I got off the bus near the World Mart, where I needed to buy loo role, sorry, toilet paper. I bought allot of other things as well. America makes you want to buy things. In America, if you buy everything then you will be free. But only when you’ve bought Everything do you get to taste freedom. And by that time, you’re old. I leave with my Welsh back back full. But there’s a bar now attached to this grocer. I suppose the rising cost of food makes a place to drown your sorrows a commercial opportunity. I have a beer and notice that the barmaid has an accent; I try to place it. But of course! Francaise! Born in Paris but native of Avignon where my favourite Jazz festival is held. I speak in French. She, Eliza, is delighted when I put on my best Parisian argot. Thanks in part to my friend Jon Bernstein who was always better at chatting up French girls in street French than I was, when we knew each other in Paris, when I found him in bed with my girlfriend; chaste of deed but not of intention. So now my French has all come back. I have no predatory instinct for this pretty, 24 year old French elementary school teacher. I’m closer to her father in intimate exchange than any lover. Besides, I’ve grown too weary of the emotional parade to chase skirts these days; no matter how long the leg or short the skirt. I am horny for engagement: a new idea, a new vantage point, a new point of few. Sometimes I feel that Life has become a well read novel. Something I’ve read over and over.
We talk about Avignon and the red Roman curved tiles that cover all of the rooves. From a high point, looking down a Japanese sea of random curved tiles all pointing and flowing in different directions. We talk about Art and music and of course I bring up Olivia. I can speak to no one without speaking of Olivia. I know no one more extraordinary than Olivia. And those of you, reading this, that have met her, know of why I speak.
The French school Teacher’s boss gets fidgety. He doesn’t know French or of what we speak, but he sees his employee (whom he fancies), spending too much enjoyable time with one of her customers, more than the anothers.
I pay my tab and rise.
“Thanks for the beer, Eliza”. I say in English and to her young crow-haired, skinny necked manager I add “I didn’t realise you had such charming French Speaking staff; I’ll definitely be coming back just to practice my French. Perhaps you should put up a sign in Hillcrest: ‘French Spoken’. It’ll get you more customers.”
So commercial advice dispensed, I winked at Eliza and head to the glass door, the outside, my bike and the cool December wind.