Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paris Diaries Part II: On the Banks of the Seine

We left our intrepid traveler as her plane detoured to Gander, Newfoundland. She has finally reached her destination.

From her seat on a bench not far from the Pont des Arts, Bridget watched Guillaume clutching a cell phone and tossing his arm around as he paced the bridge. His very dark sunglasses, feathered by his mussed but not really fashionable hair, concealed his once enticing and now beady eyes. How could she have been so wrong about him?

Her thoughts turned to finances. The only hotel she could find was the Ritz at $700 a night. Five nights would wipe out her savings. It was so worth it.

From the bridge where he paced, Guillaume waved, catching her off-guard. She waved back. He turned around and returned to the conversation. Did he suspect that she knew his secret? He didn’t let on.

Back in the United States, his presentation of flowers on bended knee had caused her to lose her every bit of common sense she possessed. His name: Guillaume Bongrande? How about “Malpetit” instead? More truthfully descriptive.

That morning, the day after she arrived in France, he’d left early with the suggestion that they should meet for lunch. She thought he meant at a cafe, not a lame picnic of half a baguette and cheese slices from the supermarché, accompanied by a half-bottle of wine. Beyond where he stood: the Tuilleries Garden. The cafes there probably had something she could afford to eat. Anything was better than this. She kicked the sack of food.

As he left that morning, the attractive young neighbor Sophie, whom Bridget vowed not to intensely dislike, passed Guillaume and whispered: “Quel abruti.

“Excuse me?”

Instead of apologizing to Bridget when Sophie realized that she’d overhead her, she instead added more loudly, “Idiot! He’s an idiot! And a fraud.”

“Why do you say that?”

Holding her empty garbage can in one hand and brushing away her unruly hair with the other, Sophie said, “Because I like you, I will tell you the truth.”

Bridget had expected to hear a tale of infidelity, of un tren sans fin of women coming and going from the apartment. “What is it?”

“Ah, what you don’t know about this man. Can’t you tell by the accent, everything about him?” She'd stepped closer, her face just inches from Bridget’s. “He’s not French. He’s German.”

All Bridget could do was gasp.

Finally, Guillaume was off the phone and coming toward her, ready to embrace and kiss her. She’d been waiting for that moment all morning. “Are you ready to eat?” he asked her.

“I’m not interested in lunch.” She looked at her watch. “And I have somewhere else to go. But I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye.”

His face wore a knit of brow and a mouth slightly agape.

She got up from the bench. “Au revoir. Or perhaps I should say, Auf wiedersehen, mon cher. Dieter.” He said nothing more but simply watched her walk away.