It took 5 years but I am here. At 51 this is my first long trip away from home and my now grown children. I look for signs but nothing is in English. That won’t matter soon because I am here to learn as well as teach. I stop and watch people go by, taxis come and go, airplanes take off and land. I signal for a cab
“Le Jardin Des Sens sil vous plait”
I am staying at a 4-star hotel but only for tonight. From tomorrow I move into a studio apartment in the middle of Montpellier, France. Six months of teaching English, improving my French, enjoying culture, food, people and plenty of red wine. It took me 9 years to get here but here I am. I smile and stare out the window.
After dropping my bags off in my room I waste no time. I want to hit the streets before dark. There are a few places I need to know. A supermarket, a place to eat, a pharmacy and a jazz bar. I already have my Google map in hand so I knew where to go. The last place I found on my map was the jazz bar. It was only 7pm but there was already a gathering of people.
“Bonsoir ce que je peux vous?” (“Good evening what can I get you?”)
“Parlez-vous anglais?” Do you speak English I ask. I will focus on speaking French in the morning. Right now I just need to get a need met quickly.
“Yes madam” he smiles “what would you like to drink?”
“May I just sit and listen to the music for a while?”
He motions me forward with his hands “of course…”
I sit and listen to the smooth jazz and watch the sexy base player. The one thing I am convinced about is my commitment to avoid men and getting myself into a relationship. I refuse to be a cliche. You know the type of thing I mean? Single middle aged woman in a foreign country meets native man…. I also refuse to be led off my path of discovery and culture by getting into dates and other relationship stuff. No sir. This is just me and myself for the next six months.
I close my eyes and allow the music to enter me. It moves through me and wraps around me. I forget everything and its just me and the sounds flowing through me.
“Je vois que vous aimez le jazz” (“I see you love jazz”)
The music stops flowing through me. The bond has been broken. My pleasure has been interrupted.
I stop for a few seconds before opening my eyes. My breathing is shallow and my face sullen. I turn my head as I follow the deep sound of a man’s voice with a French accent. He has interrupted my calm and I am about to let him know. My eyes are met by two huge brown eyes and a beautiful face.
“Oh God…” I say out loud “I am about to become a cliche”
His puzzled face slants to one side. I smile.