Then I enter into what looks like...a hellhole. Always! Every time I pass through on of these portals, I am sure I've made a serious mistake and I want to turn and run. Paint peeling off the ceiling, cracks in the walls and the tile, dirt on the floor, possibly a little graffiti thrown in for good measure, and complete and total darkness. I feel like a rat will run over my toes at any moment! It doesn't matter how beautiful the apartment is that awaits me, the entries seem to always look the same. That is, after I've located the light switch so I can actually see.
Then, of course, come the stairs. But the stairs.... they are so beautiful. The steps are tiled with old stone or tile that really is old...not faux old. And the banisters are incredible; each amazing in its own right. Each railing is different, generally ironwork with a metal or wood handrail. The curve of the wood or metal is graceful and smooth from the hands of generations of Aixois who have depended upon it to help support them on their spiraling climb. The finials are all different and each mark the beginning of that long ascent or the final finish depending on which way you're going (down is always the best). As I said, everybody I know seems to live at the top of one of these stairways and believe me, they start to lose their shine at about the second floor. Actually they do lose their shine. I guess those who lived at the top floor weren't nearly so important because that’s about the point where the railing changes and becomes a cheaper and less ornate version of its predecessor.
In the interest of a good story (this is all research you know. I'm really not having any fun!), I consumed more than my share of both food and wine and enjoyed myself thoroughly. In this tiny, studio apartment we danced and drank and had an all around good time. I spent a lot of time with one particular fellow who was a fabulous dancer and I have been desperately missing the opportunity to shake it a bit. When the nasty, completely undanceable, 80's music began pounding through the speakers, I could stand it no longer and got out my IPod. I attached it to my belt, gave him one earpiece, put the other in my ear and we danced our fool heads off to some good old fashion soul music. We looked like idiots, and sounded worse because we were both singing to songs nobody else in the room could hear. Sounds kind of romantic ...you know.... dancing to our own beat like nobody else was is in the room.... but actually, I’m certain that we probably just looked stupid.
I finally had to get out of there so Gérald walked me home. However, not before all the women in the room cast their “knowing” smiles upon me and everyone else in the room seemed to be congratulating him on our apparent pairing up. Oh geez, am I in trouble here? As it was, he was a perfect gentleman and that was that.
Until Monday afternoon when I stopped into my coffee shop/ bar. Linda and Anne were there (Linda had been at the party) and began excitedly chattering to me in French like a couple of birds. I didn't catch a single word but I did hear Gérald's name several times. I was laughing with them because they were so funny but explained that I had no idea what they were talking about. They continued chattering, and flashing me more of those “knowing” smiles.
Finally, Anne attempted to help me out in English. It went something like this.... "Where is Gérald" (well how the heck should I know?)? I shrugged my shoulders.
“ I so happy for you."
" Gérald, il est trés, trés, gentile” (very, very nice).. ...some french words..... “very smart”........more French I didn’t know...."painter”....French... “intelligent” .... more incomprehensible French.
I said yes, he is very nice.
She said, " You loved him?"
What?! Are you kidding me??? Hey I know you people are much more open about these things, but I'm still getting used to this bisous (kisses on the cheek) thing with everyone!
"You loved him.... just a little?” she said.
Now what the hell does that mean? Is there a particular translation for "loving just a little"? Does that mean, “did you make out?” Does that mean, “do you like him a lot?” Does that mean “did you made a half-hearted attempt at sex?”
At that point, I was completely out of my league and Anne had sent Pierre to go fetch Gérald because, of course, I must have "loved him just a little" and he really ought to be here. He did arrive (pretty quickly actually) and the two women started in again except it sounded like they had added an entire flock to their choir. I looked at Gérald. He just looked back at me and said, "It's too much".
Well, no kidding!
I wonder what floor he lives on?
Originally published in the Wittenberg Enterprise, March 2009