded in the hallway.

I wrote Monique several times after that, but I never got any answers to my letters. Nor did Frau Probst get any responses to her queries.

About six months later I found the above letter in my mailbox. I wrote back, asking Monique to tell me what had happened, but she would say nothing about it.

Three years, later, when I was in France, I decided to find Monique. She was still working as a barmaid at a Novotel in Chartres. When I approached her, she was extremely cold, and told me that she didn’t want to talk to me. Finally, I got her to agree to meet me after she got off work. Six hours later we met at the train station.

Monique sat down across from me at the table. There was absolutely no expression on her face. I told her that I needed to know what had happened to her. All she would say was that she had had some sort of breakdown, and that she’d been hospitalized for several months. She told me that she thought that what had happened to her was “all my fault.” Her parents had told her that I was the devil, and she believed them.

I didn’t know what to say. I told her I was sorry for whatever role I’d played in her breakdown. Then Monique stood up and said she had to go. We shook hands and she walked out of the train station. That was the last time I ever saw her.

I still have all of Monique’s letters in a briefcase….there are over fifty of them. I’ve ordered them by dates. The paper is still fresh and clean, and sometimes I think I can smell her when I read the letters. Recently,I read every single one of the letters again, studying each one intently, in order to try to find clues as to what had happened. II took me all night. When I was done, something odd had taken place. I had become obsessed with Monique all over again. I knew that nearly 30 years had passed, but I didn’t care. I was absolutely determined to find her, no matter what it took. I searched the internet and finally, after much effort, I found that Frau Probst was still listed at the same house in Tubingen. I wrote her a long letter, asking if she had ever heard from Monique. I never got a reply. Either Frau Probst had died, or else she’d opined that I was mad as a hatter–which of course, was true.

Even though I know I it’s crazy (Monique would be fifty-something now), I still have dreams about going to France and finding her. I’m pretty sure I could do it (I am very good at finding people). My psychiatrist told me – as I knew he would – that this wouldn’t be a very good idea, but I’m not sure if I agree with him.

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