Harry Strikes Back

Harry Strikes Back

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Harry hung in there.  The persistence français, French
persistence, gained him a spot in my portable phone directory.  He
textoed regularly before bed, when there was a nice sunset in the
Marais, when he was thinking about me; he was never short on words.
 
And when he had me over for dinner to his chambre de bonne, the
15-square-meter space that his parents owned, Harry made pasta to show
me his love for Italy.  He took great care to show me how delicate
the sauce-making process is and how important the salt is to prevent
the aubergine from turning brown.  I thought he had lived in Italy
but actually he was only there visiting on vacation.  I was
touched at the gesture and enjoyed the show.  It was not
elaborate, not fancy, but I didn’t like him for that, I don’t really
like anyone for that.  We played music all night on his Imac,
trading selections from Bob Dylan to Neil Young, Mahler to Stevie Ray
Vaughn.  I liked his musical taste and there was enough classical
music in his collection to satisfy me.  I downloaded one of his
CDs, J. Gould Plays Bach, several short vignettes, each sweet, dripping
melody hammered out in grand style.  I like that he speaks
Italian, and tries English.  I liked teaching him phrases, so did
he, especially “the vertical smile” and “bearded clam.”.  He
passed those along to his fellow compatriots, proud to be privy to such
vocabulary.
 
He took pictures of me.  I showed them to my girlfriends. 
Among them were pictures of him, on my street, a cigarette, nearby
murals I had never noticed, a tree, my building, pictures from last
Friday night he took before I stumbled out of the cab from another
party into his arms.  “Waiting,” he is going to call the
series.  He is a photographer.
 
I had a dinner party in order to set up Goldilocks the professor with a
good friend of mine.  The evening was a success; we talked our way
through the last métro.  I invited my friend to stay over, as I
often do at her house to avoid paying the taxi rip-off. 
Goldilocks hesitated too, putting his jacket on, taking it off when I
told him to stay a little longer; I proposed the same to him.  Not
wanting to offer my roommate’s bed, for I wouldn’t want her proposing
mine for such an event, I pointed to the convertible couch, le
clic-clac.  They both looked at each other and shrugged their
shoulders.  “It’s plenty big enough for two,” I added.
 
After the dishes were done, Harry and I retreated to my chamber and
left the other two with pyjamas for the night.  Apparently
Goldilocks wasted no time and jumped her straight away.  (I had
seen this behavior once before, ahem.)  I came out the next
morning to find one lump under the covers, two heads, one on top of the
other.  I cracked a smile but was discreet and said nothing.
 
Harry and I continued to see one another for the following months,
writing passionate emails while I was in the States during Christmas
vacation.  He sent photos, short stories and correct grammar while
I sent hacked-up stories giving him a glimpse of surburban American
life during the holidays.  “You mean,you actually open presents in
pajamas?”
 
When the weather turned beautiful, we would walk in the Marais; when he
was working in Place des Vosges we’d meet each other for an oversized
tarte and salad lunch at the cozy Loir dans la Théière, and have our
coffee on various café terraces, holding hands, giving the standard
pecks intermixed with Big Red kisses.  It was Parisian amour.

We had a particularly nice night walking down rue de Rivoli, stopping
in for a few glasses of wine at La Tartine, the between-war bar à vin
that has kept its white-globe sconces, stamped-tin ceiling that is met
by wall mirrors and enough tobacco to stain your teeth by merely
inhaling.  After, we continued on down past St.-Paul, right
towards the river, then looped back around along the river towards
Hôtel de Ville, where we stopped in at Galerie 88 for a simple,
reasonable dinner in a dimly lit, rustically decorated narrow
locale.  We blended in with the young clientele, among double
dates, first dates and break-up dinners.  If it hadn’t been for
the grumpy waitress, we would have been thoroughly satisfied with our
hot goat cheese and Norwegian salads.  (True, it was a little
heavy on the iceberg lettuce, but for 7 Euros, no complaints there.)
 
We continued the romance, seeing each other twice a week, but things
were never even, in terms of his flamboyant, often childish mood. 
Not wanting to close off any doors, I continued to see other people,
while he continued to tell me he was “not jealous,” when, in fact, he
was jealous.  My other suitors felt no shame in asking me out,
even after I told them I had a boyfriend, un copain.  Harry
continued to leave articles of clothing, a bag of photographic
equipment and always a lighter. He was sort of pissing on his
territory, I guess.
 
Every Sunday he would go home to his parents’ apartment, down the
street from him, to have Sunday lunch, which is a nice and bourgeois
tradition.  And one day, he proudly walked in wearing the green
wool scarf I had lent him (I had a feeling it would be the last time I
would see it.)  “Ah, that must be the scarf of a woman, the
grandmother he vouvoies remarked with her snobby air
 
Harry liked me, in part, because I was exotic.  His last
girlfriend was Italian and he claimed that he did not care much for
French women.  As it turns out, this was his American phase, along
with Goldilocks, who had also found one to date.  Their romance
was clouded by his obsession with her larger frame, a round derrière by
which he was “bothered.”  Harry was only about 10 pounds heavier
than me, so I could easily fend off his whisper of a body when I was
not in the mood.  And it did somewhat bother me that should a
menacing figure should creep out of the shadows at night, we would have
been doomed.
 
It was not his lack of alpha-male characteristics, not the way he
crossed his legs like a woman, not his incessant smoking and trembling
caffeine hands that made me end things.  It was to free him, sort
of a moment of guilt and regret I felt should this romance carry
on.  It wouldn’t be fair to drag out the relationship, to string
the bean along, as it were.  We did get along well, but what we
wanted from each other was different.  It was more a fear of the
big “C,” commitment, that is, on my behalf.  He sent me a texto
saying that it was me who has lost something precious, and maybe he’s
right.  But as the French say, “Un de perdu, dix à trouver,” 
“One lost, ten found.”  So now it is back to the hunt.
 
Le loir dans la Théière 3, rue des Rosiers, 4e, Mº St-Paul, 01.42.72.68.12, open daily.
La Tartine 24, rue de Rivoli, 4e, Mº Hôtel de Ville, 01.42.72.76.85, Open 9am to 10:30pm, closed Tues.
Galerie 88 88, Quai Hôtel de Ville, 4e, Mº Hôtel de Ville, 01 42 72 17 58, Open 11am-midnight daily; No credit cards

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