2:30 in the afternoon, Chatillon-sur-Seine. I sit with my back to the dining room table, coffee in one hand and petit bouquin in the other. Light pours in through the open French doors. I scoot my chair a little closer to the balcony, resting my feet just outside the door. Caddy-corner to the apartment, diners at the Bistrot du Potier see only my legs on the balcony today…I’m not sure whether this is a relief or a disappointment to them.
Ever since I arrived I have been drawing attention from this vantage point. I am the crazy American girl who soaks up the rays indiscreetly while talking on the phone — Mon Dieu! In English! and can be seen, equally indiscreetly, taking pictures of the sunset from the other side of the terrace…or sometimes even heard, when after a long run Dr. Dre accompanies my crunches.
Or maybe I flatter myself. Does anyone at the Potier even notice that I am here, with half of my body on one side of the door jambs and the rest outside, en plein air? A scruffy man in an army green military cap crosses his tattooed arms outside the door of the bar. I’ve seen him there before, exchanging a few words with the proprietaire while on his break from work, I suppose. A black-haired woman in her fifties (I guess) brings him a Fisher Doreleï from Alsace, the bar’s premium beer on tap. Probably the owner’s wife, she too has been around every time I’ve sat outside this door.
Yes, I am the one who knows their faces, and not the other way around. Will you forgive a Kentucky girl’s egocentric thirst to see…and be seen? This is the first time I’ve ever lived (temporarily) in an apartment with a wrap-around balcony that reaches toward the very center of a little town’s life. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to open these French doors and be seen — in all my eccentricity.
There I go again.
I open my book and squint as my sun-filled eyes adjust to the words on the page. My legs are hot now, even beginning to shimmer in the Indian summer’s heat. Three pages later — in the middle of “Louis” and “Madame la bienfaitrice’s” reunion after nine years’ separation — I hear an “au revoir” and “bon apres-midi” from the Potier. The scruffy man crosses the street, without even glancing my way.