And it was high summer in the south of France. Work and the car, oven cleaner and scraping the oil off the grill were the escape and now life was real, like the marmelade that would have been roundly condemned under the auspices of science. It was contained in a giant mason jar as a gentle wind carried hints of the afternoon heat to come through the muslin barrier at the window; my bare arm in the shade of hundreds of years absorbed the heat and held on to the cool...I watched it run across the skin of my arm, extended with a tentative spoon toward the mouth of the mason jar. I will remember this moment. I remembered that moment, every second as it passed and recorded each present; I've no idea what we were talking about. Maybe we weren't talking.
The little man who brought the jar, it seemed he was bigger than the jar, but not much. He smiled more than I expect to see anyone smile. Well it wasn't that he was smiling so much. The smile of a restaurant server is rarely so sincere, and I'd been trained to appreciate that fools smile, and Europeans are too clever to smile. And so like Nietzsche or Kierkegaard or perhaps Hermann Bahr, I sat in a little restaurant in centuries of shade with the decades of serious thought carefully etched into my eyes and pouty lips, and too aware of the relationship of air with my skin. I existed, it was like an essay. I underlined my salient points, poised in mid-air.
The little man gestured for my approval. He smiled, he was hunched over, his skin was a cauliflower white and his teeth, too, he had bumps and hair the little cauliflower man with the mason jar in his arms. He was the nicest person I'd ever seen.
I had a cafe au lait. I hate lait. I like my cafe noir. It never matters what I order in French restaurants, they always think I'm German and bring me Coke with lemon. I hate lemon. I hate warm Coke. Cafe au lait I can say properly, so I had cafe au lait. The air on my arm and the lait in my stomach. I felt.
I had a little spoon poised for the apricot marmelade. It was the realest thing I'd ever seen. I took a spoonful and dripped it on my pain. I sipped my cafe au lait. I admired the squish of bread beneath my apricot spoon and thought this will be sticky.
Eventually I assumed he smiled so much the cauliflower man with the mason jar because he made the marmelade and it was the best marmelade anyone ever ate, including me. For years to come we raved about the fantastic marmelade and the little man, and it was all real before we went back to work in the car, in the airconditioning, where life and lait are a long way away.