"Why I'm Off the Pill" Day FOUR: FROM RAGS TO RICHES. May 2010

I fall asleep. Perfect perfect sleep. Around five am I am woken up by a pang of nausea. Extreme nausea. I'm normally a pretty good sleeper but this same feeling has woken me up in the night at least five times this month.

Last week, I saw the doctor. Something told me it was normal enough to have nausea when I start the pill again, not so normal to spend entire days vomitting from it and having the lovely symptoms of major weight gain and acne. Something in my body was way off. I wasn't sure what it was but I started to wonder if maybe all of it wasn't from the pill at all. Maybe I'm pregnant?

The doctor told me that in her opinion, I should stay on the pill, at least a few more months, the time it takes to really adjust. She gives me a pill for my nausea and tells me at the very least that I absolutely must finish the package. And, if by the end of it, I really feel like I can't do it anymore, to go ahead and go off of it and to find another means of birth control.

Every woman who takes even minute risks in this department thinks that she's pregnant several times a year. I know because this is not the first time I've been making my own symptoms fit the bill. From what I gatherned, their breasts grow, they become emotional, they get acne, they get uncontrollably hungry, nausea and just feel plain different - BINGO. Now, there are several things that can explain ALL of my symptoms. One big one, being the depression brought on by the pill that makes you feel like you're pregnant. My breasts are growing because I'm getting fat. I'm emotional because I can't take all the hormones. I've got acne because I'm stressed about my behaviour. I'm starving because we've had nothing but canned crap since we left Paris and I've become used to a certain way of things. Nausea, again - TOTALLY the pill and I'm certain. Feeling plain different? Well, who wouldn't with all of these things happening to my body?

I get up and have another shower. Michael has mentionned sleeping on a beach a couple times in the past couple days. You all know what that means. I need to take advantage while I have one.

While I'm getting all lathered up, I pull the shower head off the wall and the metal breaks off right in my hands. I've just broken the B & B's fancy shower. What is wrong with me? I start to cry. Yes, I know - somebody put me out of my misery.

I head out to the patio and read a bit of Walden. For anyone who hasn't read this book and is looking for spirituality in a world where they find none, I highly reccomend it. There is something very 'roots' about it. These days I'm finding it hard to focus on what's important but this guy is doing it for me and for a little while, I'm comfortable. I'm calm. I'm not a bitch.

Michael wakes up and tells me he's barely slept. We talk about what to do with the day. He wants to go hiking. I desperately crave laziness. As always, he is sweet and let's me choose. It's settled. We're going to find a beach and just relax. Later on, we'll decide what to do for the night. He doesn't like this place much, though, so we're going to head to the dining room for breakfast and check out.

The superficiality of the place's charm becomes brutally clear at the base of the stairwell. There are brochures everywhere. Tourism posters. I've forgotten for a moment that we're not at the Ardeche headquarters. I'm okay for leaving this place too.

We sit down to breakfast and I confess to her that I've broken her shower. She tells me there's no need to worry. Breakfast is way better here than at the last place. Fresh crumbly croissants au beurre, hot baguettes, a thermos full of coffee and orange presse. I'm a happy gal. Jars and jars of homemade jams: kiwi, apricot, peach, strawberry-orange, honey. And of course fresh butter. I wonder when I will tire of French butter.

Michael stays behind to pay the bill and I head back to the room contemplating a third hot shower. He comes back and asks me if I have any cash. The woman doesn't take carte bleu - only cash, and the price of the room is suddenly more than advertised in the brochure. I've got forty but searching through the car we come up with another eight. We tear through all of our belongings and four more euros surface. In the process, the wet canoe stuff has gotten mixed up with the dry stuff and the leftover food. It's starting to look more and more like my high school bedroom and my wet running shoes are emitting a new friendly odour throughout the vehicle.

Coming back to the clean bedroom, I sigh a little. Michael heads back up to the breakfast room to ask the woman if she'll accept what we've got, despite being a few euros short. Where we are, we're at least 25 minutes away from the closest bank machine. I really wish I hadn't broken her shower or at least that we'd waited to tell her about it until she'd realized we were long gone. She agrees anyway, probably out of a simple desire to get rid of us and I grab the rest of my stuff from the room while we load ourselves back into the car and set off back to town to decide what to do next. Dammit. I'm feeling nauseous again.

