Saying goodbye

Today is Becca's last day in Paris. Her internship is over and she is out of money so she is going back to America. She says she'll be back in a couple of months but she hasn't bought her ticket yet. I know how those things can go so I'm saying my goodbyes now.

I thought about making her dinner since neither of us can really afford to eat out. But Martin and Martine usually occupy our kitchen and coffee table (which is the only thing in our apartment that could be considered a legitimate eating surface... except possibly the desk in Martin's room). I asked Becca if we could do something at her place and she told me about her roommate. She lives with a woman in her forties, apparently she is not allowed to have guests, and one time she came home and there was a naked man on her table... then her roommate showed up, also naked. I was grateful that Martin and Martine never made love on our coffee table (which is the only thing in our apartment that could be considered a legitimate eating surface) but at the same time I was kind of jealous of her crazy roommate/stories.

Anyway, that's how we ended up at the Hotel du Nord. It's a restaurant/bar somewhat close to my school, it's on the Canal Saint-martin. Becca had been there once before, searching for live guitar music inspired by Django Reinhardt that she never found.
There wasn't any music the night that we were there either. But there was a group of well dressed, soft looking girls sharing a bottle of wine at the table next to us. And a ruggedly handsome bar tender that looked like he walked right out of a adventure romance novel. Becca was enthralled by the bartender and even a fully heterosexual man like myself had to admit that he was nice to look at. But I was much more interested in the girls.

At one point in the evening I turned my head, pretending to look for the waiter, but in reality discreetly checking out the table next door. There was a variety. One cute, petite, bright blue eyes, black and white horizontal stripes (so French). One exotic, dark hair, dark complexion, dark eyes. One high class, little black dress, black nylons, red lips. And then there was one seated directly on my right wearing a jeans/sweater/jacket combo that looked like the "girl next door", blond hair, fair skin, warm smile. She was the one that caught me. When I had turned my head, she had turned hers as well. We made eye contact... she didn't look away... I blinked... she was still there, still looking at me. Her eyebrows raised.

Girl next door: Yes?

I just shrugged and shook my head as if I had no idea what she was talking about.

Girl next door: Oh... I thought you were going to ask me a question.

Me: No. I wasn't. Unless you want me to... Do you want me to ask you a question?

This time she did the shrugging and head shaking.

Me: Well, how about this. If I think of something I want to know I'll get back to you.

Turning back to my dinner I found Becca grinning.

Becca: I have a question for her. Ask her where she got that jacket she's wearing.

She was serious. But there was no way I was going to lean over and ask this girl where she purchased an article of clothing. Then, partly because she thought it was funny and partly because she really wanted to more about the jacket, Becca pulled the "It's my last day in Paris" card. What could I do.

Me: Excuse me, yeah actually I did think of something... we've been admiring your jacket and I wanted to know where you got it.

This lead to a long conversation that I didn't understand, even if it was in English. Becca took over for me after the initial question and they talked about shoes and handbags and designer labels. I hung in there though, and when appropriate I gleaned what useful information I could. The girls were from Switzerland... mostly. They were good friends in an international high school (which meant that they were young and rich and Anglophones) but had graduated two years before and gone to different universities across Europe.  The girl next door was Christine from Zurich, the exotic one was Aya from Cairo, the high class one was Claire also from Zurich, and the little french looking one was Anne-Sophie from Lausanne. After fashion the subject of the boys came up... to my understanding this is the regular order of topical progression observed in most girl on girl conversations.

Becca: How do you find the men in Paris?

Christine: Personally I don't think they are anything special.

Becca: Really? I've been here for a while now and I still fall in love daily.

Me: The bartender's quite handsome.

The bartender. The whole table had definitely noticed the bartender. Encouraged by a couple glasses of wine the girls began to come up with a plan to take his photo. But I was sober... and heterosexual, so I was far less interested. Eventually the girls decided that I would tell the bartender I was a photographer and that his look "inspired" me and ask him if I could take his picture. I agreed to ask him for a photo and they insisted again that I tell him he "inspired" me. Little details like that are important to a group of twenty year old girls.
But I didn't say anything like that, I just told him I was a photographer and I asked if I could take his photo.He was nice enough, his name was Laurent Jumeaucourt, which I thought a fitting name for the French Casanova I assumed him to be. He told me how he had done some modeling and acting and was just being a bartender to pay the bills he gave me his email and told me to keep him in mind if I ever needed a model.

I returned to the girls to find Becca and Christine in the middle of an intense conversation about outdoor markets in Paris. Christine offered to email her directions to the Marché au Puces at Porte de Clignancourt. I interrupted with the bartender's picture and offered his email address to anyone who was interested.

Aya: I knew it. He's gay.

Claire: He's probably bi.

