With a side of mousse au chocolat.
“I’ll have the mousse au chocolat,” Rick said in his best French. It was enough to get Sally’s attention.
“Ooh la la,” Sally whispered.
Rick leaned over towards her and motioned with his forefinger for her to lean in to hear what he was going to say.
“Do they really say Ooh la la in France?” he asked.
Sally burst out laughing more than she meant to and Rick jumped back in his chair in in surprise. He smiled, then laughed a little, but then wondered if she was laughing at him or with him.
“Do you know something I don’t know?” Rick said, still unsure if this was going to be their first and last meeting because Sally thought he was an uncultured American sloth or she loved his every joke and hung on his every word. Although, frankly, it wasn’t meant as a joke as he truly didn’t know if they said that in France.
“I don’t know,” Sally tried to say in between her laughing.
Rick was now even more confused.
“So, you don’t know if you know something I don’t know or you don’t know if they say Ooh la la in France?” But this sent her even further over the edge and now her head flew down towards the table and she could no longer control herself. Her shoulders bumbled about and her head, complete with long and wavy brown locks of silk, bounced on her head like the cheesiest of shampoo commercials. She tried to regain her composure and Rick was only laughing because Sally was laughing but was still ready to call it a day if she thought he was done with him.
“No,” she worked to catch her breath as she raised her head and looked directly into his eyes. She was extremely close to him, but he didn’t back away.
“No to which one?” Rick asked, insisting on staying as close as she was.
“No, I don’t know if they say Ooh la la in France,” Sally finally got out.
Rick didn’t want to ask So why were you laughing so hard? but he did want to know why. Rather than spell it out and just plain ask her, he waited and said nothing and tried to ask only with his eyes and by continuing to stare at her. It was one of those moments when you realize that you really don’t know someone but you really want to know someone and then you understand that you’re going to have to do the one thing you don’t want to do: be patient.
“I find it adorable that you ask that,” Sally started as Rick wouldn’t let up staring at her. She was so close to him that he could smell her breath and it wasn’t bad, it was more a mixture of red wine and sweat. But good, warm-woman-in-Paris sweat, not nasty armpit-in-the-hot-metro sweat. Somehow, it was appealing.
Rick wanted to be a tough guy, the cool guy, the suave guy who doesn’t say much. But he just wasn’t. He now wanted to ask her So why do you think I’m adorable? Like teddy bear adorable or little boy adorable or brilliant writer wine connoisseur adorable? But to ask would make him less tough, cool and suave. He had to hold back on everything he wanted to know. He had to instill a bit of adventure, allure, maybe a bit of je ne sais quoi.
“I find you a little bit, uh,” Rick stammered as he started his response only because she started with “I find” but he hadn’t terribly thought out the rest of his sentence, much less his evening or his month. “A little je ne sais quoi.”
“Ooh, ooh, that one I know! That one I know!” Sally shrieked and grabbed his wrist and seemed to be waiting to be called on like a student in the classroom who finally knew an answer.
Playing his role, Rick fell right in, “Uh, yes, you up front. Sally was it? Do you know what je ne sais quoi means?”
“I do,” she said and nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“Would you like to share your knowledge with the, uh, rest of the cafe, Sally,” Rick was getting a little too into the teacher student role. He noticed that he was still holding onto his wrist, but she didn’t seem to notice as she didn’t take her eyes away from his.
“It means I don’t know what,” she finally responded with pride.
“I see. Now, miss Sally, if that’s the literal meaning of the words, do you know what the implied meaning of the phrase is?”
“Yes,” she said again and again said nothing. Maybe she went to posh private schools where you had to be called on by the teacher in order to speak.
“Please share it us, dear Sally,” Rick said as professorly as he could.
“It means a certain something or something that you’re not really sure of or something mysterious that you can’t quite place,” she said with the confidence of a school girl who had done her homework.
“And does the phrase apply to the scene in which it was uttered?” Rick played his role perfectly, if he said so himself.
“Uddered? Aren’t those cows breasts?” she asked and raised her eyebrows and cocked her head slightly to the side then she looked down at her own breasts which made him look at her breasts and then she looked back up to him and he, thankfully, brought his eyes up again to hers.
“Uttered. Said, spoken. Does the phrase apply in the context where it was used?”
“I can’t remember where it was used,” Sally admitted.
Rick held back his laugh as she was so innocent and playful and honest and open. She was playing her role so well she might not have been playing a role at all.
“I had said that I found you a little je ne sais quoi. So, does the implied meaning correct in the context and if so, what does it mean?”
She started right away. “It means that you don’t know what to think about me. It means that you find me mysterious and you really know so little about me that you can’t even say what you think of me so you couldn’t even find words in your own language to describe me so you searched for how you thought about me and came only up with French because we’re in France and since you’re not sure they even say Ooh la la here, you know you couldn’t say that you found me Ooh la la, so instead you said that you have no idea what you think of me because we’ve only known each other an hour and so, yes, it’s completely accurate that you find me something that you can’t yet describe.”
He was ready to launch back a terribly witty answer. Something so clever it would be never forgotten by either of them. But he couldn’t speak. He just watched her lips move and was mesmerized by her teeth and her lips and how her nose twitched when she spoke. She waited patiently for his answer and just as he was about to start off with a response guaranteed to be neither witty, clever or even coherent, the waiter arrived with the mousse au chocolat and all that came to mind were three words.
“Mousse au chocolat,” he said.