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Living in Paris is amazing.
Take a walk along the Seine and you’ll see people lounging all over the cement trying to soak up the last days of sunshine before the winter sets in.
Parisians are notorious for clipping trees and covering up the living (and unruly) with gray cement on which the high-heel-wearing female can stomp away loudly, taking her pouting lips with her.
One year ago, I left the US to live in Paris forever – or three years. It was summertime and I spent my afternoons drinking wine outside on blankets with my French friends and discussing everything under the sun! I was happy! Everything was just gorgeous! The tiny people living in my heart were happy, too. They giggled a lot and batted their eyes at the French babes riding by on old bicycles, their pant cuffs rolled up just above their amazing ankles. Ah Paris! I had a goal. I would marry one of those Frenchies and have cute bilingual babies with him…after a million and one nights of fantastic love-making that is!
After having lived in Latin America and Spain, public displays of affection were nothing new or shocking to me. I mostly ignored it. Even when I first arrived to Paris and people, both old and young, were feeling each other up on the crowded metros or sprawled out on the park benches at all hours of the day and night! I just figured, what with the wine, all of those tales by the French poets, high heels hitting pavement…that people couldn’t help themselves – like the pigeons!
Once, while I was reading Rimbaud on a blanket and holding the book up to block the sunlight, an old white guy who wanted to practice his English struck up a conversation with me while a young black woman massaged his Sudetenland! I noticed how far I’d come when it didn’t even slightly embarrass me and I even glanced down at her hand a few times.
But scopophilia is hard on the libido. I started dating.
I was told, by French people, that a cultural equivalent to American dating did not exist and that the word rendez-vous is used to describe meetings with the company’s sales staff or with say, the plumber, to fix les toilets, and it is also used to describe a meeting between oneself and the person with whom one does the horizontal shuffle! Funny huh? No.
Well, I’m not French. I’m American. And more, I’m Cajun! So when I passed the little café where the Frenchie with whom I had been sleeping for over a month was seated with a very fashion conscious female donning the essential high heels, her forefinger between his mais oui lips, I got a little crazy.
I can’t remember now what exactly I said or did, but it involved broken dishes.
“My name is Ray-chull!”
I needed precision!
She had the nerve to speak, “Mais, qu’est ce que ci passe Rachelle?”
She knew my name. I wondered why I didn’t know hers. I thought she must be a member of some kind of Simone de Beauvoir cult whose goal was to put me, an I-won’t-just-shut-up-and-stand-by-my-man woman, in my place.
“I lived in New York bitch!”
I said this strategically because Parisians give a lot more respect to New Yorkers than they do to us Cajuns and I needed her to, let’s say, understand me!
“Rachelle, calme-toi,” he said.
“You shut up,” I growled.
He may have said, “Oh la la,” but I don’t know, I couldn’t hear above her screeching voice.
“J’adore New York!”
She was standing next to me now, holding my forearm, her eyes wide, glimmering. I wanted to smack her pretty face.
I walked away, quietly, in my converse.
Back at my place, the tiny people living in my heart were depressed. They asked for chocolate. I gave it to them. I wrapped up in a sheet and put on my favorite sweatpants. I wrote pages of hate in freehand. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him a lot. I hate him. I hate him. I hate France. A lot. I hate love. I hate that bitch. I hate high heels. I hate her…
It went on like that until the chocolate kicked in and I jumped up and called my friend, a French artist and lesbian who paints naughty little fairies boinking one another with strap-ons and sunshine balls! The good lesbian invited me to a party. Just what the doctor ordered.
I showed up looking fine in red cowboy boots, blue jeans and a black cashmere turtleneck. My friend and her friends were wearing noisy high heels or threatening combat boots depending, of course, on their role.
I got drunk on some homemade liquor from the Ukraine.
Then suddenly, like the dream of some southern Californian flower child, the lovely hetero entered the room. The tiny people living in my heart lifted their heads then hula-hooped for almost an hour. I smiled. He smiled. I loved France again.
Later on, after too much of that liquor from the Ukraine, I stood on my head just to prove I could. One of the tiny people living in my heart puked. The lovely heterosexual asked where I was from. I told him I had just arrived in Paris from Iceland. He said, “I fucked Björk.” All the lesbians and I laughed at him – literally! We laughed at him and one of the tiny people living in my heart (a wonderful but protective bull dyke) pulled a knife. Then the lovely heterosexual (with his obvious issues) kissed me. And I, with my obvious issues, let him.
Then I had to pee. So I jumped up and, giggling, whispered magic in his ear.
“We’ll sleep together tonight.”
He agreed, oui, with a whisper in my ear then looked deep into my eyes and asked, “Why are you always trying to please everyone?”
Oh damn! Not the please-everyone-box! I locked that box, tossed in the deep sea. It was out of reach forever – ever since the age of sixteen when I told my granny the truth about disliking chocolate covered cherries from the Wal-Mart. After all those years of eating them just because I knew how much she loved giving them to me! That same year, I stopped forcing myself to laugh at my dad’s jokes! Yes, the please-everyone-box was locked tightly and no one even knew it ever existed. Even I had almost forgotten about it. Almost!
Sitting on the commode, I pondered. How could he have accessed that box! Maybe I was in the John a long time. In retrospect, it seemed like a long time! But I finally arrived at the only possible solution – he was my soul mate!
