A few years ago my friend and I arrived in Paris, planning to drop our study abroad bags off with someone before taking a train to Barcelona that night to start a three-week backpacking adventure. However, of course things fell through on the first day when the person who was supposed to pick up our bags did not show up. We were college students and not about to pay for a locker, so in a panic I called the only number I had in France, my father's colleague. He had no warning about my phone call, but he stepped out of his meeting and gave me his address, assuring me his 13 year old son would take care of us.
In a jetlagged haze, my friend and I wandered to the apartment in Neiully-sur-Seine and arrived at the door drenched in sweat with two overstuffed bags. The young boy and his little brother ushered us in. They were on school break and were lazing around in their pajamas. The older brother was a ball of energy, speaking quickly in accented English. He put us at ease, assuring us that we shouldn’t worry about storing our massive bags in the small tasteful Parisian apartment. He exclaimed that we must be hungry and started boiling water for pasta. My dad later learned from his father that this was his first time cooking. I should have guessed since pasta and sauce ended up all over the tiled floor in his frenzy.
We sat in the kitchen over our overflowing bowls of pasta. The windows were wide open leading to a balcony crammed with juice bottles. I sat there in awe, overwhelmed by being in a foreign country for the first time without my parents. He told us of his school trip to the US and how much he loved New York. He asked us if we watched The Big Bang Theory (we didn’t), and they insisted we watch it with them because we were American. We watched two episodes after the meal. While the brothers laughed energetically, my friend and I tried to figure out how someone could be so kind to two sweaty foreign strangers.
When the older brother was about to start the third episode, we told him we had to leave for the train. He understood and walked us to the station, helped us buy tickets, and waited until we had passed through the turnstiles, waving goodbye with a huge smile.
He was in school when we returned for our bags, so we never saw him again. This was our first Parisian crush. And who says the French aren’t warm and welcoming.