“Beautiful day today,” I tease my waiter. The air is too thick, the breeze smells like rain. The sun is taking the day off, which is fitting since today is my day off too. He laughs, “It is!” he insists regardless, with a velvety french accent.
“Days like today remind me why I left Paris.” He gestured towards the sky, “The Sunshine state, as they say. No?” I blush. I’m here at my fave little french cafe because I miss Paris. Hungry for my European escape to start, restless for another month, I’ve sought comfort here. French music plays in the background, dangerously sexy accents fly across the kitchen, the smell of pan au chocolate hits your face as you walk in the door. It’s the most romantic little spot. I’ve frequented for years, always on days like today, a little cloudy, a little rainy. Perfect for a bottle of rosé and hours languidly picking at pâtés, walnuts and cheeses. I have every intention of indulging in every last last sip and bite of whatever I want.
I am one of three patrons here this afternoon, each of us in our respective corners. All of us, I shamelessly note, has a bottle of wine to ourselves. The owners are French- I’d met them years ago watching the World Cup at an Irish pub. I think one is here now, with an ever present cigarette in one hand, espresso in the other. It was like he’d left Paris for Miami, but brought a chunk of it with him, just in case.
The feeling I get being here, is exactly the feeling I get in Paris. I am an observer, and I am alone. I don’t know what it is- but I am almost always alone in Paris. My first of many visits was 6 years ago, Paris being my first venture into Europe. I was fresh off of months of work aboard a yacht and was ready for my own adventure.
I arranged to be there for weeks, leaving Michigan post Christmas, flying to Paris for New Years, and returning to Miami. It was such a thrilling idea in theory. Only now, years later, will I admit that I was lonely.
I had planned everything leading up to my arrival and very little of what I’d be doing there for weeks by myself. One night, tired, lost and disoriented, I finally sat in a doorway trying to muster the courage to go eat solo again. A woman in a gorgeous full length fur coat walking a tiny white dog passed me, then doubled back. My jaw dropped at her presence, which filled the doorway (and probably all of Paris) with assertive grace. She began in rapid French, which I meekly interrupted with, “Je ne parle pas français”. She asked me, in lovely English, where I was going and I told her I was looking for a restaurant. She quickly beckoned a right, left, right, and finished with a flourish, pointed finger in my face,
“In Paris- only meat, never fish” before rushing off into the night.
I acclimated to my role of observer, and became familiar with places that are still favorites of mine to this day. One of which is a little Irish pub right by the Seine River in Saint Germain. I went one night to hear a band at the suggestion of the bartender and now friend, Eddy.
“They’re fantastic” he promised.
Arriving early, I sat in front with the little red journal that I kept at all times, penning little snapshots of my time there for safe keeping. The bar filled, and the band took their place, the singer joking with the audience over his microphone as they tuned guitars and checked sound. As they began to play, and my Guinness started to slip down my throat, I warmed and sank into the music.
It was a great night. The band played to the crowd, the crowd played to the band. Toasts were made, songs sung by all bonded us in the moment. The singer grabbed his mike, and as he started transitioning from one song to the next his eyes locked onto mine.
“Where are YOU from?” He questioned.
I gave him the- Me?…Really?!? face, tipped up my chin and said, “Miami.”
“Well,” he laughed looking over the crowd. “Who’s going to buy Miami a drink?” Only then did I turn around and realize that I was the only single girl in the bar. Everyone whooped and hollered like good drunken friends and three shots of Jameson hit my table. Suddenly bashful, I gave one to the singer and raised my glass like a good Irish girl. “This,” he paused for emphasis, looking meaningfully at me. “This song is for you” he toasted and kicked back our whiskey.
“And so it is…” he began to sing the Damien Rice song, The Blowers Daughter. Immediately emotional, tears were in my eyes. I love that song, and as it was happening, I realized simultaneously it would be one of the most romantic moments of my life. Years later, no matter where I am, when I hear that song- I am forever the girl in the pub in Paris with tears running down her face; hopeful, romantic, hopelessly lost.
Inspired, I wrote in my little red journal that night, after stumbling home full of life and love I penned, “I can’t wait to meet the man I’m going to spend my life with, so I can tell him how much I missed him in Paris.” It’s a phrase I’ve thought of a thousand times since then.
Thunder begins to roll. Startled, it brings me back to the here, the now. I ask my waiter for “l’addicion s’il vous plait?” It’s fully raining, drops splashing into my wine and over my plate. As I transfer inside, I change my mind and instead of leaving, I order an espresso and a pan au chocolat. I rationalize I’m not going anywhere. Not anytime soon anyway, so why not? Moments are mine, and this is no exception. I close my eyes, listen to the rain, and relax into my seat.