Rick is on fire, his head behind the screen, fingers tapping away. His breath is audible.
Sally watches him. What she can see from behind the screen anyway. His unruly hair. His concentrated fixation on the screen.
She’s hungry. She nods at the bartender. He finishes wiping the counter, and approaches their table with languid moves, prolonging the wait or hesitating, she wasn’t sure.
A cringe of disdain spreads across his face, as he notices Rick behind the screen. Rick looks up, nods, smiles, looks down. The bartender turns to Sally with his head kilter and mouth pouting. He might as well have said, Really? You put up with this guy?
Sally shrugs. Rick clearly has no idea that laptop does not belong in a Parisian cafe.
A cafe ole and a brioche, s’il vous plaît. Rick, you want something?
Same, please, Rick says, not even bothering to look up from the screen.
Sally sighs, lifts her brow at the bartender, sends him a smirk of a smile, suddenly so self conscious.
Rick’s a bit rude. Rick’s American. Oblivious to the fact that in Paris you don’t take your laptop to the cafe. You just don’t. In Paris you converse. Share meals. Relax. Watch bypassers. Read the newspaper. Kiss. Anything but hiding behind your laptop.
Coffees arrive. Rick pushes the laptop a few inches to the side to make room for his. He smiles at her, wide, a tad smug, Sally thinks.
You’re not going to write? Let’s start this thing. I’m super jazzed. Inspired. He’s at the keyboard again.
Sally says nothing. She sips her coffee, letting the earthy, nurturing warmth run down her throat into her belly. Wondering what he’s writing. Why he one minute seems so mature, smart, surprising her with his astute and open mind, and the next, a boy, innocent, shy, silly. Like, thinking that the woman from the Shakespeare Company would come out and look after them, as they ventured into Paris, in love. Cheesy. Sure she had other things on her mind, and living here, must have seen it all. Rick’s a weird one. Endearingly so. And now he’s made a classic faux pax in Paris.
Rick straightens his back, looks up, his inquisitive eyes searching her face.
Sally sighs. Oh Rick. A few things. She sits up, puts her elbows on the table and leans in a bit. Parisians do not appreciate laptops in their cafes. Her voice is so low Rick’s gotta move closer to hear her. You could go as far as calling it rude, even ungentlemanly.
Rick’s sits back in the chair, his face flushed. Really? I didn’t even think about that.
Uh huh… In the past 24 hours, how many laptops have you seen around?
Rick shakes his head. I don’t know. None. Jeez. How do they get work done here?
Sally is now feeling smug. It’s not all about work here, you know.
Rick slams his screen down, bends down and slides the laptop into his biker bag. Now Miss Etiquette, how might you propose we get our book written?
We could get notebooks, start an all-is-allowed brainstorm about the story. We could describe our characters. Or map all the ways we could think the story could unfold. We could look at the dramatic arch. Find the impossible barrier they have to overcome. So many things… we need to discover. And, I guess, for us to collaborate, we’d need to figure out some sense of structure.
Sally leans back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest. She did notice her rather demonstrative tone, as if lecturing him. But truth be told, they’d communicated very little about this story they are embarking upon, and he’s just beginning with no considerations as to how to collaborate.
Okay. Rick says. That makes sense. I was just so inspired by what transpired in the bookstore, and wrote the scene. Except, it wasn’t us. It was us 20 years from now.
Twenty years from now? Sally perked up. I don’t know if I can even fathom twenty years from now.
I just saw us there, Rick says, his voice softer, With those ancient poems, still able to stir emotions in people today, and it was as if I was seeing two scenes simultaneously, us today, and us later, revisiting Paris twenty years from now, reminiscing about our first encounter here.
Oh, so you’re nostalgic for a past that hasn’t happened yet. Sally chuckles. That’s an advanced romantic soul, perhaps derailed in love already. In our Tinder times, I doubt anyone our age would understand that kind of romance dear friend, though it does beckon the question: Is romance just for the young. And then, she adds, At heart?