Charlie was away for lunch yesterday, so I “treated” myself to a steak, and you’d think I’d eaten an entire cow instead of a relatively small piece of one. I don’t know how lions do it. Being all-but-vegetarian has ruined my digestion.
Ah, well, life is full of these lessons and sorrows.
ANYWAY, here is today’s story:
April in Paris
by Marian Allen
The waitress, her voice husky from the Galois I’d seen her smoking earlier, said, “Madame? S’il vous plait?”
I tore myself from watching Paris pass on the other side of the cafe’s railing and looked at her. A man stood behind her.
She said, still in French, of course, “There are no more tables. May I seat the gentleman with you?”
He was squat, with receding black hair, his complexion a dusky pinkish-brown, pudgy jowls clean-shaven but dark with the heavy beard beneath the skin. He flashed me a grin when his darting eyes swept past me.
I didn’t really fancy it, but I didn’t want to put the waitress to the trouble of asking someone else. “D’accord,” I said, and was glad I had when she offered us each a white wine on the house for sharing a table.
When she had gone to fetch them, my table companion spoke to me for the first time: “Thanks. Uh, mairsee.”
A fellow American. I was tempted to continue to speak French – good French – just to enjoy his pitiful attempts at it.
He busted me, though: “Oh, you’re American.”
I raised an eyebrow. “How could you tell?”
“Your watch. American off-brand, lower mid-price range, only sold in the States, nothing you’d buy for a souvenir or get as a gift.”
I made a note to buy a new watch in the morning.
“You seem to know a lot about watches.”
At least speaking to him made his eyes rest on me instead of trying to check all of his surroundings at once.
“I’m part of the costume team at Prime Studios. I’m a detail man. We’re here on location.”
The waitress brought the small plate of bread, cheese, and fruit I’d ordered.
“Mairsee,” he said, pulling out his wallet. “I’ll get it.” He pointed to the plate, tapped the table, and pointed to himself.
The waitress told him the price for two, I translated, and he paid.
“I appreciate you letting me sit here,” he said. “God! It’s good to talk to somebody outside of work! How long you been over here?”
“A month.” An entire month of a precious three, gone. But two, two, two lovely months left to savor.
“A month? And you aren’t crazy yet? How can you stand it?”
“How can I stand Paris?”
“Everything is so … foreign.”
I took a sip of wine so I wouldn’t have to respond to that.
He lifted his own glass. “At least the booze is good.”
When the waitress brought my table-mate’s food, I locked gazes with her and asked her to package the rest of my order to take away. She apologized, and I assured her I didn’t blame her, and that I would be back many times more during my stay. She carried my plate off to await me as I left.
“What was that all about?” he asked, as if he had a right to know.
“I was expecting a call, and the waitress told me it had just come. I’ll need to take this with me and hope I can finish it later.”
“Oh. Where are you staying? Maybe we can get together while we’re both in town. Americans in Paris, yeah?”
I considered telling him I was leaving, but the heart of Paris is surprisingly small, and the odds were good our paths would cross again.
“Forgive me,” I said, “but I don’t know you. I prefer not to say.”
“Oh, right, right, sure. Smart girl. Lady. Woman. Person.” His eyes flicked about again. The fingers of one hand drummed on the table. Those of the other arranged and rearranged the silverware.
I suddenly thought of Lenore, my Parisian landlady’s sister, who had spent a year studying in California and had never stopped talking about it.
“You need a guide,” I said. “Someone fluent in French and English, who knows Paris but longs for America.”
He almost relaxed, just contemplating it. “Yeah, I do!”
“Is there a number where you can be reached?”
He pulled out a business card, pulled out a cell phone to check the number, and wrote it on the back of the card. “They gave us these when we got to the set,” he said. “Had to leave our real phones at home.”
Their “real” phones. I took the card. Lenore would love him.
Such is Paris.
~ * ~
MY PROMPT TODAY: Place, time, time of year, weather 1 loves, 1 hates