A recent survey revealed that a vast majority of men on the planet had answered ‘Zero’ when posed the question: ‘How many times has a pretty French waitress appeared in your bedroom unsolicited?’
Me, I answered ‘Once’.
There are times when you know that someone finds you attractive, and times that you’re not so sure. For instance, when the waitress you’ve been flirting with all night shows up at your house at midnight, having gotten your address off the check you used to pay for dinner, it’s a fairly easy read.
“Hey, Al,” I heard my brother, Rob, shout up the stairs just after the doorbell rang. “There’s someone here to see you.”
If this made no sense to me at the time, please note the following: (1) I had only recently moved to France, and was reasonably sure that I didn’t know anyone within a radius of 700 miles and (b) I was still a little drunk from dinner, after which I had come home and passed out on my bed.
It had not been my intention to be drunk. But Rob and I, having quit smoking a week earlier – on the very day that we’d moved into this beautiful villa overlooking the sea -- had both become increasingly irritable as the week had progressed, a state of affairs that had culminated, earlier that evening, in a massive fight that had reached its crescendo when an airborne dining room chair went through a twelve foot picture window.
“I need a cigarette,” said Rob as we boarded up the window.
So off we went, brothers reunited, to the neighborhood café-bar-tabac, where we sat chain-smoking Winstons, drinking Scotch and eating steak frites. The waitress was cute. I vaguely remember wrapping my scarf around her neck when we left.
“Bon soir, Alain,” the pretty French girl in my bedroom greeted me after Rob had aimed her up the stairs. “How do you do?”
I was doing just fine, and that was before she hopped on the bed, wrapped my scarf around my neck, pulled me to her and kissed me. “You forget thees at ze restaurant.”
Morning found Babeth, clad only in her bikini underwear and my blue oxford shirt, cooking us breakfast. Now, how could I convince her never to leave?
“So, do you have any plans today?” I asked as she fed me a piece of omelet.
“Non. I have all day.”
“Would you like to take a drive up into the mountains? Maybe pack lunch and go for a hike?”
I guess I was about a third of the way through my fourth ham sandwich when I remembered that I was engaged to someone else, an English girl who in all likelihood would not have approved of this impromptu mountain luncheon. And while the guilt was not overwhelming, I did somehow feel compelled to share with Babeth my current marital status.
“There’s something I probably should have mentioned when you came to the house last night?”
“Oh?” said Babeth, peeling a grape.
“I have a girlfriend.”
This seemed to concern Babeth not in the least. “Is she nice?” she wanted to know.
“She is. She’s very nice. And she’s sort of more than a girlfriend. She’s my fiancée.” There; it was out. I waited for something: a wine bottle to be hurled, Babeth to get up and go storming off… Nothing.
“Is she pretty?” was all that she said.
“Yes. She’s very pretty.”
“Hmm. Is she as pretty as me?”
“No; she’s not as pretty as you.”
“Zer’s somesing else she ees not,” Babeth laughed as she pulled me on top of her. “She ees not here.”
It’s funny how stories have a way of changing over time. In the thirty-five years that I’ve been telling the tale, Babeth has grown in my mind’s eye to be the perfect blend of Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan and Cameron Diaz. It’s possible that she didn’t start out that way….
I awakened to the unmistakable smell of burned toast. Pulling on my robe, I made my way groggily down the stairs and into the kitchen. There she stood, clad only in her bikini briefs and my blue oxford shirt. Was it my imagination, or were Babeth’s thighs a bit meatier than I’d remembered them?
Beckoning me to sit down, she now handed me the most god-awful cup of coffee I’d ever tasted, and sat down to join me. Leaning her elbows on the table, she folded her hands seductively and placed them under what would have been her chin, had she had a chin.
But while Babeth was somewhat lacking in the chin department, she did have a dominant facial characteristic in the region, that being a remarkable set of buckteeth, which made me realize, among other things, that I didn’t know the French word for buckteeth.
“So, she smiled a toothy smile at me, “I sought maybe today we make a peek-neek and go in ze mountain. And purr-aps we breeng wid us my chilren and also my mudehr – eef we can make ze place for … how you say … her wheelchair in ze car.”
There are times when it’s good to have a fiancée waiting in the wings – real or imagined.
“Babeth,” I began, sounding genuinely forlorn. “There’s something I should have told you last night.”
“Yah. You see. There’s someone else. I have a fiancée – in England.”
“Hola,” she laughed. “And I have a husband – een France.”
“And I have to leave for England this afternoon to see her.”
“Oh. So no peek-neek?”
Thirty agonizing minutes later, Babeth got dressed and left, vowing to return as soon as possible.
“Rob,” I said when the coast was clear. “Did you sign the lease yet?”
“I’ll explain later. Just help me pack the car.”
“So which French waitress story is true?” my editor wanted to know.
“I don’t remember,” I lied.