We pass by an open winery and Michael wants to buy a case of red to bring home with us. Normally, I would think this is a marvelous idea but at the moment, I can't think of anything but my spinning head. We go back to the car and I want to lie down but looking in our back seat of shit I know that's not a possibility. Michael looks irritated. "How the Hell can she seriously be sick again?" I wish he could feel what I was feeling. If he could, he'd get it. I'm not trying to ruin everything. I don't want to feel this out of control but just the sound of his voice is making matters worse. He keeps repeating that he wants me to be happy and I am looking through my mind for a switch to turn off the hormones but I can't find one. We drive with the windows down for a bit. On the way into the village, I noticed a sign for Olive Oil. I want to stop and get some. The prices for a litre are outrageous and I'm disgusted. All around us, people are advertising their love of lavender and I wonder if a little essential oil might calm me down a bit and let me sleep. Then, it happens again. I start to cry. What the Hell is going on?

We do a little tour of Vallon Pont d'Arc. It's a cute little village - reminds me a lot of Whistler. The same store over and over again; same outfits, different colours. Capitalism-friendly over-pricing. We walk around the small church in the middle of the square and watch an older couple planting in their backyard. The image reminds me of Millet's painting: l'Angelus. The tableau has always been a metaphor for pregnancy for me and watching them, I get a strange feeling in my belly and a worry that the pill hasn't been doing its job. What if all of this, it's because I'm knocked up. Wouldn't that just be a bitch. I never should have said out loud that I don't want to have children. I was asking for it.

I stop at the pharmacy to talk to the pharmacist about my symptoms. She tells me that it's very unlikely that I am pregnant, especially since I haven't yet missed a period. She gives me a test anyway and I take the bag with me. We've decided to head back to Pont d'Arc, to find a beach and to 'chill out' as we say where I'm from.

We find a path off the highway that leads down to the water. We walk along the water and across the rocks and find ourselves stuck between a literal rock and a hard place and have to cross a cold waterfall to get through. It's warm in the sun and I'm so happy, napping topless on the river. We're the only ones around - can't even hear voices - the only evidence that there was someone here before us is an abandonned canoe leading to a Grotte. We have lunch. Well, that's not true. Michael has lunch. I can't stomach raw beets, stale bread and pink cheese. After a while, we decide to head to a sandy beach below and swim a bit. The water is cold but it feels nice and nicer still to strip down to next to nothing and lie in the sun.

After I down half a litre of water, I'm ready to do the test. I sneak into the bushes while Michael sleeps under a tree and pee on the stick. Then, I wait. It's negative. Thank God, it's negative. I put the peed-on stick back in the bag with the groceries hoping that if found, it might inspire a new menu for the rest of the week. Lying there, I'm starting to get hungry but don't want to say anything after turning down the beets and the bread and the cheese in an attempt to avoid "I told you so."

I suggest we get in the car and find some lunch. Michael says he's hungry too. We head up to a little shack off the road. They've just stopped serving lunch but the barman offers to make me a sandwich. Michael eats a Solero - the European version of the Creamsicle. My sandwich is unbelievably good. I never want it to end. Nice salad, crudites, ham and cheese. It's absurd. It's like the first sandwich I've ever had in my life. Fresh baguette, perfect. The irony being, in Paris, I eat on average four or five ham sandwiches a week. There is nothing extraordinary about the sandwich at all, it just tastes like home. I just need a few minutes of home. Michael just needs a second Solero. And a third.

Living over here, some days it's exactly what I imagined. It's inspiring and beautiful - it's listening to the most beautiful music you've ever heard in the most beautiful places you've ever seen - it's Heaven. And some days, most days, I'd say even, it feels like home now. Still, every now and again, even often, I'd say, you realize that you're only on vacation in Heaven. That you're not from here, that things are different. That no matter how much you need strangers to be nice to you, that you desperately want a salesperson to help you or even just a simple moment when everything's not so fucking serious, a day to go off without a zillion complications, I cannot have that here. I can't just call up my best friends and have them talk me down. I'm here and I'm on my own. And that's a tough thing to deal with when you're suffering an emotional and hormonal breakdown.

