His apartment was sparse. We sat in the kitchen a lot. Two wooden stools facing each other around the foldable table stuck to the wall. Late night, just an hour before I went to my parents’ house to change and go to work.

“This is my favorite tea. I bring it from California.”

I was mesmerized by his travel record, his worldliness.

“You’ve been to so many places.”

“Yes, but I’m tired of traveling. Time to settle down.”

My smile faded. I though he was going to take me along. See the world, live abroad. He was lovely, but I didn’t want kids, dogs, house, garden. “Why settling down? You will be bored.”

He didn’t answer.

I opened up the box with the tea bags. It was green with a colorful picture of a bear wearing pajamas and a nightcap, snoozing, sitting in a rocking chair. Around the bear, the coziness of his winter home: a fireplace, a small table with the teapot and cup, a window overlooking a starry sky.

We drank the tea in silence, both looking at the box, the light in his kitchen so weak on the white tiles, bathing everything in a sad glow.

“How many countries have you been to?”

“I don’t know, forty, fifty maybe.”

“Which one is your favorite?”

“I like America: the cars, the long stretches of roads, the music.”

“Why don’t you go to work and live there?

“Maybe, but I don’t want to.”

I couldn’t picture someone who could live in a different country and still be here in this kitchen. I stirred the tea in the mug with a spoonful of honey. Another thing I liked about his apartment: he used mugs instead of the teacups we found everywhere else. Mugs were something out of an American movie, where people sat in booths at diners.

“Don’t you love this tea?”

He was drinking his very fast. His mug was red.

“It tastes like winter nights in the snow”, I said.

But it was late summer, it was muggy outside and we had just come from the beach.

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