Finding Bruno

I've been thinking about my time abroad a lot, as you might have noticed from my recent posts. Though I can't travel during quarantine, the mind goes traveling anyway.

Those mental excursions bring me often to the guy who ran a little pizza stand in Montpellier, France. You couldn't go in; it was just a pickup window and you could watch him work inside. I used to walk down there for pizza sometimes, and he would practice his English responding to me while I practiced my French responding to him.

He thought my "American accent" when I spoke French was wonderful and hilarious. (This was wonderful because I literally never considered that I had an accent in foreign languages.)

One time, he made me repeat the word "zoo" over and over while he laughed uncontrollably and then repeated it with an exaggerated "American" accent. "Zuuuhhh! HA HA HA! Say it again!" And I'd say it again, and he'd laugh again. And yes. He laughed in a French accent. For real.

It was a delight. I wish regularly I had taken a picture of him and his little pizza stand, but I did not.

Today, I was going through all 3,203 pictures of my time studying in Montpellier—nine years ago now, which is a little heartbreaking, to be honest—and I found a picture of his pizza.

I knew it was his pizza—one reason is that it was in a takeout box, so it wasn't at a restaurant, and I recognize my apartment kitchen from the floor and the sink/stove the pizza is resting on. Another reason is that this picture is immediately after the pictures of my visit to the Montpellier Zoo and the time stamp is one day later, so I guess I was talking to him about my zoo visit.

But the problem, as you can see, is that there's no name visible on the pizza box. How would I ever find the name of that delightful little stand?

I am very grateful for technology. I can't walk out of my student apartment into the sun-drenched Mediterranean summer days, walk past all the rosemary and lavender bushes being visited by fat, honey-drunk bees, and step onto the Avenue de l'École d'Agriculture Gabriel Buchet. I may never walk that avenue in my lifetime again except in memories and dreams. But I can walk it online.

From the apartment down the sycamore-flanked Avenue Buchet, heading into the heart of the town: somewhere on that path I knew there was a pizza stand. On Google Maps, I began too broadly by looking for pizza places in Montpellier. I just had to retrace the steps from the apartment down the avenue and look for pizza places on that street. I found one where the name sounded familiar, but it looked like a walk-in restaurant and was on the opposite side of the street from what I was picturing in my mind's eye. I was just looking for a pick-up window, not a walk-in restaurant. And then, there it was. Just a pick-up window in a small building.

33 Avenue de l'École d'Agriculture Gabriel Buchet, Bruno Pizza Montpellier.

Maybe it is just a sign of how emotionally exhausting I find this quarantine that I feel so pleased and happy, but I found Bruno. That was his name.

Isn't it strange to think that there are people who might have crossed your path many years ago who live on the other side of the world but still think of you?

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