Michael suggests we go back to the beach, relax a ltitle more and then head towards Nice and stop whenever we just can't keep going. He's enthusiastic and optimistic and in any normal situation, it would be the perfect thing to say. Only I know he doesn't want to go there. It's got to be the cheesiest place in France. I'm fully expecting it and I've never been. At the same time, I'm up for anything - I'm in France for fuck's sake! Any place is a wonderful place. Every experience is worth it. It's not something I'm going to say 'no' to seeing and there is no chance we can rough it on the Cote d'Azur. Yes, I love that plan. Let's do that.

Once we're back in the car and about to get on the highway, I'm feeling instantly guilty about the choice. The martyr in me almost doesn't want to give him the satisfaction of being the 'nice one'. We're both so stubborn. I'm sure I'm right. He's sure he's right too. I hate that he usually is. It eats away at me knowing that at the moment, I am out of control. Being aware of my mood is making me feel like I have to overcompensate and the overcompensation is getting on my nerves. How is it fair to have to conceal this stuff? Does he think I want to be a bitch right now. That I've been eagerly waiting for a chance to be a bitch for a whole week? Does anyone want that? If you do, I've got the perfect prescription for you.

That and a guy asking you to read the map better but not before taking repeated breaks to second-guess your every navigational choice.

I've wanted to see Aix en Provence since I came to France. I haven't got a clue why. It sounded beautiful. Just the name of the place made me think of paitings and Lavender bushels. I see that we're close so I ask if we can stop and take a look. It was surreal driving up to it and seeing that it's just le Marais the sequel but with more fountains. Fountains, fountains everywhere and a shopper's heaven. It's cute but I'm not in the mood (or in the company) to shop and it looks like everything is about to close anyhow. The only thing I could really use is a bathing suit. I'm totally regretting not having bought one in Ardeche. Anyone who knows me knows I really don't give a shit what people think. My only goal in dressing myself, most days, anyway (Nuit Blanche and theme events most definitely excluded) is blending in. At the moment, however, I'm in fancy-town and I'm dressed like a trucker.

We decide just to have an 'apero'. A cheap glass of something on a terrace where there are no cars. We find one but as usual, struggle to place an order. It takes time. They bring a plate of garlic olives along with the wine and I eat way too many and can't help but remember the sex talk my mother gave me in that greek restaurant when I puked and ran out of the place upon hearing the word 'erection' come out of her mouth. I was eight. Anyway, it's enough to make me chuckle. I'm in a good mood and for at least a couple hours, I can see clearly. I'm truly sorry for not being a better sport. I can do better than this. I am bigger than this. And for the first time in a long time, I'm longing to remove my ovaries and to be free.

We come back to the car and Michael wants to take a nap. I can't blame him one bit. He's exhausted from the drive and the more I look at the map (yes, I have started to look at it, to get it, to laugh at what a jerk I've been about it - of course it's quite useful - especially when you understand what all the letters and the colours mean. I've even started to legend into consideration), the more I realize that we're an awful long way from Nice and that we'd better pick another end point for the day. If I could drive, I would happiily take over but this is neither the moment nor the car in which to take chances or learn a stick shift.

We pick Frejus. I like it already because it sounds like Jesus. I haven't got a clue what to expect. Michael's been here before. We arrive at a bunch of round points that all seem to direct us in different directions. We're in a land of beaches so a street sign saying 'beach' isn't entirely useful to us. We find a parking spot in the little village and decide to seek out a pizza. I'm so happy I could cry.

