“Bonjour, enchante”

Jeremy was a character I couldn’t let pass my memory by. JB had introduced a couple of days prior on an outside patio in the village center; he leaned in for a polite kiss on either cheek and hurried off to a fellow calling his name across the courtyard before we could exchange more than a quick “bonjour, enchante.”

I was surprised then to recognize him in JB’s dimly lit apartment cozied into the chair he assumed his seat in sideways, rolling a spliff on a small novel, Suave Moi, propped up in his lap with a handful of dog eared pages.

After a proper introduction revealing he was from Manchester and proficient in English, a rarity in the area’s crowds, he shifted a story he had started telling in French to our shared tongue and gently backtracked to catch me up.

“If you’re planning on flying with drugs, never layover in Amsterdam,” he began, as if I had often seriously contemplated, like any regular human he would assume by the tone of his voice, how to internationally smuggle drugs. He had been flying from France to Philadelphia with 60 grams of pot and was pulled aside at customs. While the airport agent distractedly gloved up to dig into his bags, Jeremy grabbed the package and shoved it into his pants, sucking his stomach in. The suitcase came up clear, but when they said they’d be performing an electronic body scan he simply reached in and tossed the package on the table, joking with them about how he had gotten this far.

JB cracks on about Jeremy’s reputation in this town (of only 1,900 residents, smaller than my high school, where even I already feel embedded). “He worked at the restaurant just here (pointing towards the main drag), but ended up sleeping with the owner’s niece, dated his daughter, had an affair with his wife, then hooked up with his step-daughter. It was some Jerry Springer type shit.”

They rag about uproarious fighting stories Jeremy has collected – rugby players, bar clientele, why his right ring finger is locked in place, how he got his lip split, why one leg is longer than the other. Jeremy doesn’t stop talking much of the time, to my preference, as his stories have me howling, but when he asks about my age and ambitions he assures that now at 33 he wishes he had traveled more.

I told him about how I missed my rideshare to Paris that morning, and without batting a lash he offered an apartment in Toulouse “you don’t want all that ‘pear-ee’ nonsense anyway, it’s a different crowd up there,” he goes on to speak French with a more pretentious accent flopping his hand around to suggest it’s too crowded, too dirty, too much of whatever experiences he’s had to turn him off to the city, but enough to make him invest in a place in Toulouse. He doesn’t go into detail and pledges that I’ll see for myself, but hands JB his house keys and tells us to have a good time, just not to forget his mail.

I only saw a couple of episodes over my mother’s shoulder and formed an image from the characterization she played out comedically, but I imagine Jeremy looked much like what Ali G was aiming for. He wore Reeboks and grey sweat pants cinched at his ankles so you could see the entirety of the British flag socks he continues to tug at. A thick silver chain on his right wrist matched the lengthier necklace tucked under his Kelly Slater cleavage graphic tee.

His hair is unkempt under his beanie, tilted so the logo is crooked at an angle, and I can see just one tattoo wrapping around his bicep when he interlaces his fingers behind his head -“doesn’t mean nothin’. Was with my uncle in Chile and before we boarded the flight home he said ‘you wanna get a tattoo,’ and I said ‘why not?'” He saws at his appendages with his hand to show where he’d like future pieces, but stops where a typical shirt cuff ends “I like being a proper server so I can’t be getting visible tattoos all over my face and shit. Plus, I’m working out and don’t want to get tattoos then have them grow out of shape.” Sure, I remained encouraging.

He mindfully flipped through his phone to choose specific songs, prompting me to laugh when he chose to turn on those the likes of Tracy Chapman and Queen. He knew every word to every song in Spanish, French, and English, and at my commentary he replies that he’s a music and film champion at trivia nights (he mimes squinting and pulling the handle on a slot machine over and over, kicking back victoriously). “I’ve never studied music, but I’ve always kind of thought of myself as a John Bonham, you know, from Led Zeppelin,” he goes on unashamedly.

He plants his feet to pick up his wine glass and shakes it to direct where the next pour should be, though there’s still a sizable share of another blend remaining in his vessel. JB quirks his eyebrows and chuckles, but mixes the varietals, and empties even more into his glass when Jeremy motions for a brimming fill. I love observing them hang as I imagine formal servers for French cuisine would, judging one another’s pouring abilities and etiquette, joking about which years produced better bottles and analyzing the quality of corks used by local vineyards.

When they speak French they’re both wildly expressive facially and in their body language, making me aware how much I do so as well, or maybe because I’m mimicking their mannerisms.

When he eventually stands to leave he tugs on his sweater posing “my tent or yours” overlaid on a photo of a music festival. He grabs four Heineken bottles, hooking them between the webs of each finger on his left hand and shamelessly scratches under his cotton pants with the other, cigarette dangling from his lips. I don’t attempt to stand, assuming the discomforted time devoted to a proper goodbye wouldn’t go unnoticed, and reached instead for my glass of red – “au revoir, Jeremy.”


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