How well do we know ourselves, really? Our past, our present our future…how much of it do we actually know for sure? I think I might be a Russian.
I have had suspicions about my heritage for several years now. I was told I’m German, that my family apparently owns a castle in Germany but that the inhabitants of the castle, according to Grandpa Roland, might be Nazis; though he doesn’t know for sure because they don’t speak English so he can’t determine their political views and he has never met them. I know that Abraham Lincoln is my great, great, great, etc., grandfather or uncle or something, and that we have a painting his wife, Mary Todd did, that hung in the Whitehouse.
I should have known something was a miss when in Los Angeles, cab drivers spoke to me in words I didn’t understand coated in thick eastern European accents; or when the short guy that wore the blue baseball cap (every day) who served the salad at my college campus cafeteria asked me if I wanted to come to a meeting of the “Comrades.” A few months ago, the man seated next to me on my return flight from San Francisco thought I was a Russian mail-order bride. Who knew they flew Business class?
It wasn’t until very recently that I began to question, who I am and where did I come from? What I discovered is perplexing, humorous and a little bit peur. (Did I mention that I’m learning franglais?). I, largely, owe this revelation to my new friend Jeremy, the guy with the tan arms.
Jeremy and I met at Gare du Nord. We were both patted down and our luggage searched for Babybel cheese. He showed off tan arms and Oliver Peoples and I, an exposed belly button and my new Joseph designer boots. Lucky for me, my $20 sunglasses that I purchased half off at the LOFT were hiding at the bottom of my purse. Had I been in my supermodel mode and wearing my shades indoors as Jeremy was, we might not have ever become friends. He’s a label whore, but he’s hot so… I’m letting it slide.
Jeremy is half French half Swiss. He has a slight European accent, but more than French/Swiss, I’d say it’s a combination of, I sound sexy like this/Hot girls give me their phone numbers, but again, he’s hot so… I’m letting it slide. Jeremy grew up half his life in New York and went to school avec moi in Los Angeles at USC. We /admin/story/story/18150/weren’t friends at USC, I don’t even think we met, though we do have one very gay USC yell leader in common. The gay yell leader was in my tap dance class, but this was before he had reached the top of the top for a gay guy at USC, before he became a bellybutton showing, shirtless barbecues in the quad, giving out burgers for phone numbers, yell leader.
I’m staying at Paris’ first Urban Resort at Republique for the weekend doing a review. Jeremy decides to cash in on the free fun and volunteers to bring over a movie and a bottle of wine. We were going to go down to the hotel bar, but there appeared to be the beginning of some kind of model orgy—thirty something men showing off waxed chests beneath black buttoned down shirts, and waif-model type 18 year-olds drunk off of one martini. We weren’t physically qualified to order at the bar.
Jeremy arrived, hiding a DVD, a bottle of wine and toothpaste (I was out) under his charcoal pea coat. I was so excited to see what he brought, I literally jumped up and down tripping over my two inch too long jeans and fell to the floor. What did he bring? Porn.
Okay, he didn’t bring porn. He brought a movie called The Dreamers, it’s half in French, half in English and the three main characters, a voluptuous brunette and two average looking guys are naked most of the movie…I covered my eyes in the scenes where the brother and sister were lying in bed together naked. Thanks Jeremy, thanks so much.
On our third glass of wine, bored by the incest, Jeremy decided to try on my clothes. I contemplated slitting my wrists with my nail file when the top button of my favorite pair of pants fastened perfectly around his waste. I grew more and more depressed as my shirt, shoes and favorite leather Donna Karen jacket piled onto his model frame. Stop. Here’s where I gotta ask…French? Gay? Or drunk? I’m screaming inside, I really am, trying to figure this out, “What is the answer, please God give me a sign…” when Jeremy suddenly stopped the fashion show. His hand rested over his mouth and he appeared to be in a state of shock. He spoke as if he were divulging an epiphany, “Kirsten…we must go to a club.”
Was he kidding? It was 1a.m. and I was wearing my striped pajama top and jeans. Jeremy started rummaging through my suitcase selecting possible outfits for me and I realized that there was no way out. I put on a silk turquoise camisole, my short Donna Karen leather jacket (yes, the one he had been wearing) and I added some height to my jeans with my chouette Joseph black boots.
My pulse was pounding…I was so nervous, I mean I don’t go to clubs! Well, at least not “straight” clubs. If I must go to a club I prefer it be a gay club because the likely hood of a stranger trying to stick his tongue down my throat is less. For the record, I speak from experience. I gave Jeremy a quick one over in his 7 jeans and black button down designer collared shirt, “Is he qualified to chaperone?” I asked myself. Who cares, he’s hot.
