We began with five fat oysters, each with a special topping, such as caviar or froth. But the most elegant oyster of all was blanketed in a leaf of gold. Then came a bowl filled with more fluffy froth, concealing scallops and God knows what else. On the surface of the soup, floated three golden pedals that mirrored the roses on the table. And so it went, late into the night.
The price for this meal- just under $500 per person. It was my present to myself on the first Christmas that I was divorced and on my own.
After dinner, my friend and I decided to take the subway back to our apartment. We walked down the cement steps to the tunnels that run below Paris. A man in an orange vest yelled at us as we tried to explain that we had no spare change. He threw up his hands in disgust, walked out of the subway, and locked the entrance gate behind him. If we had been fluent in French, we would have realized that he was no beggar, and the subway was closed.
We followed the urine smell down to the tracks where, late at night, churches bring soup to feed the hungry. The tunnels transform into dormitories for the homeless. My friend and I passed rows of sleeping people, until we came to an exit. As we walked back to our apartment, we could hear the bells of the great cathedrals ring out across the Seine.