Parisian Love

June 30, 2012
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I have seen the lovers every afternoon at two o’clock. They sit on the café patio at a table somewhat secluded from the others. From where I stand, I see two hazy figures lean closer to each other, their heads almost forming one shape. A kiss, one reaches for the other’s hand, a slight whisper. I yearn to feel that way.

One other afternoon, I notice one of the lovers seated alone at the café. I sit at a table nearby for the first time and wait as if I had a lover of my own.
The faint perfume of lilac coupled with a husky tinge of cigar smoke drift through the café. The woman, draped in a statement scarf leans back against her chair and takes a long, sensual drag on her designer cigarette. Cheeks caved in, eyes closed, smoke escaping through her nostrils. Alone in a bustling city in the hazy, French twilight, she taps her manicured fingernails on the aged wooden table, observing the various crowds of tourists and locals floating along. She waits for him.
He arrives, a sheepish expression plastered on his face. She acts stern at first, but kisses his rough cheek and she no longer remembers how long she waited.

Outside the café, in the Parisian square, a child stares at his mother. A toothless grin widens his face while she returns the same desiring look. Fleecy bits of hair have fallen from her once neat ponytail from the stresses of the day. Yet, radiance diffuses through her face at the sight of this infant. She no longer appears withered from motherhood. Her child grips her pointer finger while she runs her fingernails through his hair, gently scratching his scalp. Without hesitation, he leans into her body and relaxes once he smells her mother-scent.
Her other child, a mere toddler, waddles up to her and tugs at her dress made of aged and durable fabric. She does not turn her attention to him right away, so he persists until she loses her patience. Without thinking, she clutches his dainty fingers and her eyes fixate upon his until tears force their way out of his eyes. Hearing his wailing and screaming, she transforms from a demonic mother suffering from lack of sleep to the nurturing caregiver nature intended.
She grips both children to her breasts and woos both to sleep. It is as if her hands contain magic serum as she rubs their heads and backs.
I snap a photograph as I stand near the café, a decent distance away from them before I move on.

Further from the vibrant square, in the palatial gardens, a dog bounds through perfected grass. Those around him wince as his canine aroma soils the fragrant flowers. A man shouts and the dog halts. The animal turns and a trail of drool plops to the grass right on top of a pristine picnic blanket. Someone curses in French, but the dog bounds to his owner, oblivious of the irate looks thrown at him.
His owner throws him a twig broken from a newborn tree lining the edge of the garden. The dog sprints to another edge of the garden, searching and searching. Success. He finds it and returns to his owner, obedient as always.
The dog seeks reciprocation for his gift he brought back. A treat satiates him and he nestles against his owner, content in the pleasant warmth of the Parisian sun. His owner kisses the top of his head, the taste of fur in his mouth, but it doesn’t matter. Drool drops on his pressed khakis, but he barely notices.
I pass by the owner and his dog, my eyes roving over to them every so often, but I don’t want to stare. But I want to at the same time. A knot in my throat forms and I swallow it away.

I return back to my small house positioned comfortably between two peeling blue buildings. Lilies line the edge of our garden while our forgotten bird bath, filled with muddy water and rotting leaves, sits near the front door.
Inside, I slip off my ballet flats, blisters dotting the edge of my heel. I tiptoe into the kitchen and discover my mother kneading dough on the countertop. Flour on her hands and sprinkled in her licorice hair, she turns to me and her face starts to glow at the sight of me.
“Darling, come watch,” she says in a distinct voice. It reminds me of cinnamon and sun. A blend of France and wisdom.
I respond to her request by sitting on the barstool in front of her, watching her hands massage the dough until it is creamy to the touch. We sit like this for hours until afternoon blends into night and dinner.
As we sit together for our meal, a stray piece of hair falls from my ponytail. Absentmindedly, she reaches across the table and tucks it behind my ear. She pats my head for a moment and I sigh until she stops.
“I forget sometimes that you aren’t a child anymore,” she says.
“But I am your child,” I tell her.
“Yes, you’re right.”
I think of the lovers, the mother, and the pet owner. They all have each other. I glance at my mother and realize I never missed what they have. I have everything I need in this small but cozy kitchen. Maybe the true gift is finally understanding that you had everything you already needed because it was right before your eyes.

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