Day #11: Trocadero
She likes thinking that she met him at the Eiffel Tower. It had been, after all, just a few meters away across the street, so close that it looked as if you could almost touch it. So close that it looked massive in her phone screen.
She was taking selfies at 8 a.m. when it happened. It was still uncrowded when she saw a man, disheveled in his Ville de Paris neon green jumpsuit, walk the path leading to the bench where she was sitting. She was unruffled, until he was standing in front of her, asking her if she was Japanese.
I don’t speak French, she said, lowering her eyes to look at her pictures, all unsatisfactory. He sat down beside her. His name was Francois, he said. He had a thin, unshaven face, and when he smiled she saw that both his front teeth were chipped, almost graying. But she saw the way he looked into the distance, thought she saw a kind of softness, and so she listened closely as he spoke, a mixture of French and English. He invited her to eat. She said no, inwardly aghast.
Number? Francois asked, his voice soft, melting.
Oh, sure, she said. Give me your phone number.
Later, when they were together, and she thought that they were in love, she would learn that he was merely asking how old she was.
And then they had nothing more to say, and Francois stood up silently, drifting back down the path to continue his work.
She messaged him later that morning, and then met him when she came back to Paris in the summer, two months after.
Years later, on nights when she couldn’t sleep, she imagines going back to where they first met.
At the Eiffel Tower, she liked saying to him when they had been together—and to herself when it was all over and the yearning was so great, it hurt her chest.
Trocadero, he would correct her, during those two years.
She imagines sitting there at 8.a.m., waiting for him. Francois would emerge from his camion, do his work, and pass by her as if he had seen no one.