True Horror are ordinary thieves outside the underbelly of Paris-Part 25


Mme HARMONY asked Mr STOOL to tie two chairs on a small lorry.  He did this and asked if she wanted him to deliver the chairs to her other apartment.  Mme. HARMONY declined to say that she could not be so impolite to her good friend.  And yet, as soon as Mr STOOL left, she turned back in her usual tone and told me to deliver her chairs across the old town of Paris at 11:30 p.m.  Her lips had a sheepish smile, but her eyes were malicious.  

If the Police kept the records of the city cameras that night, you would see me, a tiny Japanese woman pushing two chairs twice the size of herself across Paris.  My arm muscle ached, but so did my heart.  I could not adjust to the sobering reality that Mme. HARMONY was not quite the philanthropist that I had believed her to be.  

I remembered this recent cocktail party held at Mme. HARMONY’s apartment, the one I had just left.  I felt honoured to be invited so I dressed up for the occasion and brought a thank you gift.  Mme. HARMONY happily accepted the gift and seated me.   More guests arrived, and I was impressed by the diversity of her circle.  The conversation turned to the numerous trips Mme HARMONY had taken, which the French ladies envied.  Mme HARMONY gleefully explained that her former foreign students or the immigrants she had helped wished to travel with her.  Mme HARMONY paused and smiled at me.  A guest said, ‘will your next trip will to Japan?’  I adored her dearly back then, so I immediately asked her to join me in the year of the Tokyo Olympics.  Another woman asked, ‘would you take a ship like last year?  It must have cost you a fortune.’  

‘Non,  it’s not my problem.’ 

Now, I would not have asked her, my guest, to pay the expenses on a trip to Japan, but the casual way she took it for granted was sobering.  She had been on countless expenses-paid trips in exchange for her ‘volunteer services.  Suddenly, the party lost its charm.  

At midnight, I carried her heavy chairs up the four staircases to Mme  HARMONY’s apartment.  After witnessing the two faces of Mme HARMONY, I had to concede that I had been exploited all along.  She knew I was suffering from chronic insomnia because of the unsympathetic bar restaurant below my apartment.  And yet she chose to take advantage of my weak state.  She denounced Mr PRIDE for being money orientated, but she was no better.  At least, Mr PRIDE was not a moocher.  

Around this time, I noticed that things went missing every time Mme HARMONY visited my place.   In the beginning, Mme. HARMONY would ask if she wished to borrow something from me.  Then gradually, ‘borrowed’ became ‘taken.’  After 16 months, she would simply take them and would be cross if I retrieved my things from her apartment.  Still, I made excuses for her, telling myself that her advanced age made her forgetful.  In hindsight, she was miserly to the bone, but I did not want to see it then.  My plate was already full of dark malice from the restaurant from Hell; I could not handle another type of evil. 

Mirror that reflects your soulSo, I got to work in her apartment in the cold month of December.  I spent two days scraping off the old layers, filling up the numerous holes.  A professional painter would tell you that this was the most tedious painting process.  Still, I did it because the Japanese would honour their promises.  It was becoming evident that Mme HARMONY did not see me as her equal, but a promise was a promise.  Mme HARMONY had taught many Japanese students and spoke fondly of their politeness, but what she really appreciated was their obedience she could exploit.  She knew I would complete any demanding task once I took it upon.   

However, I had underestimated her avarice, financial or any forms.  She told me that her heater was not working.  She made me work in an unheated apartment during the coldest month of winter in Paris.  She even forbids me to use her toilet, yet she would use mine.  To save on toilet paper?  Are French women this misery and shameless?   If so, no amount of elegant fashion would conceal their vile.  Thoroughly disgusted, I wished to finish the job as fast as possible.  I found a way to peel off the black wallpaper.   

Unfortunately, it did not make my work easier because there was still a lot of dried glue stuck on the wall, and removing them was tedious.  I spent three whole days removing the bonds, but Mme. HARMONY was not satisfied by the result.  She wrote an email to me so there would be no misunderstanding that her son was appalled that Mme HARMONY was expected to fix my lousy job.  If he had come, why did he not help his mother?  Perhaps, Mme HARMONY raised her children with the idea that immigrants were a source of free labour.  

Just in case you thought I might have done a lousy job, let me tell you about this professional painter the insurance company sent to paint the ceiling of Mme HARMONY’s apartment.  There had been a leek on her roof.  The painter did a good job, but Mme HARMONY said it was NOT, pointing at the one tiny, oh, so tiny spot left near the window.  She refused to pay unless the painter did more extra work for her.  The greedy woman was after freebies.  

It turned so ugly that the boss had to come.  After the heated argument, the painters left fuming.  The boss insisted on shaking hands with me before leaving, but not with Mme HARMONY.  He told me, ' That is a nasty woman there,’ indicating that other French women were nicer.  I was much relieved to hear that.  Perhaps other French women were not as vulgar and would use their own water and paper to flush down their shame.