We all sat on the edge of the river in Toulouse with our feet in the water, just one group of kids amongst countless others reciprocating what made me feel was tradition after school in this town. The pedestrian path was large enough for lines of children to link arms and gossip as they migrated towards the city from the playground positioned along the water’s edge.
Tommy is 21 years old, a college student studying management, which was as far as the educational conversation continued. He had strawberry blonde hair and light eyebrows that faded into the pale skin covering his strong facial features. He was the kind of guy who could have gone many directions socially based on his appearance, much more of a candidate for the class clown or quiet academic superstar, but instead started playing music, got a loft in the city, and now hovers with an air of cool confidence that turns heads as we stand to go to dinner.
We got cocktails with his ex girlfriend and he told us about the girl he’s been dating – a homebody who frets about him venturing too far from sight, as his rubs knees with his radiant former lover. He heard that there was a music festival tonight, Rio Loco, on the other side of the bridge, day one of five, and that the night was European themed “we should all go, it’s only six euros.”
The sun was setting by the time we set off towards the river and stopped halfway over the bridge to take turns peering through one of the binoculars overlooking the river to observe the sky changing over the multi-stage concert from a voyeuristic vantage point.
JB skipped to the front of the line and quickly weaseled us all tickets, returning to our huddle buoyantly announcing that he would never let us wait in a line like that.
The festival was much larger than I had ever anticipated. It was more the likes of any American one I’ve attended, human fields of French old and young and everything in between, everyone in full swing. I spun around and watched as children somersaulted down hills, kids played with ribbons and hula hoops, teenagers sang along and lifted one another playfully, adults spontaneously whirled each other around, and seniors swayed gently, all in unison with the brass band performers.
I commented on my enjoyment at the observation that not one person had their phone out, that everyone had freed themselves mentally to focus solely on the rhythm and how it organically carried their bodies. JB paused his movement for a moment and grasped me by the waist, laughing as he heralded, “French don’t dance, they just move.”