On Boulevard Beaumarchais, the rain has let up. A mob of drunk French twenty-somethings storm passed us. One member kicks the steel shutters of a shop. Mocking the Gilets Jaunes. Another lets out a blasé puff of cigarette smoke.
We continue North.
The name changes: Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire. We turn on a narrow side street, Rue Amelot.
People spill into the street.
An ordinary Bar-Tabac.
We enter. Yeah, it’s an ordinary bar-tabac. Except it kinda isn’t. There’s a cigarette stand in the front, lottery tickets in the corner. Neon lights illuminate the ceiling like a casino in Vegas. Dance party in the back of the bar.
3 demi-pints: <8€ : WTF.
An extraordinary amount of Italians are present. We discover Alberto, an Italian architect, is having a going away party. We weave through the crowd of dashing, objectively good-looking Italians. My girlfriend wishes him a happy birthday, as do I. He engages her in conversation.
I turn and ask the barman if he sells single cigarettes. He doesn’t. Of course he doesn’t, stupid question. We ask for beer instead. He hands us two pints and a single cigarette–on the house.
What a guy.
Outside, people cluster. An Italian woman with curly, raven’s black hair, blue eyes, and a post-punk style gazes my way. She’s talking to a bohemian drunkard. He notices, and rambles towards us. She leaves, and joins a different conversation.
The drunk man has a large tome in his hand. Opens to pictures of pastoral France. Clumsy, mumbling, he loves his book, he says. A photo of a stone house surrounded by long blades of grass. He’s fallen in love with an Italian woman and wants to buy this house for her. He motions to the aforementioned woman.
My girlfriend joins the conversation.
‘Alberto has quite the reputation at this bar,’ she pokes. He’s what university folks call a stud. She jests about his vibrant black hair. No holes, no receding hairline, just a hairy Italian with good genes.
A group next to us talks about building a building. They’re all architects. They’re also all wasted.
A bumbling intellectual walks up to us. He has a broad nose, tanned skin and long salt and pepper hair.
‘My umbrella, it’s my prized possession,’ he starts. ‘It gives me a look of sophistication and it protects me from rain.’
‘That’s ridiculous,’ my friend tells him.
He tells us that my friend is a fine and sensible man, but could use some refinement. An archetypally French view.
We find that the strange intellectual is from Corsica.
My girlfriend jokes that when his glasses are placed atop his head, holding his hair back, he looks like a celebrity philosopher. We all laugh.
He responds that my friend is sensible, but my girlfriend is too brutal. He continues that women need sensibility as well, because men are utter victims to their ferocity.
This upsets my girlfriend, and she leaves for the bathroom. We enter the bar with this Corsican. He buys us beers. Bingo.
For fun, my friend and I fill out French lotto tickets, and slide them in the ballot. The bar gives a last call, and we move our belongings near the door.
Grand farewells. Alberto is lost in a sea of beautiful black-haired, Italian youth.
I look around. I hear, ‘Alex!’ It’s my girlfriend.
The philosopher has cornered my girlfriend, talking to her in that uncomfortably close manner, which some men have the bad habit of doing.
I skate towards them. I force him to step back, using my arm. He acts with naivety, stunned by my action and leaves. I apologise to her. I should’ve been there sooner.
We grab our coats,
soured by that confrontation,