With long hand folded as a broken wing, she brushes a gray strand from her forehead, an aging beauty from the silent screen. Elegant in her tidy apron, Simone glides across decades in classic gesture.
Cloth moistened, the lady of the café de la Gare wipes each marble tabletop, with neither haste nor sloth, intent on comfort and cleanliness - eye to the door, ready to welcome her regulars. Those who have spent the better part of their youth and most of their retirement in her establishment.
A northern pride keeps her chin well lifted and her long limbs gracefully answer each task as she nearly waltzes through the long tables of the bar, her voice, strong and sharp, sings of the unforgotten Paris of Henry Miller stories and Garbo movies.
With respect in eye and courtesy to lips, her blue gaze sees to every anticipated need of her daily clients, her friends in quotidian routine.
As long as she serves stout red wine with the same smile as she pours bitters, she will be surrounded by the imperturbable mystery that binds the servile to the served; a courtship of kind in the untouchable, unchangeable environment of rural French cafés.
The indomitable lady of the establishment, owner of her destiny in the face of faster trains and full buses, she draws the menu with chalk in hand and keeps the card games honest. With neither reproach nor unkind word, she sorts out the daily gossip to be served with the spirits. She has heard every complaint about every politician installed in more decades than the clientéle can count. Shakes her head, gives a knowing nod and refrains from joining the popular frenzy.
When talk turns too personal, the lady pours a slow wine in the glass of the loudest, and tones calm down as if the ritual gesture brought sense into the room. She knows how to encourage the positive and alleviate the pains. With a hand raised to the routines of the evening, she can relieve tensions with a simple question,
“ and you Edgard? Did you prefer the trout or the veal this supper?” it's all in the timing and the tone; never a judgment be told.
Simone glides upon the ancient tiles and serves her people well. She is the lady who waits for the train and the bus everyday, neither sad nor anxious, as she has done for years. Her silent companion stirs the soupe du jour, a stout and sweet woman, seldom seen out of the kitchen which is full of warm ovens and old utensils.
Today, quiche and salade aux champignons rosés, to remember Raoul, the homeless man who came after supper, daily, to partake of leftovers and a glass of piquette, the sour house wine. The train could not brake in time, says the headline.