I moved to Paris for a semester abroad when I was 19. My little apartment was in the 11th district on the top floor (the old maids quarters) and it overlooked the Bastille and the rooftops of Paris. One day I noticed a man across the blvd typing on a typewriter and smoking cigarettes out his window. He had jet black arms (tattooed black) always wore a Hanes white t-shirt, and had silver hair that was premature for his age. That day I coined him “the silver fox”. One day I passed my window and noticed that he was smoking a cigarette lazily while slightly hanging out his window. We broke the rule of “pretend you don’t see your neighbor” and waved at each other. And that was it. Weeks later the same thing happened and after a quick wave, we started yelling across the blvd in broken French only to realize we were both American. My roommate and I agreed to meet him downstairs at the bar conveniently located on the first floor of building named no other than ” The Fox Cafe”. That simply wave turned into the most beautiful friendship that I cherish like gold. In the months that followed my silver fox showed me “real” Paris… the kind you don’t find in tourist books… and I fell madly in love with the city and its people because of it. We even had a tin can telephone across the blvd. It stretched from my apartment window to his and since I lived on the 6th floor and he on the 5th I was able to slide little notes attached to paper clips down the strings as “voicemails” for when he wasn’t home. The best part is the tin can worked! If I pulled the can on my side it would bang against his window (ring) and vice versa.
I should note that we didn’t have cell phones so if we wanted to reach each other and make plans it had to be intentional. It forced us to show up when we said we would and follow through. In addition, all of our photos were shot by the silver fox on film and they are some of my most treasured possessions. When it came time for me to go back to the states and we had to cut the cord to the tin can, the silver fox snapped one last image of me across the blvd. I’m wearing a party dress and am blissfully 19 and full of Parisian spirit… and so I became the girl across the blvd.
The silver fox, whose name is Scott Bourne, and I are best friends to this day. We have been pen pals for 8 years. Sending letters typed on our typewriters and film photographs as we navigate life together. I have a giant box of stamped envelopes that contain our dreams, adventures, and life-changing moments. If you want to read some of them you can since Scott is a writer and his latest book just launched. Go check it out… the girl across the blvd story may or may not be in there (hint hint).