Just in need of someone mildly attractive, tender, and poetic enough to keep my sentimental side enthralled.
I’m moving to this city at the start of next month. I’m sat on a bench on Rue des Archives reading some book I dislike but feel the need to finish anyway. You thankfully disrupt the peace by asking if you use my phone to call a friend you’re meeting. Twenty minutes after you thank me and leave, you called my phone explaining how your nerves got the better of you and how you didn’t want your broken English to trip you up as you asked me to dinner. We plan for dinner that evening.
We walked to a restaurant only two minutes from the bench where we met. We spent half our time talking, half our time silently staring. I barely remember what you said let alone what I ate. Your English was terrible and so was my French. But it’s comfortable. I remember being told you’re an artist and rolling my eyes at the cliché of it all.
I was stood outside the tabac waiting for you to buy us cigarettes when a homeless man forcefully tried to pull me away. You chased him away and refused to let me walk home alone. You took me to your moped scooter and fixed a helmet on my head without looking at my face. I admired your determination. We drove along the Seine and around the Louvre. You kissed me in the doorway. You played on tourists’ idea that Paris was a romantic city. I knew the city; I knew the game; I didn’t play.
It’s the start of June and I’d arrived at Bercy with two suitcases filled with what I hoped would be only the essentials for moving into a new flat. Overwhelmed by the exhaustive heat, I gave in to your offer and you met me to carry my suitcases up 7 flights of stairs. My larger-than-average chambre de bonne was silent, bar your excessive panting. And to break the tension, I swung the windows open to let in what noise the street had to offer to drown out the sound of your breathing. Nervous, I offered you a coffee and you accepted. I stared at the kettle willing it to boil faster. I feel your hand on the small of my back; we have sex.
I spent most nights at your apartment. It’s bigger, on a lower floor, and had internet access. You want to improve your English so I suggested you listen to more English songs. I was walking through a market when I happened upon a record of Charles Aznavour. It cost me 1€, it’s no romantic gesture. You learnt For Me… Formidable and sung it all the time.
One night after a bar crawl, you bought a bottle of wine and took me to Place Saint-Sulpice. I barely understood half of what you said, you spoke so passionately alternating between French and broken English, but we were both complacent. The next time I visited Place Saint-Sulpice, I pretended it was my first time. I still don’t know why.
One quiet night in, you told me in broken English that when you do these things you give your all. You felt that our language barriers will never be fully dismantled. I felt the same way but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to say it. Either way, it would have been nice to say it first. I caught the noctilien home. From then on, we always sounded apologetic and laced with longing.
You were the only person I knew in June. It’s hard to meet people when you’re fully alone. We tried to be friends. I tried to be friends with your friends. But we’d sidetrack or gravitate to one another. And one by one they’d leave and we’d be the last two sitting at the table.
We were wildly unaware that we were simply on either side of the river, doing the exact same things that entire evening. So drunk and derelict; no further than a kilometre away; confident despite the months that had passed. We stumbled to the bedroom to kindle whatever gets left behind when you don’t fully leave. But you felt sordid and foul, and I let you push my flesh around hoping I’d find you. I walked home debased.
Almost a year has passed. Recently, you’ve started to call in the middle of the night. I answered one evening. “Attends attends attends s’il te plaît.” I did wait. You started to play For Me… Formidable. I listened to the entire song. Of course an artist would know how to ruin a song for you.