My regular spot in Bernay is Brin d’Zinc, a bar that Clémence and her friends seem to have been going to since they were in collège, the French version of middle school. Smoking indoors is still legal, and the yellow interior is full of French teenagers lighting up over their beers. I am immediately a part of the crowd; with Clémence as my host sister, I came to Normandie with a ready-made group of friends waiting for me.
My drink of choice is one that Fréd introduced me to: pression pêche, a draft beer with peach syrup. Stereotypically girly, sure, but it’s delicious and fresh and I get one every time we go in, Clémence ordering one for me along with hers. On our third or fourth visit, I work up the courage to stride up to the bar and order my own. Une pression pêche, s’il vous plaît!
But I am nervous and tripping over my words. The “r” in pression turns flat, hard. American. The smiling barman laughs and makes me repeat the phrase until I get it right — not in a mean way, but still. It takes me two more tries before he slides the beer across the bar.
Face burning, I carry my drink back to the table and take a sip while Clémence pats my shoulder encouragingly. The beer still tastes good, only slightly tainted with humiliation.