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…
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