A Jean Nicot

Plates clank behind the counter as I adjust myself in the plush red seat of a tabac on Rue Saint Honoré. I’m eating cassoulet alone, thinking about a dog I often walk. While I am walking this dog that is not my own, the leash goes slack when he’s right beside me. Yet I become frightened… have I lost him?? “You’re ridiculous,” I remind myself blithely every time.  

A boy I liked once referred to walking a dog as one of life’s seminal pleasures. I don’t know if I agree. Why? Because I must be keenly aware of where I am in relation to the dog. With every tug of the leash I become frustrated. I don’t want to exert any force and yet I must. How we distinguish others by their resistance to us!

A Jean Nicot has everything you would look for in a tabac - rounded bar, diverse clientele, black boxes of cancer sticks glinting neatly in plastic wrap. A woman purchases a stamp for a postcard her son will send to Germany while a man with silver hair sips an espresso while standing.

Thanks to Britannica, I learn that Jean Nicot was a French diplomat and scholar who introduced tobacco to the French court in the 16th century. I can’t believe I didn’t put two and two together (I don’t consume nicotine products). It’s the neon lights that get me. The wicker chairs and checkered tablecloths can feel contrived but the neon lights say, “Stick around.” Indeed, I circled back to the tabac for this pink glow.

A man in a baby blue suit, white Chuck Taylors and a white wide-brimmed hat strolls in. He’s absolutely trashed and he looks like Bert from Mary Poppins if Bert didn’t have the red and white candy cane suit. I covertly pop a Schoko Bon in my mouth, preparing myself for the spectacle. What will this man do? The employees remain affable as ever.

“I’M ON VACATION, DARLING,” he drawls in a British accent, proceeding to spill the contents of his large bag from Fortnum & Mason. Turquoise cylinders of what must be specialty teas roll across dusty tiles.

"You know Shakespeare's, 'My kingdom for a horse?'" He pauses, either for dramatic effect or because he's indulged in so many "libations" he forgot his point. Then, laughing hysterically: "TWENTY EUROS for a charger??"

It’s times like these where I feel very… situated.