Me: He isn't gay, he's just networking.

Christine: He's networking with you because he thinks your gay.

Me: Why would he think I was gay?


Becca: We all thought you were gay... Well not me, because I know you. But they did.

They thought I was gay. This is why you don't ask girls about their clothes or make comments on the appearance of other men. No wonder they insisted I tell him he "inspired" me. I assured them that I was not gay, and they apologized for using me to test the bartenders sexuality and offered to buy me a drink... but I don't drink. This launched Aya into a long discourse about the pointlessness of life and the need to do all you can to enjoy it before you just stop existing. She told me that 99% of the time she is an Atheist, but every now and then she doubts whether or not she actually knows that there is no God. I didn't really want to talk about this with someone who was so young and rich and tipsy. Besides it was a topic that I haven't been terribly interested in discussing lately. But Aya was getting talkative the way that drunk girls do so she continued, and I continued pretending to listen.. I was keeping an eye on Christine as she continued her female bonding with Becca.

The night marched on. We moved to the bar. The girls drank another round. And another. Becca said she needed to leave. She still had to pack but she said that I should should stay, that the girls thought I was cute and I should see if I could do something about that. It's Paris after all, she told me. We exchanged a bisou and said good bye.

Goodbye only friend I have in this city.

Hello, hot and young and rich girls from Switzerland... OK, hot, young, rich and drunk. Anne-Sophie was really drunk. She had obviously had too many for such a petite girl. She disappeared into the bathroom and didn't return for half an hour. Never having drank alcohol I can't really imagine what the draw is. Girls, especially young girls, are naturally self conscious so you'd think they would avoid something that made them look... well let's just say there is a reason they call it getting shitfaced. But maybe that's exactly why they do it, the judgment impairing side-effects allow them to escape the constant self doubt and self criticism. Regardless, Anne-Sophie returned from the bathroom looking like she was ready to pass out. I suggested that we get her a taxi. Christine said she was ready to head home as well, but Claire was now convinced that not only was the bartender heterosexual he was also interested in her. She asked Aya to stay out a bit longer and they ordered another drink while Christine and I escorted Anne-Sophie to the street where I hailed a taxi.

Despite Anne-Sophie's constant insisting that she was about to throw up, the taxi ride passed without incident. The girls were staying in a hotel near Bastille. Christine paid the taxi and I helped Anne-Sophie walk into the hotel. She finally passed out in the elevator. I carried her to the room and at Christine's suggestion dumped her in the armchair. I turned around, coming face to face with Christine. The hotel room was small and dark and clean. She touched my arm.
Chrstine: Thank you so much! This is really great of you.

Me: Well... yeah... no problem...

Twenty minutes later we were in her bed. She was unconscious... I had been crying. I cried because I had just been kissing one of the most beautiful girls I had ever touched... of course we didn't get very far before she essentially fell asleep on top of me... but I cried because the whole time all I could think of was you. Your body, your hair, your lips. I loved those lips. I cried because this was the first time since you... Like the official seal on our goodbye. We see other people now you know... in other countries. Finding myself in bed with another woman makes me wonder where you are... where you have been for the last 6 months. Where have you been finding yourself lately? What encounters have you had out there in the darkness?

...Have they been as meaningless as this one?

I sat up. Christine was face down on the bed next to me, breathing rhythmically. Anne-Sophie was sitting in the armchair at the foot of the bed, still asleep, I put her to bed and I left. I will never see them again I told myself as I stepped out of the hotel... into the night. I had no idea where I was, all I knew was that it was late and the metro was closed and I would have to go on foot. I wandered a couple of blocks before I found a familiar landmark. The Colone de Juillet.

Once again I found myself  walking along the Canal St. Martin... now on the other end of the canal near where it meets with the Seinne. I headed towards the colone, or in English column. The large pillar in the center of the Place de la Bastille commemorating the three days of revolution in July of 1830. The column was not intended to commemorate the actual storming of the Bastille in 1789, but because of it's location that's what it has become for most of the tourists and Parisiens alike. But with a history of revolution as complicated as France's there is bound to be some confusion. People are the same way. We collect so many scars over a lifetime that sometimes it can be hard to trace a specific scar to a specific wound... to a specific when and where... and who.

As I reached the Place de la Bastille it began to rain. Hard. I thought briefly about taking a taxi but I'm not really a taxi kind of person, socioeconomically speaking. Instead I stood under the Opera Bastille and watched the rain. Standing there watching the water throw itself against the pavement my thoughts turned back to you... to how I hate you. I hate you because you didn't stay and I hate you because your ghost never left.

After about fifteen minutes the rain died down... and then it was back into the night. I have already come a long way, but I have much, much further to go.



Currently listening:

Nelly Furtado - Say It Right

No comments:

Post a Comment