The Saturday after the awkward hug episode, I slept in late and when I got up, I grabbed lunch by myself at a local deli, then headed downtown to do some work on my computer at a cafe. I stayed an hour or two, then packed up and headed back to my car. I didn’t feel like going home, so I tucked my laptop under the back seat, locked my car and wandered along the boardwalk.
“I feel like being on a boat”
I am very much a water-baby. I love being near water, in the water, on the water. Especially the ocean. As I meandered, I felt a strong desire to be on a boat. It was just past 6:30, so the majority of the boat tours and river cruises had already departed, but I came across one that had a starlight cruise at 9:00. I decided to wait it out at a French café down the boardwalk a little ways.
As I approached the French bistro-style tables and chairs outside the café, I noticed a woman, mid 50s or so with fading red hair pulled into a frizzy ponytail, sitting alone drawing with oil pastels. I paused to take a picture of the awning and the Paris-perfect setting. The woman looked up and smiled at me from under her visor. I smiled back, then took a seat at another table, ordered a cappuccino and pulled out my notebook.
Lately I’ve felt as though all my creative juices have backed up inside my head. My job has acted as a stopper to my artistic voice, preventing the overflow onto paper and other media. But sitting in that bistro chair at the French café, watching the sun set over the water from underneath the blue-striped awning, I felt words take the shape of poetry inside my head, and they flowed down my arm to my pen.
But something stopped me before I could transcribe the feeling onto paper: my ears caught the lilting cadences of the French language – spoken by the red-haired artist to one of the waitresses. Having spent some time in both Paris and Montreal, I am fairly fluent in the language. And I miss it. I miss it so much.
“Vous êtes française?”
After the waitress left, I caught the red-haired woman’s eye and said to her in French, “Excuse me, ma’am, but are you French?”
“Yes,” she said, surprised, “You are too?”
“No, no,” I said, “but I did live in Montreal for a while.”
“It’s so funny,” she said, “I just jotted down in my notebook about this pretty girl who smiled at me and sat down to order a coffee. You have a very European look, you know.”
I smiled again, blushing a little bit, “Thank you.”
We spoke in French a while longer, she complimented my accent, and I got flustered and mixed up a couple of words. Turns out she has lived here for the past 18 years, and she is a part of a French meetup group that gets together once a month to speak in French and do French things. When she left, she gave me “bisous” (an air kiss on each cheek), and we exchanged contact information.
My new friend hung around for a little bit, taking pictures of the sunset, and I got the feeling she might be waiting for me. I didn’t make the connection until after I’d ordered another coffee, though, so after a minute or two, she waved and walked down the boardwalk.
After I finished my second (decaf) cappuccino, I paid and walked down to the boat tour kiosk. The girl at the desk told me the tour was canceled due to lightning. Bummed, I followed the sound of music to a deck party of some kind, then noticed a sign for a basement bar underneath. I wandered down to the door – it looked like the back entrance to somebody’s apartment – and tentatively pushed it open. A friend had told me about this place, and I felt like checking it out – especially since I hadn’t planned on going home so early.
The bar was small – only a handful of tables, all empty, and about 8 or 9 patrons around the bar. A couple of fratty-looking guys played fussball in one corner, and the large, red-bearded bartender (so many red beards!) kept changing the music (which he operated from his ipod) in the middle of songs. I took a seat at a far corner of the bar, pulled out my book, and began to read.
Reading in a bar?
A friend of a friend told me that she makes a ton of friends just going to bars with a book, and this method seemed to have worked at the wine bar, so I thought I’d give it another shot. I must have looked very engrossed, though, because I ended up just finishing a chapter and a beer before closing out and leaving (actually I tried to close out, but there was a $10 minimum on cards, and I didn’t have any cash. I told the bartender just to put $10 on my card, but the couple beside me insisted on buying my beer. Talk about awkward).
Acting neighborly, for once
I called my friend M (remember her?) on my way home to see if she was up to anything. She was already in her PJs. Defeated, I drove back to my apartment and walked through a handful of my college-age neighbors smoking in front of the building. I waved, but didn’t break stride.
“Hey, we’re playing some poker if you’re not doing anything,” one of them called after me. I stopped and looked back at them, considering.
“Well alright,” I said, “not like I’ve got anything else to do.” A few hours later I plodded home, tired, slightly drunk, and $8 lighter. It could have been worse.
Sunday parties – bluegrass, food truck et al
Sunday I found myself working at another cafe, then packing up and meeting M and her boyfriend (who is also M…together they make M&M…ha) at my favorite bar for Sunday bluegrass and a food truck that sold delicious veggie hotdogs. First person I notice is beautiful look-alike drummer man from the week before. I quickly turned tail and headed to the bar. Because that’s what I’m good at. Avoiding people I’m interested in.
Z’s bartender was working; I managed to catch his eye, and I guess he recognized me because he served me right away. Then M&M and I headed outside where it was a little less crowded. We were standing there nursing our beers, when this very intoxicated lanky guy with crazy curly hair down to his shoulders staggered up to us.
This seems to be a theme in my life
“Hey!” he said to me. I looked up, startled. “I remember you!” he said, holding out his hand.
I looked at it, a little confused, before giving him mine to shake.
“Wait, what?” I said, my surprise temporarily overriding my sense of tact.
He looked more and more uncertain, “We met…the other night…” each word grew quieter, and he shrank away, eventually staggering off, leaving the three of us standing there, confused.
“What just happened?” I asked M.
“I have no idea,” she replied. We both looked at M’s boyfriend. He just shrugged and sipped his beer.