There is a little pizzeria down an alley and to the left. Everything else in town seems to be closed. I'm dreaming about mozzerlla and basil and I think I could eat a whole one on my own. When we pop in, there is a very nice woman manning the ovens and what could be her son working in the front of house, pulling in the 'open' sign. They serve us and I'm grateful. Looking at the menu, Michael wants the basic Margherita. Any other day, this would be my only option. For some reason, I'm drawn to the name of the pizza below it because it has basil and mozzella and emmenthal. What I fail to notice is that this is a sauceless pizza. Michael seems a little irritated but as usual, abides by my choice. I know if he were English, he'd come out, in a cute little accent with "Whatever the lady wants." We sit there waiting. To my right, there is a huge stack of trashy magazines. I haven't picked one up since the last timeI was at the hairdressers and they're full of beautiful woman with beautiful bodies. Looking down at my stained spandex and dirty sweater, I'm not feeling too beautiful. Seeing a photo of a coked-out Lindsay Lohan, though, I'm relieved that I could look worse. The pizza is horrible but we pass a nice moment together mowing down on an old bench in front of the little town chuch.

The closer we get to the sea, the more excited I am. Michael thinks we should find a spot close to the ocean and sleep in the car.

"Or we could just sleep on the beach?" he suggests au dernier moment.

Problem is, I don't have a sleeping bag. As usual, when these types of situations come up, I am the perpetual 'make the most of it' kind of gal. I'm not going to buy a sleeping bag for one night. It's absurd. I've brought an old duvet from the apartment and a ratty 'housse de couette'. When I was little I used to dream of sleeping outside in the snow with only my fluffy duvet to cover me. Tonight, I'm getting sleepy and I'm cold. It's a bit windy by the ocean and what I really want is a good night's sleep so that I can feel half normal again tomorrow. We can't find a parking spot near the water. We drive for what feels like forever trying. Everywhere is either reserved for the rich who own sea-side palaces or else closed to vehicle traffic. I notice that there is a parking lot for a windsurfing school just beside.

Michael goes to check out the spot and see if he can find a nice spot to park his sleeping bag so he can make the most of the great outdoors. I opt for staying in the car and within a minute, I'm sound asleep. That past couple sleepless nights have done me in. I half want to join Michael on the beach (just to be with him because nothing sounds more romantic than cuddling up beside your lover and listening to the waves crash on the beach) but I'm half determined to stay here in the car, where it's warm, where my duvet covers me and glass keeps the bugs from biting my earlobes. Poor Michael seems less enthused because I don't want to join him. I try to make him understand why. I know that one more night of insomnia could potentially ruin us both and that I may end up destroying our relationship completely if I don't cheer the fuck up. I need to sleep tonight. I need to be where it's warm. I know Michael. He can sleep anywhere. All he has to do is close his eyes and it's settled. I wish I were so lucky. I know if I'm out there tonight on that beach, I'll listen to him breathe peacefully but I won't sleep a wink. I'll lie there ressentful, jealous of his 'sommeil' and dreaming of going back to the car. No, tonight, I'm going to sleep. I'm going to stay put.

"When I wake up, I'll come join you on the beach but I'm too cold tonight. I really need to sleep"


I lock the door and roll down the passenger's seat and settle in for what will be one of my first sleeps in a car. I'm so exhausted, I have no problem drifting off.

There's a knock at the window. It's Michael.

"Just want to make sure you haven't changed your mind. It's beautiful and I've found a great spot. Maybe tomorrow we could dry windsurfing..."

I've got the shivers from having the door open for just a moment.

"No, I'm good here, I'm sure. Bonne nuit and fais des beaux reves."

"Bonne nuit," he heads back all alone to his beach with a view, full moon lighting up the water's edge and the soft sound of the sea lapping at his feet. In my mind, I'm with him there, snuggling up in a one-man, sub-zero sleeping bag. In reality, I'm passing out in a dirty car with empty bags of chips at my feet, a crusty duvet and stanky shoes for pot pourri. There is no traffic tonight. And I can hear myself think nice things again. I am thankful for having such a great man in my life and know that with a little warming up tonight, a nice swim in the ocean, a hot shower and some laying in the sun, by tomorrow evening, I'll be begging for a reprise. This is any rational woman's most romantic fantasy. A night on a sandy beach under a full moon in the South of France with your lover. C'mon. I've obviously got a screw loose.

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