Today I will visit the area surrounding Arts et Metiers. Friend, Jean Pierre suggested I check out the Chateau Rogue and his suggestions have all proven to be excellent...and cost efficient if not free. So I wake early. Hop the train. And ride 15 minutes in search of the phenomenal coffee digs: Cafe Charlot. Upon my exit or sortie - I notice a slim black man leaning against the Metro stairs. He is interested in everyone that exits – I pay him no more mind. Instead I begin looping around the area like a lost puppy. If there were sharks to see the blood – I'd be done. I literally walk 5 minutes realize, I'm lost. Walk back to the Metro station. Go the opposite (slightly) direction for 5 minutes, realize I'm lost. And this is when Slim catches me: Bonjour! He greets. I don't trust it. Anybody that has watched me work my way from lost to more lost has the upper hand. And if you know me – you know I'm a control freak. Bonjour! I reply “Ehhhhhhh Ru de Charlot?” I stammer. I almost add por favor then remember where the hell I am. “Ahh.” he sighs excitedly. He snatches my map and points to an area on the smudged paper before lifting his finger into the air and pointing dramatically ahead. My defenses almost begin to swirl to my ankles as I reply “Merci! Merci!” I grab my map back and start walking ahead. But Slim is not hearing the walk away Merci. He starts speaking fast French. Dumb fast. I blink and trip over my imaginary shoe string.
“Sorry” I offer. “Au Revoir” I add.
He is quick, this Slim. He strides along with me. Now stuck at the traffic light, he pauses “You, ehhhh AH MER REE KA??”
I nod “Oui.”
He continues. “No francios?”
I see where this is going. “Nope! Sorry.”
The light changes and I turn in the direction of his previous finger point. But now, Slim is walking next to me. “Where are you from?” I ask. He's not going away. And if this turns out to be some sneak attack – I'll need all the information possible.
“Senegal” he smiled.
“Ahh.” I nodded. My feet couldn't move quick enough. And it obviously caught Slim off guard.
“Whew!” he exhaled. “Hot!” he fanned himself hurriedly.
I pretended it was perfect running weather, nevermind the pool of sweat that now straddled my forehead. I looked ridculous. Like I was in a sauna or something. And Slim, just ran beside me. Squirming out American and pushing back his shoulders. I didn't know what the hell he was trying to say – but I presume it was a compliment because he rubbed around his arms and grinned American. I looked down. Did I have too much arm showing? I thought it was cool to get my Michelle Obama on...
Slim stopped arupbtly and asked a passing couple in French “where is Rue Du Charlot.” I know that because I heard Charlot and then their faces drop. “OOOOOH!” they pointed in the opposite direction of us. More French that I couldn't understand, then Slim says, “this way.” I sigh heavily. Turn on my heel and head back up the hill. I can't be mad at Slim. Though I want to be. Hell. He was trying to help – right? This is when we pass a fight occurring on an off street. The black and Chinese man are yelling loud French. The car trying to pass them is waiting semi-silently. The black man pushes the Chinese man onto the ground. His shirt now removed and lying in the curb. He begins to pull up his pants leg. Both of them. I am stunned into stillness. “Ahhh. Come, come.” Slim says. I roll my eyes at him. First he gets me lost – then he gets in my way of free UFC style entertainment. We walk away, slowly back towards the Metro station. This is when I decide to take matters into my own hands. But I need my map. And a coffee. I left the bed and breakfast with nothing to eat or drink, in hopes that I'd get my fill @ Cafe Charlot. At the Metro station is a neighborhood map. I stand in front of it and wait for Slim to get the hint.
“I got this homie – back away from the Black girl.”
He walks away to ask someone else for directions. The start pointing further north and I walk away completely. I settle on the sidewalk cafe Les Arts et Metiers to get myself together. Check out my map in comparison to the neighborhood map and sip on something before racing the sun. I'm greeted at the entrance and nod at the waitress accompanied by perfectly good broken French, “un” fingers splayed “1” seat. “Merci!” she nods then looks again as she notices Slim following me to the table. She shrugs and walks away to get menus. My jaws drop open. Slim is not leaving. Slim is not leaving. Slim is not leaving. My eyes must bug out because I search for my english to french dictionary hoping to find something that tells Slim to go away. I find, thanks you. See you later. And goodbye. I try them all at the same time. The waitress comes back for drink orders. I swoon “cafe le creme” and Slim replies “le coco.”