I jumped up from the commode, whirled around, pulled up my jeans then looked at myself in the mirror and smiled the smile I planned on using for my entrance back into the living room where the love of my life waited for me. I washed my hands, rubbed in some of my friend’s hand lotion and noticed how beautiful my hands are then thanked one of the tiny people living in my heart – the one who made the comment about my hands – then winked at my reflection and stumbled out of the bathroom.
After 32 years of searching, I had finally found the man who was born just for me to love and to kiss and to dance for while playing the tambourine and wearing nothing but stirrups. I was delighted! But what was wrong with the tiny people living in my heart? They were usually so expressive, so delightful. I waited. No answer.
I turned the corner to the living room. Silence. No one was there. Panic. I sped to the kitchen, trying to smile without my lip twitching. My friend’s drunk girlfriend (the heterosexual’s best friend) was seated at the table, downing pints of water and dry-heaving into a hot pink, plastic bucket.
“Ilth a sortithar hey blah.”
“What was that, hon?”
I wasn’t really concerned with her state. My friend came in. My friend!
“Your bed’s ready. I’m going to sleep.”
My bed? I couldn’t understand why she was talking to me about my bed? All I wanted to know was where was the dude? But, okay. I started to catch on. Bed! Dude. Oh, okay!
I kissed her goodnight, patted her girlfriend’s back then trotted back off to the bed!
It was empty.
He had left.
Creepy abandonment issues and dark feelings of betrayal made their way out of my ass! I fell on to the bed, covered my head and took several deep breaths. My friend’s girlfriend came and sat next to me on the bed. I rolled over, uncovered my head and watched her drool as she nodded off to sleep. I wondered why she didn’t go get in her bed, with the love of her life! Her intriguing spit strand put me to sleep pretty fast and, when I woke up a few hours later, she and her spit were gone but the betrayal and abandonment were still there beating up the little people who live in my heart!
In the morning, I got out of the bed and put on dark shades – that always helps for some reason. My friend was buzzing about the kitchen already wearing high heels. I sat down at the table. She put an empty mug in front of me then continued banging dishes (lesbians are so insensitive). I made myself a cup of coffee. Her girlfriend came in and offered me pan, a cigarette, une verre d’eau, aspirin, happy cow cheese. I declined everything but the aspirin then left.
Obviously neither was interested in the fact that because of them my heart was broken! That their friend, my soul mate, had ditched me! That I now felt a cute, but abandoned and alone, dog in the pound. That I was Madame Bovary!
The day, I must admit, was perfect. Gray and cold. My boots made their boot noises on the pavement. I stopped for a petit café crème and stood while I drank it because it’s cheaper that way and, well, because I feel so damned French when I do that. At the end of the bar, another customer stood, smoking a cigarette. He shot me a sexy look then did something with his lips. I rolled my eyes.
On my way home, I decided that I deserved a treat so I went to the open air market and bought fresh basil and apples for a big pasta lunch later and a huge bag of oranges for a big pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice – nothing like vitamin C to heal those wounds. I also bought some almonds and figs from this sweet old lady who gave me extra of them both, wrapped it all up then passed it to me with very old, lovely hands.
I blame the almonds.
While trying to stuff a combination of almonds and figs into my mouth and walk at the same time, an AWOL nut fell down my shirt. It freaked me out and I dropped my bag of oranges which, like just-released retarded prisoners, scattered in every direction. Stuffing the rest of the stuff into my mouth and maneuvering my body as the almond fell out of the bottom of my shirt, I hurried to round up my damn oranges.
The tiny people living in my heart lifted their weary heads and laughed, enjoying the change from the regular routine – buy oranges at the market, carry oranges home, peel oranges, squeeze oranges, drink orange juice, throw orange peels in the trash. They loved that I would let those oranges flee the monotony! They loved how the oranges skipped and hopped on the cobblestone street.
Bending to pick up the last of the runaway citrus, I saw the shoes. His shoes! Gorgeous. Leather. Polished. French man shoes! I looked for the rest of him. A tall gorgeous man stood in front of me, waving an orange. I smiled, the fruit cradled in my shirt like I was Laura Ingalls Wilder. His hair was wild, thick. His lips were fat. His cheeks were a beautiful color red like a child’s with fever. His hands were incredible! Long. Experienced but tender. When he handed me the orange and our bodies touched – fingertip to fingertip – I gasped!
“Oh God yes! Ça va! Ask me again! Say something…” I heard myself speaking.
He was tried to avoid the inevitable, “Pardon?”
“Oui, comme ça! Oh, oui! Oui!”
His voice was deep and soft. Deep and soft. His eyes were black like coal and beautiful. My eyes followed the line, across his broad shoulders, down his long arms…
I quickly invited him back to my apartment where he played my guitar…with those hands…and we ate pasta with fresh basil, drank OJ and where he eventually licked orange pulp out of my bellybutton. Then, late into the night, he asked me affectionately why I had come to Paris? And through a sleepy fog of ecstasy, I whispered why.
“Living in Paris is amazing. Yesterday, when the sun was out, I decided to buy a pair of high heels.”
*This is a true story. I just added an orange or two. A lot of tiny people really do live in my heart and they really are that emotional!