At a cafe in Paris

Illustration © Isaxar | Dreamstime.com

8:24 a.m. — Where shall I go today, as I sit in the easy chair in the living room? Shall I write about a loud and sweaty rock concert with crowded crowd and leaving with the world sounding muffled as my ears begin their slow recovery? A sunny quiet afternoon sitting at a picnic table watching birds fly overhead and ants and flying insects make a visit? Memories of a golden retriever chasing after a disc and returning it proudly and perhaps haughtily?

Or am I not flexing my imagination enough? Should I follow the bicyclist who just swept past the front door, decked out in helmet and green and yellow uniform-ish garb, head bent over the handlebars in concentration to garner as much speed as he can on this long downward slope? Where is he going, and is he simply driven to push his body to the limit or is he on a desperate mission to spare his loved ones a danger they don’t even realize is imminent?

I “should” be on Venus. I “should” be wandering the Good Old City. I “should” be compiling content for my September 1 debut. But I am ever petulant — whatever I “should” be doing is exactly what I resist. Why do I so often fritter away my precious time doing everything except what I “should” be doing? I am a mystery to myself.

Actually, at first I sat down with a notion that I might, just for fun, write about sitting at a street-side table at a Paris cafe. I just remembered that notion now, a half-hour later, because instead of Paris, I browsed Facebook for — was it 10 minutes or 15? — before thinking, “OMG, it’s 8:24, let’s get to writing.”

I don’t know Paris from Tatooine; actually I know Tatooine better, having spent hours in dark rooms watching images of that far-off imaginary planet, many more hours than I ever spent studying Paris. How could I describe a cafe I’ve never been to, in a city I’ve never seen?

Well, how could I describe a planet I’ve never been to, that doesn’t even exist?

The Paris challenge is tougher — people who have been to Paris or who live there can take issue with my descriptions and say, “That never happened! That doesn’t exist!” while that is a moot complaint with the planet — of course it doesn’t exist. Or of course it does — in my imagination — and my mission is to make it real in yours.

And that cafe — it’s on a sunny street like any sunny street in any grand city, and I’ve deliberately left out any view of the Eiffel Tower — I may not know Paris, but I know my cliches — and my companion is a raven-haired beauty with a beret perched at an angle, but we are there to discuss business, not pleasure, and her demeanor is colder than that of the cheerful waitress who brings us wine and asks — I don’t know what she is asking, I don’t understand French beyond laissez faire and que sera sera — but my colleague understands, and she has a brief conversation with the cheerful girl that I suspect will lead to a meal being delivered in a few minutes.

She leans forward with a bit of a smile — I think she enjoyed taking control of the conversation while I was helpless to continue — and outlines the details of the business we are to conduct over the next few months.

I spend a few moments contemplating what every man so near to a pretty face contemplates, but mostly I try to focus on the business. I think women must know how easily distracted we can be, and they use our short attention spans to an advantage. That will be my wry reflection months from now when I realize the business transaction worked out better for her than for me. I’ll remember the curl of her lips when she smiles, and the flash in her eyes, but that one detail she glosses over and will swear she warned me about? Lost to memory and a pretty face under a jaunty beret. Men are so stupid. I know — I’ve been one all my life.

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