Love in Paris
April - 1998
I didn't think I'd find it. Wasn't looking for it. But it was all around me. I returned home from my month in Paris, a soul-searching sojourn, not a pleasure trip, with many overwhelming impressions of the "La Ville-Lumière", the City of Light. This vignette resonates to this day.
I quickly established my presence each morning at a café a short stroll from my flat on Rive Gauche, in the sixth arrondissement. The short jaunt alone was rife with sights and sounds and smells that put me perfectly in the mood for café au lait and some quiet contemplation.
The café was across a small, quiet intersection from an outdoor produce market. Behind the fruit-laden display stood a small, dark haired French girl. Upon discovering she barely spoke English, combined with my very limited French, we were unable to communicate beyond pointing and nodding and yes, smiling.
I would observe her discreetly from my perch outside the café. She would go long periods without a customer. She seemed bored and, I sensed, forlorn. Occasionally her gaze met mine.
One morning, I stopped by a flower stall a half block up from her market and bought a dozen gorgeous orange roses. As I approached, her face lit up. I simply handed them to her, nodded, and continued on to the café.
It proved prescient on my part to not attach the gesture to words, to not require anything more from her than that traffic stopping smile I grew to anticipate each morning.
And that's just what I did for the next two weeks. Each morning I wordlessly handed her a dozen roses (they were not at all overpriced like in the states), smiled, and went on my way. Her fellow employees caught on quickly, and from behind my International Herald Tribune, I reveled in her curiosity as she tried to explain to them, while subtly gesturing toward me. The boredom of the produce stand was now cut with rumors and intrigue. Who was the American? Why was he keeping his distance?
When I moved to another flat a few blocks away for the second half of my stay, I finally spoke to her, as I handed her a final dozen roses.
I lifted my hand toward hers. She rested her hand in mine.
I kissed it.
"Je t'aime," I said. "Au revoir."
And before she could say anything, I was gone.