Aix-en-Provence

We’re utterly lost. I keep reading the street signs but without any context, I have no idea where we are. Before we ended up here, we argued on which bus to take and I used my broken French to get us tickets. Too bad I didn’t ask which stop to get off. Now we’re stuck on the side of a road on the countryside with no phone or way to find our maison. We start arguing again. This is all we’ve done for the past 4 days. Soon I see him heading towards us. He’s caring a cello case and has a low whistle emitting from his lips. He looks happy or at least happier than we are. I see him notice us and tentatively approach. His English is fractured but endearing. He asks if we’re lost. Our luggage and angry glares at each other probably give this away. After I explain where we need to be, he offers to walk us there. I thought it would be close. But he walks with us for 45 minutes to the door of the room we rented. You lag behind during the journey as the wheels of your suitcase start to wear down. You’re still frustrated and hate the small talk. I start speaking to him in French and he loosens up. I hear his life story. He came from a small village nearby and his Algerian émigrée parents got him a used cello their neighbors didn’t want. His mom worked as a housecleaner in Aix and tried to make every concert, but she never could. His dad was a mechanic and never understood his love of classical music instead of classic cars. But he still drove his son to practice every Samedi to his aging cellist instructor in Avignon. He loved his instrument like a lover. She was named Odette and she brought him closer to understanding the world around him. Nearby our erroneous bus stop was the music school, Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, where his old mentor got him a scholarship, as long as he worked on the weekends. He lived on the other side of town, away from where he was walking us. The wheels of your suitcase had completely come off by the time he was done with his story and we arrived. You tried to tip him but he refused. He would take the bus back to where we started. I would have loved to hear him play.

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