There’s a reason I rarely write fiction. I struggle with “keeping it real” – the advice my middle-school teacher gave me years ago.
“Your ending seems a bit far-fetched,” she wrote in the margin. “Good fiction should be grounded in reality.”
Little did she know that my story was based on real life. I’d just tweaked the names, the setting and added a detail or two.
My recent trip overseas reminded me of how life can be stranger than fiction.
This story begins at what would become my favorite Parisian restaurant, La Gauloise. The wait staff fussed over me as I sat in the corner solo. A borderline introvert, I entertained myself by reading my Kindle and practicing my French.
Surrounded by the sounds of a foreign language, my ears perked up when the couple next to me spoke to the waiter in English.
“Are you from the U.S.?” I asked.
“No,” they replied. “We’re from Mexico. We just speak little French.”
Rebeca and Juan Carlos introduced themselves. We chatted briefly, then returned to our meals.
The night wore on, wine flowed and we renewed our conversation. And when dessert arrived, our party of three expanded to five, as the adjacent couple, Patty and Greg, chimed in.
We swapped personal anecdotes and laughs, including this comical exchange about my choice of lodging.
Then Rebeca turned to me and exclaimed, “You’re not going to believe this, but she’s from Gainesville too,” pointing to Patty.
“What? Gainesville, as in Florida Gator Gainesville?” I questioned, doing the Gator chomp with my arms.
“Yes!” Patty laughed.
(Possible proof that the Gator Nation is everywhere?)
We learned that Patty had just moved within blocks of my condo and walks her dogs down my street. I traveled 4,500 miles from home to meet a neighbor? Too much!
Here’s where the story gets stranger than strange. Realizing I hadn’t formally introduced myself to Greg, I asked his name. I immediately recognized his last name, and asked, “Wait, are you a doctor?”
He and Patty shook their heads yes.
“Oh my goodness! You’re my mother’s doctor.”
And not just any doctor. He’s saved her life twice. He knew exactly who she was.
I apologized for not recognizing him, and recalled my recent post “Why I Won’t Say ‘Nice to Meet You’.” (Ugh! how could I forget the face of someone who’d had such a profound impact on my life?)
We marveled at the coincidence, exchanged numbers, and promised to keep in touch stateside.
I joked, “I’ll wait a few days to tell my mom. If the shock is too much for her, I don’t want you on vacation.”
This Saturday, I sat on my back porch trying to determine how to tell this tale. I was grappling over the right words to capture such an amazing experience, so I was easily distracted by the rustling of dogs tramping through my back yard.
Looking down from my second-story perch, my jaw dropped when I saw my French-found neighbors turning the corner of my condo. I bolted up, ran out the door and called out, “You can’t just walk by without saying hello.”
Laughter and hugs ensued. They said they had looked up my blog and searched for this story but couldn’t find it. I said, “Well, you won’t because I literally was just writing it. But I think I’ve found a new ending.”
I can’t make this stuff up!