people-watching

I spot you on my way to Tuesday drinks at Le Siam, coming off the Pont au Change. You’re sitting outside Le Mistral, a bar that shouldn’t be, but is, my favourite.

It’s tourist central, a little overpriced, nothing special. It sits next to the nondescript Place du Châtelet and traffic jostles by on the Quai de Gesvres.

But when you take one of the wicker chairs facing due west, you look out over the river to the pearly spires of the Conciergerie, and in the distance beyond the Pont Neuf you see the top half of the Eiffel Tower, far enough away as to seem deliciously mundane.

I sat in one of those chairs (the one next to where you are now, in fact) for the first time on a summer evening a few weeks ago and talked about love with an old friend. An American tourist at the next table asked me for a restaurant recommendation and I was able to give one, confidently pulling a business card from my wallet. It’s just around the corner, I said. You’ll love it. Order the duck.

I’d just come back – come home – from London on the train and I gazed out over the hazy view with proud familiarity.

There are two of you sitting there today, with a spare table between you: you didn’t come here together. You’ve just struck up a conversation and your shoulders still face outward. You don’t want to over-invest too early in this interaction so you’re turning your heads to speak, making glancing eye contact, using the view to plug the silences.

You are two strangers wearing the same expression: tired but awestruck. You are both very fair and it’s clear you are both in transit in the City of Love.

I hurry on, wondering if you will recount this story at your wedding, finishing off one another’s sentences, correcting details of how you met on a sidewalk in Paris, thirsty and footsore from your urgent holidaymaking.

Perhaps you won’t remember who initiated the conversation or what you drank or even what you said but you’ll agree forever on the way the sunshine grew thick and golden over the Seine. On how it felt like it was seeping into your veins, a slow warm elixir that was disease and cure in one.

On how you began to fall in love.

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