I have a complicated relationship with baguettes.
When I was 16, I won this scholarship to study in Paris for a month. Naturally, my diet for the entirety of my stay largely consisted of whole baguettes eaten in one sitting and what can only be described as jugs of Orangina.
It was a magical time. I gained two pants sizes. I finally got boobs. Life was good.
When I came home, my almost-daily baguette consumption continued. Crunchy, soft, warm, and sweet. I couldn’t get enough. My interest in other kinds of bread had been left behind in Paris with my too-small pants and my training bra.
Now, let’s jump ahead a few years on the Real Girl Timeline to 2012. I was in Los Angeles for my first ever Bruce Springsteen concert. Another magical time. (Except that this was better than getting boobs, people. This was Bruce).
My mom and my sister came with me “for the experience” (Translation: They were there to make sure that I didn’t rush the stage and tackle the love of my life/the literal senior citizen that is Bruce Springsteen), and the day before the concert we decided to go to Malibu.
We opened the windows of the car and let our fingers run through the sea air. We wore shorts and skirts and sandals, ready to expose our borderline beluga-coloured bodies to the sunlight. We saw literal dolphins leaping through the waves. I brought my requisite full-sized baguette to be eaten much in the fashion of a Great White Shark devouring a seal.
Basically, it was a fucking delight of a day.
I’m sitting on a blanket, my feet curled under me, one hand pressed into the ground, the other wrapped around half of a baguette. I smell like sunscreen and sweat. The heat of the sand seeps through the blanket and warms the palm of my hand, my feet, my knees.
A few feet away, a seagull (let’s call him Fred) struts along the sand, his head turning left and right. Fred doesn’t seem adequately afraid of me, considering the fact that he’s a slightly husky seabird. Perhaps the beluga-like sheen of my skin confuses him, making him think that I am a larger, deformed seagull. Perhaps he, too, has a complicated relationship with baguettes.
I take a few aggressive bites of my bread as I watch Fred toe the invisible line between us.
Down the beach near the water, I can hear my mom talking to my sister. “It’s like that Coldplay song. What’s that one called — PARA-PARA-PARADISE.” She’s singing, now. She is fucking stoked.
Then, “RG!” My mom bellows. “LOOK AT THE DOLPHINS!”
Reflexively, I turn my head. (I mean, who doesn’t want to see a freaking dolphin jump in the air? I’ve seen the 1996 classic Flipper, people. I know what’s up).
Of course, this is the moment that Fred has been waiting for: the large deformed seagull is distracted, the baguette is exposed.
I feel a sudden weight on my head. Wings in my vision. A predatory squawk in my ear.
The dolphins are forgotten. My entire being swells with the one undeniable truth: There is a seagull on my head.
“AHHHHHHHHHH,” I roll onto my side.
Fred, confused and alarmed by the sudden movement of the large deformed seagull that he has chosen to mount, flaps his wings into my face and squawks loudly. I feel his little black toenails (YES, TOENAILS) dig into my forehead.
The entirety of Malibu is staring at me. Watching this girl attempt to bat away a husky white seabird with a half-eaten baguette.
“WHAT THE FU–”
Somewhere in the confusion, Fred decides that maybe he doesn’t want to be bludgeoned by a baguette, and he leaps off of my head. I run. The baguette in my hand, the blanket forgotten. I sprint through the hot sand and dive into the car, slamming the door behind me.
Behind the glass, I watch my sister and my mom run up the beach, laughing. They’ve seen the whole thing.
My sister and my mom approach the door. I only open it a crack. Who knows what Fred is capable of.
“What happened?” They wheeze through laughter.
“It attacked me!” I squeak. My hair is wild. I am still holding the baguette.
“Well, you’re not going to eat that now, are you?” My sister asks, nodding toward the bread in my hand. Sand clings to the crust.
“No, HE slobbered on it!” I jut an accusatory finger toward Fred who is ambling along the sand near my abandoned blanket. He looks unfazed, like he mounts attacks on unsuspecting baguette owners everyday.
“Well, give it here, then.”
I slip the baguette through the crack in the door, frowning. “What are you going to do with it?”
“I’m going to give it to him!” She laughs.
“WHAT? Don’t reward him!”
But, she’s already running toward Fred, flinging hunks of baguette at him. Triumphant, he swallows them down. More seagulls come. They flock to her. My sister is essentially the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins.
We’re all laughing. In the water, I can see the dolphins leaping through the waves.