Dear Beautiful Stranger Who, Silently, Agreed to Share Eye Contact with me for a Socially Unacceptable Amount of Time in the Literature Section of the Used Bookstore in Pézenas’s Historic Center This Evening,
I am sorry that, when we ran into each other again in the street—twenty minutes after the bookstore incident—where you and I caught sight of each other and both turned our heads as far as they would go to keep eye contact, eventually reaching opposite ends of the rue to only stop, turn around, and stare at each other, hesitant about what to do next, I was the one who nervously ran away from the moment.
I promise that I spent the rest of sunset wandering the streets looking for you, looking for another half, did-that-really-happen dream of a moment that I had no right to ask for thirds of. I had no buses to catch when I went to the Gare Routière. I didn’t want coffee when I walked past every popular café in town. Yet I deliberately (sillily) sought those places out, eyes peeled in the rues between too. I don’t know what I would have said to you if I managed to find your blue eyes locked with mine again, but I wanted to say something beyond the silence of our previous, intense exchanges among strangers.
And, I suppose, that’s probably better. Even if you did have something specific to say to me, I probably wouldn’t have understood it on the first go. I would have, embarrassingly, had to ask you to repeat yourself only to try and respond in a nervous jumble of imperfect French and shy jitters.
Perhaps your stare was not even one of attraction anyway, and I simply misread your intention, as one might the thesis of a book on the shelves where we met. I was, after all, coming from an hour spent wandering through the surrounding countryside, in the wind and mud, and sitting on the banks of the creek reading and drinking. I am sure my red Life Aquatic-esque beanie, leggings, and thrift store letterman jacket (with the name Rhonda stitched on the front) were not up to par with the chic French women in this country that you’re used to. You were in a blazer. You were put together in the fashion of a beautiful French man. You wanted to ask me, “Why are you covered in mud?”
But, who knows? Maybe not? My apology is for not letting Schroedinger’s Box open in the first place anyway. Perhaps you would have simply asked me what I was looking for back in the book store, and (perfectly understanding your question the first time) I would have said whatever caught my eye, but something in an original creole French from the Caribbean would have been nice. You might have said that it’s funny I’m American, because you yourself were looking for Steinbeck or Hemingway or Fitzgerald or some other dead white American male, but you don’t always just read dead white men either. Really, I’d say. Yes, you’d respond. In fact, you have some Caribbean creole French poetry I could borrow sometime if I would like. I would like, of course. From these collections of too-long eye contact, we would exchange books, ideas, conversations, fall into bed, reflect on that ridiculous, unreal moment in the street over the pillow talk that this letter should have originally taken the form of. I am so homesick for conversation wrapped up in the cocoon of a blanket, my dear, beautiful stranger.
I am sorry for running away. I’m sorry for leaving boxes unopened. I hope this letter, this apology, reaches you in good spirits, perhaps tucked, as a bookmark, between the sweet-scented pages of some book you bought at a local used bookstore recently while the tourists busied themselves on the street outside taking pictures of how beautiful French walls can be.