We’re at the bar and he’s been sitting alone, or maybe with the two other people at his left, but it becomes evident that if he’s there with them, they’re not speaking to him.
Without a word he pulls up a chair beside our table.
“Carry on,” he says, with a wave of his hand. “Carry on. I’m just listening.”
His name is Vincent, he says. He’s from France. From Paris, specifically. He’s living in the twelfth arrondissement, where, he says, he is very happy — “Because the tourists haven’t gotten to it yet?” we ask — but no: because, in the twelfth, he has found his people. He has his butcher, his fishmonger, his vegetable man. He has his barber and his wine shop. He is surrounded by the things he needs that he knows he could get. He doesn’t want for anything outside of his little world.
I go with him alone outside for a cigarette. He asks me about my time in Paris. I tell him where I’ve lived.
“I love the Parc Monceau,” I say, and he makes a face like he’s retching.
“Too boring. Too bourgeois,” he says, and I laugh because his accent when he says bourgeois is an attempt at an American accent attempting to adopt a French accent, and it comes out more or less as a Spanish accent.
He tells me again about his butcher and baker, his barber and mailman. I don’t remind him he’s already told me.
“So what are you doing in Toronto?” I ask.
“I’m here to bury my father,” he says.
It’s not that I think he’s lying, but it strikes me as strange that he’d toss this off so casually.
“That’s very literary,” I say.
My cigarette goes out. He helps me relight it. The intimacy of the side of his hand against my face, protecting the cigarette, makes me laugh again and the lighter won’t light. I throw the cigarette in the gutter.
“It’s maybe very bold,” he says, “but I fancy you.”
He repeats it, quickly, so that I almost miss it again.
“You don’t even know me,” I say.
“I fancy you,” he says again.
“Do you mean you’re attracted to me?”
“I mean I think that maybe also you should fancy me,” he says.
He pulls me into the alcove of the doorway of the laundromat next door to the bar. My shoulders are against the cold metal of the grate barricading the door. He’s only holding me by the hand, but with a small motion he somehow compels my body toward his and he kisses me, quick but long enough for our lips to lock in, satisfying like a good finger snap.
I pull away and say, “I can’t do that.”
I say, “I’m in love right now.”
He gives me a strange smile.
“I’m with someone right now,” I clarify.
“You’re engaged,” he says, still smiling.
“No,” I say, and for a second looking at him I lose track of why what I’m saying is important at all.
“So fancy me,” he says.
“I think you’re using that word wrong,” I say.
We stand there, I on the little stoop of the doorway, he on the street just a step below, looking at me with that smile on his face like he knows something I don’t about the way I feel right now. Or the way he wants me to feel right now. Or just the way he thinks I should, and wants me to, behave right now, regardless of feeling.
“I can’t,” I repeat, “I’m in love right now,” and I realize I’m not sure with whom.
Molly Guinn Bradley is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her work has appeared on The Toast, The Equals Record, Splitsider, and Defenestration Mag. She enjoys long walks along the dirty, dirty Hudson.