Ah, Paris, where everyone seems to be saying something wonderful, something sensuous and sexual, even when they aren’t. Ah, Paris, home of the Eiffel Tower, the Arche de Triumphe, a river with left and right banks (how wonderful is that!), and more cafes and bottles of wine than people.
Ah, Paris, I’ve never been there. Everything I know about Paris I’ve learned in books and subtitled movies, and the gushing endorsements from friends old and young whose hearts have been captured by La Ville-Lumière, the City of Light.
Oh, I know you yearn for me, Paris. That you call to me, siren that you are, to fly to you now, so you can remove yourself from my bucket list, which in all honesty, is a 50-gallon drum of unfulfilled desires. Alas, I may be too old for you now. The travel brochure photographs, which once drew me in with their promise of romance and adventure, now seem to say, “Gosh, this would mean a LOT of walking around, not to mention that long, tiring flight. Maybe I should just buy a croissant at Starbucks and call it a day.”
On the other hand, there was that incident in Nice many years back. I was sitting alone in an outdoor café, reflecting on my disappointing day at the beach, trying my best not to think about the naked octogenarian women who had surrounded me there, their skin bronzed to leather by the sun, their breasts turned to flounders by gravity and time. Where were the nubile young women from the brochures?
And then I saw her. By her dress and manner, I knew she was French. That and the fact that she was speaking fluent French to the waiter. And she was brochure beautiful.
“Je prendarai la meme chose qu’eux,” she said to the waiter, who nodded and walked away.
I had no idea what she had said, but the WAY she had said it suggested she wanted to have sex with someone, anyone, now. And then she locked her eyes on me, and my 50-gallon drum suddenly seemed too small to contain my desires.
I averted my eyes in an attempt to resist. But how long can a man poke at his escargot without looking like an idiot? About ten seconds by my estimation. So I looked up again, and she winked, sending me diving back to my escargot, my 50-gallon drum whispering that perhaps a tanker truck might be needed.
I offered a smile, she offered a leer. And on it went throughout dinner, glance for glance, gesture for gesture, until she suddenly stood and walked directly to my table.
“Veuillez cacher votre visage avant que je vomisse,” she said, turning on her heels and walking away.
Ah, Paris, if only I knew French. I didn’t know what to say or whether to follow her, so I just sat there. Now, so many years later, I wonder if I would run into her again. Perhaps she was from Paris. Perhaps we could pick up where we had left off. I mean, it’s possible, right?