Sunday, July 16, 2006

On Eggs And Marriage

It seemed like a nice day for lunch in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I navigate the way leading Layton throughout Paris with an imaginary leash. We wander around the Palais du Luxembourg until we come to a gated opening on the east side.
What a day to discover a public park! The sun had invited youth to tennis matches, footbal games and i-podded jogging . We decide on a little cafe--court side-- of an ongoing urban basketball game on a dirt court. Layton picks the chair that faces the teams--Skins versus Shirts--and takes great pleasure in watching the French play their version of Harlem Globetrotters (although, he had never heard of the ancient franchise).
I order for us both, crêpes aux fromage and lemonade. The waiter is kind and smiles at my accent. He runs around the cafe in true Parisian Waiter form, like an ant with a bow tie and a Queen to please.
Underneath the basket hoop is a young woman leaning on the handle bars of a wheelchair. Head down, she is talking quietly to the white-haired wheel chair resident who looked to be half-dead. Some air, or energy, tells me that the old lady was enjoying the game immensely. I wonder how the basketball players feel about having a crowd. They seem oblivious.
Our waiter brings us bread. He is attentive to know if there was anything else we wanted. I mention that a sugar crepe might be nice after our lunch. He bows and is off to chase someone else's culinary desires.
When the crêpes aux fromage come Layton is eager to eat. As he cuts into the center, raw egg and swiss cheese oozes out. He is indifferent, and uses the bread to soak up the mucousy egg.
I feel sick. I haven't eaten an egg in years. I had only recently re-invited dairy in to my diet. Sour cream came first, a little on a burrito here and there. Yogurt with Indian food came next. I was reluctant about cheese, it stayed occasional. Milk was never in the works.
I look over at the little cabana-kitchen where our waiter is leaning up against a tree, drinking water, taking a break. It seems weird to see him so quiet in motion. He is watching the basketball game too.
When the sugar crepes come we have a new server. A waitress. She looks like Norah Jones and had perfect raspy voice to complete the image. I come to know that sensual voice well, as she uses it to ask a lot of questions, in very fast French.
"So...is this your...?" pointing to Layton.
"My nephew," I finish for her.
"And are you on vacation here?" She is clearing our lemonade glasses with force.
"Oui."
She leaves. I glance over at the cabana to see if our original waiter was in motion again. I wish he could come back. Norah's questions were making me nervous. I see him sitting down, laughing at the big guy on the Skins team dribbling with his head.
She's back clearing our plates and asking me questions like it's the Server Olympics.
"How long are you here?"
"Where did you do learn French?"
"Where are you from?"
My face is getting hot. The young women next to the wheel chair is also laughing at the big guy. Layton's laughing too. Maybe the players aren't so oblivious.
After I answer her rapid-fire questioning, she tucks her tray in between her arm and torso and shoots off towards the cabana.
I get out some Euros and start to count.
Sooner than later she shows up again.
"Is there anything else I can get you?"

"Will you be paying by cash or card?"
"What are you doing tonight?"
Oh. She is trying to be helpful. Maybe she has a hot tip on a cool activity I can take my nephew too. He loves jazz. A festival might be fun.
"Nothing," I say hopeful.
"Our waiter over there," she points with her chin, "would like to take you out tonight."
I look at Layton, now he is the one oblivious. French is just gibberish to him, although he likes to say Arch de Triumph in his best Voice-of-the-Metro accent. He is watching the game. He thinks we are discussing the menu, the bill or the weather.
"Je..." I stutter.

I can't think in French or English.
Dang! How do I say it?
What are those words?
I look down and realize that the fake ring I brought with me to Europe was hurled off the Eiffel Tower the night before. I couldn't ignore the bursting urge to throw something. I never take my real ring with me, it makes me nervous. I love it too much.
It's awkward. She is looking at me and bouncing her feet. I know she is thinking about the vin for the table under the maple tree where she's been flirting with two middle age customers.
How could my French fail me now?
"Je suis..."
She blinks. From the corner of my eye, I see the waiter looking off in the distance. He takes in more water and looks down.
"Je suis mariée."
It comes out, I feel triumphant.
I say it over and over in my head.
I am married!
I am married!
I am married!
Norah says nothing but turns on her heel as if I had just freed her from waitress bondage. She promptly brings our bill and practically yells at me when I start to sign the wrong receipt.
Is she in love with him?
I think of the oozing egg.
Running all over my plate. Sloppy and soupy and yellow. Broken.
When we leave I notice that the waiter is gone. The young woman and the wheel chair resident are looking at me smiling.
Which game did they watch?

At the Grande Bassin we see children playing with remote controlled boats to the delight of viewers on lawn chairs.
"Guess who would love that?" Layton observes, remembering my husband's favorite hobby.
Later, on the phone with Christopher he announces that he has made up his mind,
"Next time you go to Europe I am coming."
"Bein sur."
My French comes back.