I go to the boulangerie around the corner to pick up a baguette and a pain aux raisin, a lovely little pastry that will ultimately kill me. I’ve been off ice cream and sweets for 2 months now and once a week I a get a pain aux raisin. Today there are none.
“There are no pain aux raisins” I think she tells me
I have that panicked look that people get when they realize that they didn’t buy enough booze and the stores are closed- ok, maybe this was just me. I motion to the back, maybe, like shoe stores, they keep the main supply back there. They don’t.
"C’est Triste" I say as I pay for my baguette. “It is sad”
She laughs, not because its funny, but because I always say “C’est triste’ if something is not good. If something is good I say “C’est bon". That is the extent to which I can express my feelings in French. With my limited language skills there are no grey areas for me in Paris- if something is not good then it is sad, end of story. There is no lukewarm, there is no comfortable middle ground if it isn’t sad its good.
When she picks through the basket of baguettes to find the best one I respond with “C’est bon” and give her a knowing smile. If the bread is still warm, I feel it and smell it- “C’est Bon” I say again almost lustfully. She smiles not because she appreciates it but because she thinks I’m an idiot. C’est triste
My brother, who lives in Brussels, stayed with me for a couple of days. We go to the café around the corner, next to the boulangerie.
“He is your brother?,” the waiter says in French while shaking hands. He brings us out a plate of complimentary hors-d’oeuvres. “C’est bon” I exclaim because it does not fill me with sadness. My brother, who speaks flawless French, looks at me and shakes his head.
“It’s a crime that you still can’t speak French.”
“C’est triste” I agree because it is not good.