Butterflies


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I met you on a tired Parisian morning, half-asleep as I stumbled off a plane into an oversized airport and nearly fell to the ground because I couldn’t believe I was actually in Paris. My parents were too busy trying to figure out where baggage claim was to notice me falling, but you rushed over and grabbed the handles of my wheelchair. The first thing I saw when I looked up to say thank you was your eyes, like two dollops of melted chocolate. Grasping for words, I finally managed to say, “Thanks, um, sorry.”

“No problem.”

I blushed, then said, “What’s your name?”

“Émilie.”

“I’m Brisa.”

Just then, my parents started to walk over. You handed me a yellow sticky note, then whispered in my ear, “I have to go.”

I tried to stop you, but you vanished before I could even get a word out. Sighing, I unfolded the sticky note; it simply said, “06 35 74 98 52.”

***

I called you on a sunny afternoon from the bathroom of the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant, my stomach filled with butterflies of chocolate mousse. You picked up as soon as I dialed your number.

“Bonjour?”

“Um, bonjour. This is Brisa.” You said something after that, but I couldn’t hear you over the noisy jumble of French and English and Arabic, so I wheeled out of the restaurant and onto the tower’s glass floor. I looked down at the iron beams and the people far below, like little dolls, and felt dizzy for a second; if I fell through the floor, you wouldn’t be there to catch me.

I was still lost in my thoughts when, moments later, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I whirled around... and came face to face with you.

“Émilie??” I ended our phone call. “What are you doing here?!”

“I love coming here. The view of Paris is so amazing and I haven’t been in a few months... so here I am.”

“You’re lucky you get to visit so often.”

“Yeah, I’m really fortunate. Hey, do you want to see my favorite view of the city?”

I smiled shyly, then followed you to the edge of the tower. Gazing into the distance, I saw the crystal clear water of the Seine River. Beyond the river, there were neatly trimmed bushes and a never-ending expanse of greenery, though if I looked hard enough I could see it stop at the outline of the École Militaire. It was almost breathtaking. But when you took my hand and I looked into your eyes, you swept my breath away.

***

I winked at you on a chilly evening outside L’As du Fallafel on Rue des Rosiers, warm pita overflowing with pickled cabbage and fried eggplant and delicious aromas in hand. You pouted as I savored my sandwich because you were still stuck in the line; it was so long you couldn’t even see the takeout window or the viridian walls of the restaurant. But it must have been worth it, because that sandwich was the best thing I’d eaten all week. I told you I felt bad for the owners of all the other falafel stands lining the street. You told me you felt sorry for all the girls lining up outside my house because I was already taken.

You were such a flirt.

I kissed you on a starry night on Rue Vieille du Temple. The taste of spicy harissa and sweet cherry gelato lingered on your lips. You looked up at the side façade of the gelaterie, at the letters that spelled out “Amorino,” then told me you loved me. I told you I loved you too.

You know, it’s funny that we kissed outside Amorino. Amorino means “cupid.” And sometimes I wonder if the cupids on the shop’s hanging signs shot us with their bows and arrows and made us fall in love that night.

Afterwards, my parents and I took a taxi back to our Crowne Plaza hotel. I stared out the window as we drove there, and beyond all the people smoking along the busy streets, I glimpsed the Tour Eiffel, glimmering with golden lights. It was beautiful. And I thought of you.

***

I met you on a tired Parisian morning at the hotel in Place de la République, and then I said goodbye to you, to the best week of my life. You kissed me and the chocolate mousse butterflies took flight again and the last thing I saw before I left was your eyes, two butterflies that had flown up from my stomach and kissed your face and settled there sempiternally.
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