The Auberge on the bend of the road, before the bridge. Seen in visions. Finally found. I had always thought the recurring vision was a portent of my death by car wreck. In a way it was. Earlier I had passed the carcass of a burnt-out car, abandoned to the ditch.
I said to her- I do not fall into such conversations with everyone. It so happens you are wearing your heart on your sleeve- for those who can see this. I at least can see these things. On the one hand, it was you who opened our discussion. Although when you had first arrived to serve me I noted that you seemed lost in an internal anger, with little time for your clients. But when you returned with my wine, you paused. It’s true what I told you- no stranger before has stepped into my space and asked me what fragrance I am wearing. When you asked the other server to translate, I said non, non, j’ai compris. On another hand, the eau de cologne that you sensed- I had sprayed on yesterday, and I had showered since without replacing it. It is almost impossible that I emitted any perfume, but you stood one meter from me, drawing in to your face with your palm and telling me that it seemed like Hugo Boss, which you love. I told you I could not remember, but I believe it was.
Beneath the complete green canopy of plane trees I could not see the river, but I watched the reflections of its ripples on the stone arches of the bridge, and I settled my breathing to the rustle of leaves. After three weeks of household stress, on what should have been a holiday, I knew I had to slow down and smell Provence. This should have been a spontaneous stop at an inn, on a bend of the road and river. But I find that few events are random, and this place was somehow familiar from half-formed dreams. But in this moment I was consciously re-opening my senses. My corroded vision was recovering through each sunlit cell on the petals of a still life. The air seemed to dance with one aroma after another, from smoking tropical wood to the dishes of the day wafting over each table. While sitting, I could not see the trout circling in the cistern, but I knew they were there, by observing the downward gaze of the shoaling visitors. Occasionally with a nod from a customer, the server would trap their selection and by glistening sleight of hand, remove it to the kitchen.
When you returned at the end of my meal I asked if you were of the ownership. You said yes – fourth generation, but within minutes you were telling me you were only connected by marriage to the owner. With a sideways roll of your eyes you indicated the little man bustling around the periphery. And you exuded discontent. You were from a place near Paris and had mixed feelings about Provence. The green canopy which soothes your customers is but a restrictive shade on your ambitions, and the constant running from client to kitchen to table creates the same blinding stress as any other work place. You signaled so readily that you had different projects in mind, away from here; possibly overseas……
On the other hand she could have been trying to work a beautiful trick of entrapment, after my selection by her husband, followed by his nod to her from the shadows of the plane trees.
Too late. I am already trapped and lovingly fileted by my wife.