Archive for September, 2014

Relaxation

I nibble contently on my salad, sip my wine, and watch the stream of humanity passing by. Everyone in the café is speaking in such low tones the ambient sound is like the soft rumbling of distant thunder. I am slipping into a deep relaxation, feeling like a cat on a windowsill.

I can’t help noticing a handsome couple to my right. The waiter comes to their table only when they pause in their conversation. How thoughtful. Perhaps this waiter would rather submit to the guillotine than to bother them. Who knows? They might be falling in love.

le café

le café

Ah yes, the beauty of a French café is that waiters leave you alone. They give you time to ruminate, dream and create. Can you imagine Gustav Flaubert sitting in a café, writing his masterpiece, Madame Bovary, while a waiter keeps bugging him with “Do you want more bread?”

Paris is woven with daydreams of creativity in her fabric. Literature, music, art—such great ideas have been conceived in Parisian cafés—the incubators of genius.

With my glass and salad plate now empty, my mind drifts aimlessly as I contemplate my existence. I dream that I am creating the most exemplary novel of the 21st century.

After an hour and a half of this lovely-Parisian-café-induced reverie, the sun has set and I must move on. I motion to the waiter for l’addition (the check). He nods. Ah, I have communicated my desire by simply raising my finger. Wonderful. But then I don’t see him for fifteen minutes. I catch his eye again. He nods. He goes to every table in the room but mine. I’ve been left alone with my thoughts now for almost two hours.

I’m no Flaubert—I just want to stand up and see if my legs still work.

Finally, he comes with the check. I pull out my Visa card and he says “Ah!” and rushes away. My heart sinks. But in a moment, he returns with a small, hand-held credit card machine. How clever! He runs it at the table, I sign the receipt, and I’m free.

 

 

Dining alone

When the waiter comes back, he leans slightly and crooks his head to the side.

« Vous avez choisi ? » he asks. (You’ve decided ?)

I look up at him, praying he will understand my vowels.

Oui, je voudrais un chablis et une salade vegétarienne, s’il vous plait, monsieur,” I say. What a mouthful. I rehearsed it beforehand, remembering to purse my lips like “oooo” to say une and popping my syllables like marching toy soldiers in ve-gé-ta-ri-enne.

He nods and leaves. So far, so good. He understands me and I haven’t knocked anything over. I feel like I’m on stage in a spotlight. Everyone must be staring at me. I pretend to rub the back of my neck as I turn my head to casually look around the café.

No one is looking at me! What? I can eat alone in Paris and not be considered an odd-ball? In my small town in Florida, whenever I dine out alone, people stare at me like I’m a circus freak, waiting to see what trick I’ll do. In a town filled with tourists, families and retired couples, it’s unimaginable that a woman would sit alone at dinner without a significant other pasted to her side.

I take a deep breath and look out the window. I’m facing east and it’s twilight. On my left I can see La Tour St. Jacques and to the right is the Hotel de Ville. What a beautiful view. This bistrot was opened in the 1800s by a German immigrant named Zimmer. The interior is rich and voluptuous—red velvet curtains, an ornamental ceiling, paneled walls and chandeliers. It used to be the favorite haunt of famous people like Sarah Bernhardt, Jules Verne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gustav Mahler, and Igor Stravinsky. No wonder why my beautiful salad of fresh greens with blanched cucumbers, beets, carrots, and green beans costs twenty-four dollars.