I wanted to revisit us, return to a younger love story, when we were just beginning. I started in Antibes, at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc. I remembered the murals by the stairs, the manicured lawns and arched palms, and something to do with The Kennedys. The blues were the same, the umbrellas, the infinity pool. I remembered the bathing suit I’d purchased there, Eres, with its own palms, and the meal we’d had at Restaurant Le Perroquet. Crab, avocado, grapefruit segments. While I was young enough to imagine that I could be anyone, do anything, I never thought I’d be thin enough to pass for French.
A reedy woman who adored all things French, Antonia Tellis was a work colleague who nicknamed me “Licious,” as in delicious. Before our trip to the French Riviera, she’d given me a verbal itinerary, instructing me to navigate a stepped and vaulted street and to tip my hat to strangers along the way, offering a specific French pleasantry, “Along with your redheaded charm.” The phrase she’d directed me to say escapes me now, leaving only the vague prints of “Juan-les-Pins” and “Cap Ferrat,” –locations, not salutations. We worked together in tech, but in her off hours, Antonia volunteered in the kitchen of NYC’s famed restaurant Montrachet. Blood orange champagne sorbet. Or was it Picholine ? Yes, Picholine. It’s like mistakenly dipping my brush into Indanthrone Blue when I’d meant to use Anthraquinone: same pigment, different name. The restaurant names muddle because she’d once had the prix fixe lunch at Montrachet and returned to the office tipsy, unwrapping tissue paper, to reveal a teacup with a handle in the shape of a human ear–a gift from her waiter. My point: Antonia was whimsical, generous with her laugh and information, and if she were fabric, she’d be velvet. I trusted and adored her.
She said I had to take a train to Eze, for the sole purpose of dining at a restaurant, which I’d find at the top of a steep cobbled hill, within a medieval walled city, and then mentioned something to do with an old man and a goat. Or homemade goat’s cheese. Chèvre d’ Or! The name just came to me now, like a new watercolor layer, one last glaze of yellow to the top-most trees. I Google it. There’s a golden goat, cobbled walls, a city perched. Being right feels like gold. I have no idea if I ever ate at the restaurant. I picture her now, living in New Zealand as a Feminist Pimp, telling me, “It ain’t something you’d forget, Red.”
I imagine the dips and sweeps of old age come like this, in stones that you can leave along the road, markers of where you’ve been, unsure of why the story matters at all, but finding calm in the solid details. You begin with the story of us, and it becomes the story of you–a collection of moments, one-stop towns, and side-car friendships. No destination, no point. Only the fact that you do remember.
With age your focus dulls; you shift your weight, close one eye, and you’re left to see that the view was far more arresting than first noted. The edges of our memories are more vibrant than the rehearsed central stories. The little bits happened, and you remember enough of them, their gestures, the way the light hits, and you at least know that it matters now because it’s what you notice most in all of it.
Your day-to-day moments and moves today are what you’ll one day remember. Not the specifics in the headlines, not the statistics, but the everyday of it. The pattern of your duvet, your laptop resting on your midsection, the sound of your daughter practicing the piano. The way your children adamantly refuse to watch Tootsie, despite your futile attempts at bribery. Your watercolors. Your journal. Your sketchbooks. Capture and create your side roads, and you’ll keep finding home.
And should you one day “need” to recall the name of that restaurant in Paris that you went to, the one that looked like a library, the one you swore was your most memorable meal in Paris, it was Les Editeurs, 4 Carrefour de l Odeon, 75006 Paris, France. I think. You’re welcome.