Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Exiled granny the supermarket
I had borrowed twenty euros from a friend. I had those twenty euros, no more, no less. I spent more time in the supermarket than usual to make sure I got the maximum bang for the buck. So called discount stores in the center of Paris don’t live up to their name as even the generic products on the lowest self are twice as expensive than the same in lower income neighborhoods. In the waiting line I added up prices once again in my head to avoid any embarrassing moments at the checkout counter, in front of the cashier. Some prices were slightly higher than those mentioned on the price tags but I scarcely made it.
   A gray haired lady in front of me was still packing her trolley shopping bag, which was now full even though some articles still lay on the counter. Other customers started getting irritated in the line. Too late, the lady realized that the trolley was too heavy and she couldn’t move it. Has she never been in a supermarket before? Anxious she glanced at the people around her. One can’t fill a shopping bag with twenty euros and my purchases were not heavy. I proposed to pull her trolley with the condition that she was not living far from the supermarket.

She had a superior smile on her face
Once outside I supposed she would turn in the direction of the council buildings. Instead, she headed towards the bridge, in the direction of Ile Saint Louis. I found it hard to believe that the granny shopping alone in Franprix was living on the prestigious Island in the middle of Paris. Maybe we would just cross the river to the Left Bank. She didn’t talk much. When she turned her head to look at the river I noticed her fine nose. She had a kind but somehow superior smile constantly on her face. The granny guided me to the west extremity of Ile Saint Louis. The mysterious granny happened to live in front of the place with the view of the Seine from her living room window. There was no lift so I carried the caddy up the stairs. It was hard and I wondered how she could have ever made it all alone. Anyhow, her apartment on the floor just above the building’s entrance, kind of an intermediary floor called entresol, was lacking light and rather modestly decorated. This kind of apartment with a low ceiling had generally lower rent than the floor above, more splendid in height and decoration. However, in Ile Saint Louis there is no such a thing as low rent. Every rat hole costs a small fortune.

Once inside the granny took a brick of lukewarm fruit juice from her trolley and poured me a glass. She handled the brick delicately like holding a precious teapot. She still didn’t do much talking, just thanked me simply and warmly when I left, the indecipherable smile still on her face. Once at the front door of the building, the guardian, who had peeped curious through the lace curtains when we entered, stepped out.
-          The princess is so nice and such a simple person, isn’t she?
-          Princess? I asked surprised.
-          Neith, the princess of Egypt! The guardian jubilated having been the one who broke the news.
At the same time she was amused about the fact that I didn’t know what kind of person I was dealing with. Her eyes were animated when she explained how the royal family was exiled to Paris some decades ago when she herself was still a young girl and her mother was the guardian of the house. She let me understand that some of the royal family members had died of a sleeping pill overdose in some of Europe’s palace hotels. Neith, one of the last members of the family and now impoverished led a lonely and sad life in Paris. She had gradually sold her other apartments in the building and kept only the entresol which she now occupied. Now she had no more properties to sell. The decoration being modest, the worthy furniture must have gone as well, piece by piece.

   I was astonished. Instead of assisting an ordinary poor elderly person, I had given my helping hand to a princess. One never knows, maybe she needed my help more than others.

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