“Oh, that’s Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse is everywhere in Paris,” the waiter explained to my boyfriend, Tyler, who came to visit me for a week. “We just want to move tables, sir. She’s really uncomfortable,” Tyler said.
I was feeling a little more than out of place in the café where we had chosen to eat. While the waiter was taking my order, I thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I told Tyler about what I thought I saw after the waiter walked away, but he just assumed I was crazy.
That was until a few minutes later when I observed a small, gray mouse just hanging out a foot away from Tyler. The mouse casually looked at me as if to say, “Hello, welcome to my restaurant. My name is Ratatouille. You may have seen my movie. But anyway, I hope you like it here. Please let me know if you need anything.”
Then my eyes widened. And the mouse’s eyes widened. And I screamed. And I think the mouse may have squeaked out a small shriek. Mickey Mouse, as the waiter so eloquently called him, darted back underneath the table next to us out of sight.
“I saw a mouse,” I squeaked out. “Do you want to leave?” Tyler asked. “I’ll pay for the meal, and we can go somewhere else.” “No, no. Let’s just move tables,” I said. It was toward the end of our trip, and we had spent a lot of money. I didn’t want Tyler to waste his money on a meal we wouldn’t even eat.
Before this incident, all of our dining experiences had been unbelievable. Every time we dined out, our meals tasted like they were five-star for a two-star price. I had never consumed so much remarkable wine, cheese, bread, and so much more. But this café was the exception.
Tyler confronted the waiter, who was bringing our food to us, about moving tables, but the server refused. I should have told Tyler that we were going to leave, and not pay for our meal. But my adrenaline was pumping, and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I mean, Paris is an old city. Mice are bound to be a problem. I just didn’t expect to see one at dinner. I started to think that the waiter might be right.
I still sat in the booth with my legs crossed, so my feet wouldn’t touch the floor. Luckily, a couple came in with a dog and sat at the table where the mouse had disappeared. I started to worry a little less.
Unfortunately, the food didn’t make up for the rodent problem. The salmon I ordered was bland compared to another restaurant where I had ordered the same dish. Tyler only ordered a hamburger because he was getting tired of French food. We each ate quickly yet were relatively silent. Our conversation was lulled and not as lively as it had been.
After we paid, we quickly left and started to walk around the city. “Mind if I smoke?” he asked. He had bought a pack of cigarettes earlier in the week. He didn’t buy them because he’s a smoker. He just wanted to feel like a local Parisian. Europeans, from what I’ve noticed, are heavy smokers. While Americans are more likely to die from our heart disease-inducing fatty foods, Europeans are going to die prematurely due to lung cancer.
“No, I don’t mind,” I said. “Actually… I’d like a cigarette as well.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to be a bad influence on you,” he said.
“My nerves are just shot from that restaurant,” I said. I’d never smoked a cigarette before this point.
After my grandmother died of lung cancer in the fourth grade, I decided it was best to stay away from tobacco. Family members who smoked at least two packs a day permanently turned me off from cigarettes. Even at parties when people would ask if I wanted to socially smoke, I’d politely decline. Hell, I choked while trying hookah for the first time.
I could feel the judgmental high school version of myself lecturing my present day self as Tyler taught me how to smoke a cigarette. I took the cigarette up to my lips and sucked in while he lit the end. I sucked in the nicotine, and blew out smoke.
It felt like Tyler and I were in a classic film. I was Audrey Hepburn playing Princess Anne in Roman Holiday. Tyler was Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley. We were living out the scene where Bradley teaches Princess Anne how to smoke a cigarette for the first time.
“So do you feel really manly right now?” I teased. “Nah,” he said. “I just feel like your friend.”
We walked and talked and smoked. My nerves calmed down. I’m not sure if the nicotine helped with that or if just focusing on a new task soothed me. But I know that talking to Tyler calmed me down the most.
Now I don’t think I’ll become a chain smoker anytime soon. My chest hurt when I tried to smoke more than one cigarette. But at least when someone asks me if I want to smoke at a party, I’ll have a fun story to tell about Mickey Mouse and my first experience with nicotine in Paris.