Emma, one of my best friends from high school, comes to visit me in Chambéry for her spring break. We travel up to Paris to spend a few days, renting a room in a hostel in Montmartre from which we can lean out our window to see the tiniest part of the Sacré Coeur. Emma doesn’t speak or understand a word of French. It is up to me to guide her around, which I kind of like.
One night, having slept through dinner, we go out to find some bread and cheese. The only place open around us is a sketchy little grocery, common in certain parts of Paris. The man behind the counter, unshaven, overweight, and twice my age, leers at me from the second we walk in. There is nothing I hate more than being leered at.
As we try to pay, he keeps asking me where we are staying, what are we doing in France, will I have a drink with him. I, of course, have to do all the communicating. Emma, unaware of what’s happening at the counter, is studying the candy display as I try furtively to nudge her out. The man doesn’t take the money until I tell him I will meet him later, which I have no intention of doing. I want to tell him how much he repulses me, but instead I turn and walk away as fast as I can, slipping on the cobblestones.
I felt sick, dirty, the rest of the night, even while Emma and I eat our dinner on the Montmartre steps overlooking the city. I don’t walk by the shop for the remainder of our visit. I don’t even walk on that street.