Dream of: 23 March 1997 "Jean Valjean"

I had been talking with Donna, telling her how much I wanted to go to Europe and work there. I didn't think she or anyone understood just how strongly I felt about this. I highlighted the depth of my desire by saying I would accept any type of job which I could find in Europe. I would take a job at a fast food restaurant, at a McDonalds even. I would even shovel manure all day, if only I could live in Europe.

Donna seemed to somewhat understand. I wasn't expecting what she told me next: she said she had already found a job for herself in London. The job (although not high-level) was at least in an office, and was definitely much better than a job at McDonalds. Apparently she had discovered the job, quickly made application, and had been hired. I was definitely impressed. Apparently it was somewhat easier to find work in England than on the continent, and Donna asked me if I would take any kind of work I could find in England. I had to pause and think about that. Finally I told her I really didn't want to live in England, because I wanted to live in an environment where English wasn't the language. I wouldn't completely rule England out, but I wouldn't accept just any job there.

***

I was walking through the streets of Paris, headed to work on Friday, the last day of my first week of working in Paris. I was thinking about Donna, who was also living and working in Paris. We had become intimate since we had both moved to Paris. In fact, I was only now beginning to realize how close I felt to her, and how much I depended on her. I imagined being with her, talking to her, and saying, "If you left me now I don't know what I would do."

I thought I would be seeing her tonight after work, and I wondered what we would do together on our first weekend in Paris.

As I had been walking along, several people had strolled by me, and I had picked up bits and pieces of their conversations. I heard one person mention the name of a character from a French novel from the 1800s. Then I heard another person mention another character, "Jean Valjean." I thought to myself this was what I liked about Paris: people here were familiar with history and literature, and talked about it. How often did I walk down an American street and overhear two or three different conversations about characters from literature, especially literature more than 100 years old?

Parts of the story of author Victor Hugo's novel, Les Miserables, flashed through my mind. I pictured how Jean Valjean had been convicted of stealing a loaf of bread, imprisoned for long years, and escaped from prison. The character seemed so alive and vibrant in me, I just loved thinking about him.

Yet another couple women passed me, and they also were talking of Jean Valjean. I heard a little more of their conversation, and I realized they were talking about a movie called Jean Valjean which had recently been released. The movie – based on Hugo's book, Les Miserables – was supposed to be one of the best movies of the year. The women highly praised it.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I could take Donna to see the movie tonight. That would be perfect. The only drawback was that it would be expensive and I wasn't making much money at my new job. I tried to calculate how much it would cost. I knew I was being paid in German marks, and I thought I was only making about 40 marks a day. I figured the movie would cost about 40 marks, equivalent to a whole day's work. That was a lot for me, but nevertheless, I still wanted to go.

I was getting closer to my place of employment, and I was dreading the thought of arriving. I hated the work I was doing. I worked in one little room by myself all day. The only thing I did was mop the floor of the little room, which somehow was continually becoming wet. It was grueling, mind-dulling work. I was proud I had been able to make it through the week, but I was beginning to somewhat waiver. I wondered what Donna thought of what I was doing. I figured she didn't think I would be able to stick it out with the job much longer, but she didn't realize just how important it was for me to stay in Paris. So even though the work was taking its toll on me, I still intended to keep at it.

I noticed an older woman and another person who worked in the same building as me were now following me a few steps behind. They also were obviously headed to work. I reached a place in the sidewalk where I had to walk down some stairs, about 20 steps, and it occurred to me I might impress the people behind me by floating down the stairs instead of walking. So when I reached the top of the stairs, I leapt forward so my body was parallel to the ground, about a meter high, and I gently and gracefully floated down the stairs. At the bottom I had to manipulate under a curved arch which rose over the stairs. I had no problem whatsoever, and once I had passed under the arch, I lightly landed on the other side. I didn't even turn back to see if the others walking behind me had seen me; I just kept going.

I continued walking along the street a while before I realized I had passed the entrance to my building. I turned back and retraced a few steps and reached the front door just at the same time as the two people who had been walking behind me. The older woman shook her head sideways, as if to say there must be something wrong with me if I could walk right past the door and not see it. The three of us walked through the shadowy cavernous hallway, all headed to our different rooms.

As I began ascending the ancient wooden stairs towards my room, my thoughts again turned to Donna and the movie later in the night. Only now did I remember that since I had begun working at this new job, I had met another woman in whom I had developed an interest. This woman also worked by herself in one of the tiny rooms of this building, and I wanted to get to know her better. I was unsure, but it seemed I was already somehow committed to go out with her this evening. I wasn't even sure she and Donna weren't the same person. They certainly seemed like two different people, but I was having a difficult time differentiating them.

However I couldn't concentrate on that. I was already late, since it was close to 9:00 a.m. and I was supposed to be at work at 8:30 a.m. I had never been late before. Fortunately my boss wasn't here today, so I probably wouldn't be reprimanded. I hurried up the stairs, and headed towards my little cell-like room.

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