A few days ago my friends and I were enjoying a leisurely afternoon study-sesh in a nearby cafe when an old man walked by outside. He paused in the window and looked at us. I thought this seemed strange- even for Paris, so I said-
As my three friends all whipped their blondish hairs around to face the window, the man put a hand to his chin and smirked. He then proceeded to waltz around the corner and in through the cafe door.
“Uh, you guys he’s coming in. Oh no, Oh…”
Tarah is my adorable Yogi-bear friend from Seattle who has had almost three unfortunate experiences already while in Paris. Though she’s only been in the city for about three weeks she’s already been harassed by a mentally ill woman on the metro, the target of a tribe of girl-scout sized pick-pocketers, and hollered at by a car full of men on the street. We think it’s her beautiful blond hair- Beauty truly does have a price in euros…
Anyway, the guy comes in through the door and walks toward us in the corner on the patio. I’m excited and my smile says it, Tarah’s eye’s are buggin’ out in fear, while Jamie and Charlotte seem pretty confused.
“Tarah, it’s okay, I think he just wants to say hi!”
I say trying to calm her frightened soul. She smiles half-heartedly as I feel the cold air from the man’s clothes brush up against me.
I turn and look up at him. He wore a worn tan checkered suit with a matching Parisian style hat. His warm eyes hid behind a small pair of spectacles, while his outgoing eyebrows danced above. He smiled a wide whisker tinted smile and said,
The Old Man
“Bonjour belles dames!”
I’m not sure if we mumbled out a few odd sounding “Bon Jerrs” or if he could just sense the Red, White and Blue pride, but either way, the next words that came out of the charming old man’s mouth were-
The Old Man
“Eh, you don’t speak French? Where in America are you from?”
That’s how it is here. The French kinda just know if you’re American and I’m not sure yet how they know, but by the time I leave this Country I promise I will solve this frustrating mystery.
So naturally, we all giggled and told the man where we were from, that we we’re in Paris to study and what we were each studying. He told us he loved Americans, which was the strangest thing I’ve heard come from a French person’s mouth since I’ve been here! They really don’t seem to like Americans, like at all…
Then he starts speaking about another time. His eyes glisten and I watched as he struggled to paint a picture of the past.
The Old Man
“Your boys, in Normandy- Over on the beach. They were so happy. I lived with my grandmother and helped care for the American boys. Because of that I appreciate Americans.”
Oh my gosh… Normandy? As in D-Day, Normandy? The longer he spoke the more sure I was that he was truly telling us about his experiences caring for the American soldiers on the beaches of Normandy during World War II.
My jaw dropped. We we’re having a conversation with someone who was present and took action during one of the most memorable events in American History.
After he told us about his grandmother and the solders, he quickly transitioned into more current affairs. He joked around with us and laughed at the little things, which made me think this man was wiser than he was putting on.
At this point Jamie had her phone out recording the scene, Charlotte attempted hilarious conversation with him, as Tarah and I laughed loud enough for an echo in the empty patio.
He told us how he now is a vocal coach for famous Movie stars. How we need to ar-tic-u-late out french words and then he pointed to me and said
The Old Man
“You come to my studio and you learn how to speak french.”
I laughed while the others clapped along to the prompted idea. He smiled and positioned himself for a goodbye. We said our “Au revoirs” as best we could to impress our new friend. He giggled his cute little old man laugh as an approval and said,
The Old Man
As he walked inside to the bar and ordered a red wine. We watched him for a moment and he nodded and smiled as if to say “I see you too”, so we all turned back around and pretended we didn’t just have a life changing experience.
But I did. I did just have an actual life changing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
This is the reason I’m studying abroad; to experience things I would never be able to experience while living in the states. My dear friend Marcelle (our server told us his name) is someone special who I will never forget.
THANK YOU PARIS FOR BEING A GIANT MUSEUM OF WONDER