Have you ever fallen instantly in love with somebody? I did once and I’ve never forgotten the moment.
OK, I’ve actually done so a couple of hundred times, but this particular instance sticks in my mind because it all seemed so exotic.
I was biding my time in a laundromat in Grenoble, France. While Wendy was attending lectures at the business university right next to our hotel, one of my tasks was to see to the laundry during our three weeks in that southern French city.
The laundromat was a couple of blocks away, right in the heart of the Arab quarter. I liked that fact for a couple of reasons. One of them was that the assorted Algerians, Moroccans and sundry erstwhile residents of other former French African colonies were more gracious towards English-speaking outsiders than were the French. But, most nationalities are more gracious than the French.
The other reason I liked this laundry facility was due to the colorful array of both customers, passers-by, and folks waiting at the tram stop right outside the door. I felt like I was in a North African movie scene. It was very cool.
One day while I was idly reading my book and waiting for the dryer to complete its job and hoping I wouldn’t need to punch any more Euros in, the most exquisite creature I have ever seen in my life strolled in. She was just amazing. I thought at first she might be a film star or a supermodel or something equally illustrious. But, no. This was a laundromat, for heaven’s sake.
She was an African woman of maybe about 30. There are a lot of tropical Africans in the Arab quarter, stemming from such former French colonies as Cote d’Ivoire or Chad or Equatorial Africa. She was the hue of mahogany and her eyes were black and compelling. She was ‘not’ to former Miss Ivory Coast (pictured), but that photo gives you a good idea.
That was all it was. Just a moment in time that momentarily erased all other considerations from my mind and left me with the compelling thought that I was madly in love with this person. I wanted to know her. I wanted to speak to her. The latter would, of course, been to of no avail since my knowledge of French is rudimentary and a little too limited to enable me to engage in witty and charming patter with a stranger. No, I could only worship her from afar and wonder what it would be like. You know, the ‘it’ part.
Within moments she departed and hopped on a tram that had just arrived. And that was it. She left my life for all eternity. But, the ‘brief encounter’ left me feeling like Trevor Howard did when he first espied Celia Johnson in that wonderfully romantic ancient chestnut of the same name. Only they were able to scandalize others by taking it to the next level. No such chance would be coming my way.
But, as I lugged our laundered duds back to the hotel I wondered what it was that could make us instantly besotted with a complete stranger and have the normal pattern of our lives transformed in an instant. I have no answers. It has happened before and will likely happen again, as it has for most of us. But that particular memory is as etched in my memory as if it had happened yesterday.