Oh, I'm not worried that he might find a sweet French woman to entertain him; I'm worried about him finding his way alone in Paris without someone who speaks French, even as poorly as Grace and I do.
I think every time he has ever been to France, from the first time with me in 1991 through his current trip with Grace, he has always been accompanied by someone who speaks a little French. Don't get me wrong, he can make hand motions and say "allons-y" with the best of them. He can order tea or wine, and he can read the Metro signs. Still, I worry that, having left Grace at her host home and having consumed much wine, he'll wonder over for one last look at the Eiffel Tower. And, without me there to protect him, he'll be in danger of falling for the sad faces of the gypsies holding tightly wrapped babies. Or maybe he'll decide to buy some tiny Eiffel Tower replicas from the African hawkers. How many places will he wander before he returns to the hotel I found for him in the 1st arrondisement?
Perhaps I wouldn't think anything about it, if long ago, on my way home from three months in France, I hadn't run into an American guy who cut short his trip to Paris. I met the guy in the airport in New York. I sat, wearing a pink cotton skirt with a very high waistband, pink fishnet ankle socks and white kitten heels, and read a book, until a guy's tales of woe reached my ears. He had been in Paris for the first time. He'd been in the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower when he was robbed of all his money and his passport. As soon as he could, he hightailed it home. He hated Paris.
I was dumbstruck. How could that be? I had traipsed about the city alone, flirting with Argentenian sailors and ignoring the propositions of men along the street, even ducking into a church during mass one day to avoid a very persistent man.
I've always felt safe in France, and maybe the fact that I never considered being in danger has always kept me safe.
But tonight, while Earl is alone. Well, I'll have to trust that he can take care of himself, for just this one night.
And tomorrow, I'll see him at the airport and he'll be home.
Earl and Grace self portrait in Paris -- 26 hours after leaving home.