Happily, it wasn’t long before I enjoyed an expedient purging of the metaphoric taste of that cheek-sucking punk kid from my palate.

Not long afterward my unwelcome street-licking, while stalking defensively homeward, ready to stab any other man that dared even to look at me funny in the eye with a corkscrew [borrowed from my studio, which I brought for both security purposes, and in case of unexpected wine – one should always be prepared!], I happened to fall in with cheery, motley group of young folks hailing from both France and the United States, spanning the early 20s to early 30s age range, as well as various levels of inebriation. They had apparently been jostled together by happenstance in a club and were now companionably half stumbling, half strolling along the Seine in the same general direction I was heading.

I was first approached by an amiably beaming, extremely intoxicated slender blonde French boy – perhaps 20? – whist I studied a neighborhood map to ascertain my current location.  He peppered me with slurred speedy question in French that I caught not a whit of.  I eyed him cautiously and shook my head, apologizing in French that I didn’t understand. “You are Americaine?” he perked up with a delighted grin. I nodded, and when mentioned my state of residence, he wriggled in excitement and crowed, “Ahh, my cousine, she is in Tampahhh. When my city of residence was revealed to be Orlando, he bellowed in triumph to the group, “Ayyyyy, Orlaaaaaaaanoooooo!!!!!!” and gestured at me wildly like a surprise star attraction had just hopped onstage to perform a duet with the evening’s headline act. Everyone immediately stopped their separate conversations and gathered in a tighter knot around me, clamoring to speak to me in turn: an effete yet roving-eyed aspiring film student in his mid 20s; two each of lovely and adorable French and American girls; several other friendly male and female faces, all wanting to know what I was there for, how I liked it, how long was I staying, did I have a boyfriend (asked as a friendly inquiry this time, not with eyes sliding slimy along my body and speculative thoughts flickering obviously through a calculating brain).

I was absorbed into this happily chattering amoeba and we resumed our way down the street,  with me relievedly buoyed along on their frothy wave of ebullient, friendly curiosity and tequila breath. The couple of people in whom I confided my unfortunate earlier adventure expressed horror and sympathy, casting scathing pronouncements of shock and dismay over their shoulder back toward the direction I’d come from.  Several times, Slim Blond boy listed back gracefully in my direction. “Miami-Orlando-Tampah-Daraaaaaaa (as he’d taken to calling me), You! Are! From! Floooreeeedahhh! My cousine, SHE EEES FROM FLOREEEEDA!!!” he would exclaim each time, gently grasping and shaking my shoulders in his glee.

It was the most effervescent, refreshing, psychic “group hug” of youthful warmth and kindness I could have imagined – some of the happy creatures even speaking in real [comfortingly familiar] American English! It completely expurgated any whiff of the earlier evening’s reluctant exposures to foreign culture smarm and roving hands. Indeed, I was having such fun, being passed in eager conversation to each of the group in turn, that I overshot my destination street by two blocks and had to make hurried goodbyes and retrace my steps home to an anxiously-awaited and well deserved hot and soapy shower.

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