This past weekend I had a Paris breakthrough: I am now on kissing terms with the owner of my corner café.
Now before you start imagining all sorts of torrid things, let me remind you I am speaking simply of the bise (nothing like the make-out session I witnessed at the Musee d’Orsay).
Still, it’s always a minor victory when you’re finally accepted into certain bastions of French society; when you are granted entrance like an old friend.
I feel lucky to have a corner café that is always open – on Sundays, holidays, even in this ghost town of August for crissakes. As a former New Yorker used to everything being open 24/7, this tiny reminder of an everyday establishment you can rely on does my heart good.
As it is, literally, on my corner, I pass Café Lino all of the time – when I go off to do my shopping, take the metro, or head off to the market. I’m not an everyday café patron, but often enough that I’m recognizable.
Over the last few months, the owner (I think he’s the owner, at least, maybe just a proprietorial-seeming barman) has been giving me the eyes. (Not those kind of eyes, though who knows, right?) We’ve gotten to the point where we always smile and wave when I pass by.
On Saturday night as I returned from a yummy dinner of crepes, a little Brazilian concert was winding down at the café. The owner was strumming his guitar and the few clients were gathered around singing. The warm, red glow that emanates from the interior only enhanced the convivial atmosphere. Wow, I’m in France, I thought. (After four years, I still have these moments; probably always will).
I was this close to going and joining in, especially as I caught the owner’s eye. But the circle seemed a bit too cozy. Sometimes I manage the solo entry well; sometimes I do not.
So I just walked home.
The next day, I came for a tea and I was greeted like an old friend. Why didn’t you come in last night? Denis wanted to know. You doing ok? Ca va? And it was obvious we were going in for the bise, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Two air kisses on the cheek.
I’m sure those more social than me have already experienced this moment many times before. But me, this is my first time of crossing over to the bise with the people in a local establishment. Sure, nice small talk, even smiles. But the bise! As if I belonged here.
I better watch out or soon I will be kissing all of Paris. And we know that I do have my own issues with the bise. (This one was perfect, though. No complaints!)
Addendum: Um, the owner has asked me for my phone number, which I kindly declined to give. Awkwardness has managed to be avoided – thank goodness as I come here to write – but kind of changes the original dynamic, huh? Well, I am still proud. The waitresses are nice to me, too. Even the new one who had been scowling at me at the beginning of the summer. I’ll just wait another 2 years for them to start kissing me, too.