LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Still Life with Eiffel Tower
My friend Monique is tall, thin, recently single, and recently blonde. She’s invited me to a play at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, 8:30 curtain. We’ve met first for a quick dinner at Chez Francis, the ever-decent brasserie at Place de l’Alma. We have a window table with a large view punctuated bright in the distance by the Eiffel Tower.
“So why wouldn’t you give him a second chance?” I ask. “He may be a little selfish but he’s clearly smitten by you. It isn’t as though he was cheating on you.” “Things haven’t been going well for a while,” she says, “not bad, he’s a nice person, but after vacation last summer—”
Just then the lights on the Eiffel Tower start blinking. We both look out the window then smile at each other. Reflexively, I check my watch to see that it’s eight o’clock.
“We have time,” she says, then continues her explanation.
A family of tourists sits at the window table behind Monique, a couple and their fifteen, sixteen-year-old daughter. They were speaking German before but now they’re silent, eating. I find it strange, funny, that they’re so focused on their food that they haven’t noticed the blinking tower. The daughter looks up, having sensed me staring at her. Our eyes catch, and to avert my gaze she turns to the window, where she notices the blinking tower. A smile opens on her face, which she now shows to me. I smile back. She looks to her father across the table, then to her mother beside her, both with their faces in their dishes, then at me while she holds back a laugh. She looks down at her plate, then out the window, where she stops to take in the blinking lights.
I watch them too, until I realize that I haven’t been listening to Monique. All I catch is her conclusion, as she lifts the glass of wine to her lips: “I’m not responsible for his happiness, n’est ce pas?”
I can only agree.
Gary Lee Kraut is a travel and fiction writer and travel consultant living in Paris and returning frequently to his hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. His most recent book is Paris Revisited: The Guide for the Return Traveler. He is the recipient of FrancePress’s 1995 Prix d’Excellence for an earlier guide to France. He operates the website parisrevisited.com. He has taught several travel writing workshops at the Writers Room of Bucks County.