I met him once at a party. Slight chances for both of us to have been invited to the same event, never mind attending it. We are in different professions, different social strata, different network circles. Close age though. In a rather ordinary manner, we crossed paths at the bar. There, he grabbed my drink by mistake. He seemed absent minded as I watched him bring the rim of the glass to his lips.
“Excuse me, that’s my drink. And I believe you won’t like that.”
He blinked and looked straight at me. “Oh. Pardon.” He stretched his hand so brusquely, the drink spilled.
“That’s fine” I said as I took the glass and handed him his. “You look a bit lost. And more than a bit like Vincent Cassel.”
“I am Vincent Cassel.” He smiled.
“Oh. Pardon.” I smiled.
“For striking a bit of conversation. You will think I am a fan.”
“And you’re not?” The smile was still there and it got an amused touch.
“I saw you in a few movies. Tough guy. But quite flexible. The Ocean 12 scene where you steal that fake jewel is literally one of my favourite. I think the background music did the trick.”
“Will you stop switching to French? This gets flirty.”
“You don’t like French?”
“What is this, an interview? I have a date tonight. Excuse-moi, s-il vous plait.”
I made myself lost in the crowd. Joined one or two other conversations. Tried to make business with an elderly couple who wanted to redecorate their empty nest. As I was handing them my card, I heard his voice over my shoulder.
“I wouldn’t mind a card, s-il vous plait.”
I turned around and smiled broadly. “That was my last. But I can send you a text so you have my number. If you have a phone, that is. Provided you tell me why you want my number.”
“I have a phone, oui.”
“You want the number?”
“Why?” I insisted.
“Because I need a decorating quote for my new house.”
“That’s not true” I said.
“No, c’est pas vrai. But there’s no other way to continue talking to you. We know nothing of each other.”
“A-ha. And there are no subjects you can think of. Are you always so unsure of yourself? I thought French people had unbounded confidence.”
“And why is that?” he inquired.
“Why, French are arrogant. Who is better than the French? Does anyone dare compare?”
“What other French have you met?”
“A few from France. And lots of Quebecois. I live in Canada. We the Anglophones are not particularly fond of them. Though it really should be irrelevant. French are losers. History has proven it repeatedly.”
“Hmm… vous utilisez des clichees. I thought you’d be more interesting than that.”
“… And yet, no subject. Seulement du flirt.”
He laughed. “I like you.”
“So flattered, monsieur. Where do we go from here?”
The funny thing is that we kept talking. He was quite a conversationalist. Or in French, un causeur. The proof to that is that I do not remember one iota of what we talked about. We wandered through the crowd, seemingly open to talk to others, but I had this strong feeling none of us wanted to let go. At some point, a friend grabbed my arm and said “I got a deal for you.” I looked at Cassel and said:
“It seems like we never exchanged those numbers.”
He laughed. “You’re a sore loser, ma chere anglophone.”
“Right. C’etait un grand plaisir de faire la votre connaissance.”
There was tons of gallantry in his blue eyes. “Moi non plus, madame.”
“Oh, you French! Incorrigible.”
I haven’t heard from him since. There was no way I could have. We are in different professions, different social strata, different network circles. The only thing we have in common is a beautiful conversation we inadvertently had one evening some time ago. And in that, dear Vincent, you’re not the sole winner.