Now one thing I've learned in Paris is – Coco Cola (le coco) is more expensive than coffee! Sometimes by 2 Euros. And then I think Slim is gonna leave me with a bill! Holy crap. I didn't bring a lot of money. Do I have my credit cards – everything is flying thru my head at once. I flip the pages of the book point to “Can we split the bill?” and Slim nods before snatching the book and reading to me pages of French saying with English translation. He says “Tank Ooo?”
“Thank You” I enuciate. He repeats it twice. And then turns the page and continues. I figure, if I give him an English lesson, we're even. “What is your name?” I ask. He begins to speak in French, fast. I shake my head. He spells it slowly: “Jeoull.”
Ahh, I nod.
He continues saying something about Cafe Charlot. I say, “eh?” The heat has taken its toll and the coffee is still not kicked in. He looks in my book for the word meaning: meeting. I get his drift.
“Le petit ami.”
His eyebrows raise and he is not smiling anymore. I repeat.
“Le petit ami.” and pull out my phone to pretend I am now texting my boyfriend about why I'm late.
With eyes bore into me he says “Homme y Femme?”
“Homme!” I say. Then begin puffing up my chest like a caveman. “Homme!”
He understands. The check comes and he takes the tab and runs to the bar. Jeoull returns putting Euros into his wallet and I grab my purse and walk out. He follows, seemingly not fazed about my boyfriend. So I grab my phone and pull up a picture of J. I show Jeoull. He loses a bit of his speed.
I say slowly “Le petit ami est Cafe Charlot..”
Jeoull nods. But he continues walking beside me. Now. I am the one that is defeated. Another uphill semi-silent walk and 10 minutes later, I am afraid I looked at the map incorrectly. A young woman walks by and Jeoull asks her “Rue de Charlot?” Her answers are long winded. He looks confused. I show her my phone with the intersection names. “Do you speak English?” She asks me.
“Well then,” she begins. And gives me step by step directions.
“Thank you!” I whine. “Can you do me one more favor?” She nods.
“Please tell this man, thank you – I don't need his help anymore.”
She looks surprised then repeats it for me. Her hands chop at the air. Her hair bun flops with authority.
Jeoull nods and smiles. “De Rien.”
I wave to her and turn to walk away, but Jeoull turns with me. My head drops. I have no idea what to do next. So I walk using the latest directions and ignoring Jeoull. He tries to ask me questions and I shrug. He says words I almost think I know and I shrug. He points me to cross the street and I refuse. I am not doing anything remotely like him anymore. This is ridiculous. I'm so infuriated with myself for not speaking the native's language that I find myself stumbling along – yet again. Not quite sure I turned when I should have. I am about to cry. Jeoull stops another couple and asks them for directions. But I dont stop walking. I actually speed up. Less than 20 feet is a corner and I decide i'm going to make a run for it. Its broad daylight. He'll look like a fool chasing me. And if he does. Then I've got bigger problems. As soon as my pink nike touches the other side of the corner, I break into full speed. I peep another short block to the right and this will allow me to zig zag, if Jeoull is indeed behind me. I take the chance. Cross the street looking back for cars and the man that can't catch a clue and see the latter. His hands are high in the air waving me down. He is screaming something. I dont even pretend to care. I hit the first zig and realize it leads into an immediate zag. I duck behind the car and continue scurrying like a New York City rat. I have no idea where I am. This is when I start looking around bewildered. I dont see a sign but I see another intersection and Im assured there will be a sign there. I hurry to the intersection and pass a table of people talking and laughing. Paris really is lovely. Their food looks good. And they aren't sweating like a hog running from a man in a blue shirt. I look behind me almost afraid and see nothing. Not even a car. I stand in the intersection. Completely winded. And look at the sign on the brick building. In perfect script it reads: Rue de Charlot.
I almost wail out loud. Instead I turn completely around and see the entrance to Cafe Charlot.
I hurry inside, not fully sure Jeoull isn't behind me. And greet them “Bonjour!”
Bonjour! They reply. Im too winded to find other words and just hold my rib and wheez “can I sit anywhere?”
The waitress encourages me “Anywhere you like!”
“L'eau du robinet.” (pronounced Low due row-bee-nay) I beg, before I tuck myself into a plush corner seat. It is hidden from the world outisde with a perfect view of anyone that decides to walk down the street or into the cafe's doors.