Once Frankie was out of the hospital on Wednesday, my week resumed it’s monotonous schedule. Days were spent sitting at my desk, with a black coffee in a stained mug next to my typing hands. Truncated french moves from person to person, each voice accented heavily by its native state. An international communications office for a community of universities across the world was every graduate’s dream, and mine was no different. Since I was seventeen, I knew I wanted to live abroad, but with a Philosophy degree, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to fulfil that ambition. Until I found a posting by chance online, applied and found myself here. The office was mostly made up of graduates, with a couple of older women overseeing our huge open plan room full of replies to emails whizzing through the ether.
That morning when I got the tram with a thermos of coffee and a slice of cold toast in hand, cold from sprinting through Place Garibaldi. He was there again. He had a seat, his guitar case perched next to him and he was reading a book I didn’t recognize, it was french, I guessed from the title. Since he had knocked into me that morning, I had started noticing him every morning, and then in the evening when I got back off the tram he was often playing in the cathedral square. His repertoire seemed pretty broad, a lot of French songs but also a few Bowie tunes, and even, surprisingly, the odd Dido song. In the mornings, he hardly looked up from his book or removed his headphones, and in the evenings he would be stood playing the guitar, singing with his eyes shut in melancholy.
The weekend descended like any other, but this time I had different plans to my usual beer on the balcony, glass (bottle) of wine on the beach with Frankie, or a good book and a coffee in the park. Frankie and her gentleman friend had decided it was time for me to start meeting new people, ‘dipping my toe in the dating pool’, as Frankie so affectionately put it. We had a double date. One of Henri’s friends from his CrossFit class, who was apparently ‘funny and pretty easy on the eye’. I didn’t hold out much hope. I haven’t dated since I was at university, and even then, it wasn’t much of a priority for me.
The ‘date’ was on Friday night, drinks at a bar next to the beach, where a glass of wine was far too expensive, I soon realised after the first introductions, for a date that would need a fairly large amount of alcohol. He was cute, tall and tanned, thick hair and a sharp jaw, sure he was pretty conventionally good looking. But conversation didn’t stray far away from fitness and Jacques’ ‘form’ in the gym. Frankie was stirring her cocktail and making small talk, chuckling away at what the boys had to say. I wasn’t even sure if she was listening. The bar was busy so I took to nodding, sipping my wine and people watching. After another glass of wine, the boys hadn’t strayed far conversationally and were starting to speak more and more in French, losing mine and Frankie’s interest.
“C’mon lets go for a walk, I know a cheaper bar we can go to… Henri?” Frankie downed her cocktail and took Henri’s hand, pulling him away from the table. I gave Jacques a quiet smile and we went through the dimming light and market stalls up into the narrow streets of the Old Town. We reached a square where a fountain and restaurants surrounded a church. More wine, more talk of weights and limboing, and more bored giggling. That’s when I heard the tinny sound of an acoustic guitar and saw three people in the square dancing while a busker sang. It was the busker from the tram.
“Frankie?” I said trying to catch her attention, she nodded to me.
“Do you want to dance?” I asked, “I would love to dance right now…” I smiled cheekily and we went into the crowd of people forming, giggling. He looked up, and I was able to really smile at him for the first time, until our dates returned and began to dance too.