My sister and I anxiously waited in the lobby of Unk’s hotel. We would finally get to meet our cousin, Lynette (not her real name). Unk had returned upstairs to his room and said he’d be back down shortly. The lobby was filled with crowds of men and women, dressed in business suits and a few tourists dressed in shorts, tee shirts and sunglasses. Enter Lynette with her manager/boyfriend. How did I know it was she? In her mid thirties, Lynette is tall, over 6 ft., statuesque, and possessing an aura of “I know who I am.” She wore no make-up; short dark curls framed her smooth, heart-shaped face. She wore a short black mini skirt and a turquoise tee shirt. On her long shapely legs, she wore black flats. Her manager, Lorenzo, 5’4, was an olive complexion, medium built Italian, his curly black hair sprinkled with gray as was his scruffy beard and mustache. He looked to be in his forties. Hesitant, we walked over to them. Just as we reached them, Unk suddenly appeared and dispelled any doubt. We hugged; Lynette introduced us to her companion. Unk and Lynette caught up on the last time they’d met. Laughing, he said “Last time I was here, she walked me all over Paris.” Lynette turned to Sis and me. “And how are we related?” Unk explained. Sis elaborated giving examples from our youth spent visiting Lynette’s family, our first cousins. “We knew you mother….” That question was asked several times during our short visit. I got the feeling she didn’t believe us.
Lynette had come to the City of Lights a few years earlier. She’d graduated from a prestigious college in the East with a degree in Sociology and had come to Paris for vacation. She fell in love with the place and returned shortly after. She auditioned for a gig at a nightclub, was hired, and thus began her career as an entertainer. A popular singer in Paris, Lynette had been on TV and had worked in several nightclubs around the city. As we walked towards the exit of the hotel, Lorenzo told us the plans they had for her career. We agreed to meet at our hotel that evening, and they would take us to a Senegalese restaurant near Montmartre.
Around seven that evening, we met them in the lobby. The five of us squeezed into Lorenzo’s small Fiat and we headed towards Montmartre. Before we were halfway up the steep hill, it became evident that the car would not make it. It began to stall. He quickly pulled over to the curb, and told us we would have to walk the rest of the way. As it was a clear, mild, lovely evening, we didn’t mind. The restaurant was dimly lit, a few people stood at the bar. I followed the group as the waiter led us up narrow stairs to the second floor where several tables covered with white tablecloths were spread across the room. Because it was early evening, we were the only dinner guests. The brightly lit walls were peach with alternating brown and beige wainscoting; small abstract prints hung between the lights. In the background the soft rhythmic sounds of West African music enhanced the atmosphere. The food was delicious – rice and stew, pepper soup, fried fish and Banana Manadazi (Banana Fritters) for dessert. We enjoyed a lively conversation that ranged from life in Paris, to Lynette’s career, to explaining again how we were related.
Soon it was time to leave. We made our way back down the narrow stairs to the first floor. The downstairs was packed, the bar was crowded as were the small tables with people talking, laughing drinking and smoking. It reminded me of the cafes in New York’s Greenwich Village. Over the noise I heard someone reciting a poem. I would have loved to linger in this exotic atmosphere but it was getting late. One thing, however, held up our departure. Outside it was raining. Not a gentle rain but an angry storm. Lorenzo, his tee shirt pulled up over his head, told us to wait inside and he would go down to get the car. He soon returned, we jumped in and just as we reached our hotel, the rain stopped. It had been a memorable day.
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