To live a life unceasingly confused was, he found, a hopeless affliction. That others considered him painfully shy perhaps the only bonus. Being thought of thus saved having to engage in idle chit chat with all and sundry.
Long since this young impoverished artist, Jérôme by handle, had hankered after a girlfriend; a soul mate by any other name yet the likelihood of finding one was slipping away with each passing year. Even so he did have his love affair with that morning hit of caffeine that chased away the demons that had strayed over the border twixt dreamland and his awakening. Moreover the chill of early morn and his stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg from his lonely garret to his café of choice served as adequate daily exercise in his book.
Previously he always had his nose in a paperback en-route yet invariably he had found himself walking into lampposts, sometimes mistaking them as humanoid, sometimes even apologizing to them out loud! It was thus that he determined that having had fun poked at him by onlookers made him feel unnecessarily uncomfortable. The walking and reading habit duly ceased. Instead Jérôme now plugged his earphones in and sought sanctuary in music. On the occasion when his life was about to change forever his chosen piece, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – sublime!
Somewhat annoyingly a group of labourers were sat at his regular window table filling their faces with plain croissant washed down with a little red notwithstanding the early hour. Worse still the only available spot was immediately behind and next to them. Waiting for his usual order to be taken he could not help but overhear the workmen debating as to who, in the event of a bare-knuckle fight between Jesus and Mohammed would come out the winner. The conversation drew his attention. Ideally he would have intervened and pointed out the philosophical flaws in their respective arguments in support of their favoured champion. Plainly such intervention was beyond his timorous competence.
Ever since adopting this café as his own cockcrow haven the owner, a life weary old Armenian had taken Jérôme’s order. He rather liked him for he barely gave any customer the time of day. Not so on this day though. For slinking over in his direction was a new waitress of bounteous, yet inviting proportions. He found himself nonplussed as he had never seen her before and thus had no time to prefabricate an appropriate disposition. It hardly mattered though as he soon discovered she never stopped talking; barely paused for breath spouting out a diatribe of utter drivel – a veritable Spector Wall of Sound of irrelevant nonsense from chocolate fondue to eyebrows; soap operas to thongs; pets to American pop stars. In essence her words were an impromptu discourse that he found quite beautiful (an art form even) and, most importantly, unchallenging! Impressively he reflected the tripe she spoke was devoid of questions meaning he did not have to engage with her at all, merely listen. The fact that the girl was scatter-brained jumping from inconsequential subject matter to subject matter faster than one could say Jacques Cousteau had a certain appeal. Indeed, and unusually for him Jérôme felt a potentially embarrassing stirring in his loins. He had found his perfect woman.
In due course, the girl returned with his double shot Expresso.
“You don’t talk much do you?”
“Are you the strong silent type? I like strong silent men.”
Panic born of that dreaded confusion yet again! Jérôme decided to run once more with the single syllable riposte albeit a lie.
In a matter of fact manner, and taking no account that this was not a leap year she added, “Do you want to take me out later? You know, on a date…when I’ve finished here of course. Don’t mind where we go or end up. By the way my name is Monique. I already know you’re called Jérôme the artist, the propriétaire told me so.”
The fearful voice inside his head advised him, ‘Big decision coming up Jérôme.’ However his mind-set was all wrong. His abashment levels as blended as soupe à l’oignon. In short he had no idea as to how to answer the question. Panic now held Jérôme in its grasp and as he well knew from previous experience, panic begets panic attack.
And thus it was Jérôme fainted, fell off his perch head first onto the tiled flooring. In doing so and as a less than accomplished prize fighter who had dropped his guard once too often might, he took a blow to the temple – one that left him concussed and in a crumpled heap.
Monique looked down at poor Jérôme quizzically. What to do? In a haste born of matronly concern she kneeled down next to him placing the hands of her rainbow painted fingernails firmly about his bristly cheeks. Lifting his head up just a little, yet entirely overlooking the fact that he was out for the count she suggested to Jérôme it would be for the best if he woke up. In the absence of an audible response Monique determined that the kiss of life was fast becoming a necessity. With that she promptly rolled Jérôme onto his back, knelt astride him and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with some aplomb.
Somewhat disorientated yet now coming to his senses, her lips still glued to his he quietly and as best he could in the circumstances uttered the words, ‘Tongues? The kiss of life doesn’t involve tongues insofar as I recall!”
Having disengaged herself and now sitting up straight backed upon his belly Monique looked down at Jérôme, giggled bewitchingly then winked the wink that sealed the deal, all to the riotous applause of even the haughtiest of the habitués.
Such is the way of things in Paris!