I grabbed my purse and we hailed a cab that took us to Le Cab. Cabaret, otherwise known as Le Cab, is a super trendy, exclusive club with walls lined of crocodile skin in Paris across from the Palais Royal. It is where the red velvet ropes separate the chouette from the pas chouette and where I stood shaking in the cold with just my camisole, holding Jeremy’s hand. The rope was immediately lifted. I felt like I was walking the red carpet as I had watched from my dorm window Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston do at the Shrine Auditorium at USC. Except, my camisole cost 70 bucks on sale, instead of $7,000.
An older distinguished man was sitting on the left of the pathway in a navy suit with a red rose in his lapel. He was surrounded by body guards who crossed their arms in front of their hugely built chests, his dead face said “No nonsense,” He belonged on the Sopranos, had he not been Russian. Jeremy shook his hand. What?! The Russian Mafia leader winked at me and nodded his head for us to precede, as we did, six college students were held up at the door and refused admittance.
I accompanied Jeremy to the coat check. I did not, check my coat, part of the, stop crazies from shoving their tongues down my throat before they start, plan. Next stop? Drinks. Vodka tonics. (Notice, I only drink vodka…an alcohol made by Russians from potatoes, Germans drink beer.)
The bartender wore a most interesting garb of velvet long-sleeved poofy forest green blouse with detailed gold buttons down the front and I could see the start of tight grey slacks that no doubt were tucked into a pair of knee-high boots. I wanted to say, “And who are you supposed to be?” But I didn’t know how to say it in French. And besides, I knew. She was clearly Perchick, Hodel’s lover in A Fiddler on the Roof. Jeremy and I raised our glasses, “L’Chaim!”
As Jeremy and I began our journey into the dancin’ room, I was stopped four, yes, four times by men who spoke to me in Russian. I am assuming it was Russian because they were wearing paper Russian hats. When I turned the corner, I saw four men sitting round a table with serious faces, like the one outside wearing real Russian hats. I made the only obvious conclusion which is that they are “sub-bosses” working for the main boss sitting on the throne outside. They smiled at me. No one else. Just me. I tried not to look, but they were four Russian Mafia head sitting in the corner! What was I supposed to do? When Jeremy accidentally bumped into their table as he led me into a spin, I thought for sure they were going to take out their machine guns, so I smiled back.
What happened next, no Comrade meeting or Animal Farm reading could have prepared me for. The one whose drink Jeremy had knocked over, the one I had smile at, the Tall One, began to approach me. He called me his “Russian Princess” and placed his Russian hat on top of my head. Jeremy grabbed for me, but it was too late, the Tall One had engaged me in the Russian New Year dance in celebration of, the Russian New Year…the chant still haunts me, “Li, Li, Li, Li, Li, Li, Li, Li-huh!”
The next morning I awoke in my starched white hotel sheets, not hung-over, but confused. Why me? Jeremy is French/Swiss with German blood like me, but no one speaks to him in Russian. The wheels began to turn, the room was spinning, okay, so maybe I was a little hung-over. As I showered and dressed for my breakfast appointment with Jeremy, I thought about what it would mean if I were Russian? What it would mean to be a Russian Mafia boss’s girl-friend? What it would mean if I did put myself on a Russian mail-order bride website, and if there is any money to be made for me in that? I decided to ask Jeremy, since he’s 23 and already started three companies, he’s clearly not an idiot.
I carefully pulled on my jeans, still a little dizzy and sat to zip up my boots. As I dabbed on the Philosophy lip gloss I’m famous for, I noticed the Russian Hat laying on top the pile of last night’s clothes. Since I had about ten minutes to spare before I caught a cab to the 6th to meet Jeremy, I though, why not try it on? See what it looks like?
It did look pretty cute. But the ear flaps on the top made my head look a little pointy so I decided to untie them and tied them down on my ears by making a knot of the string under my chin. Cute. Okay, enough. As I grabbed my for my wallet on the night stand with one hand, I started to untie the knot with the other. But it wouldn’t budge. It was stubborn. The string was too thin for my fingers to get in and needle the knot out. Oh my God!
Twenty minutes later and I was still wrestling with the knot. Jeremy had called once and too embarrassed to tell him I had tried the hat on (again), I said I was on my way. I decided to leave with the hat on, thinking I could untie it in the cab. I waited until the hotel lobby was clear and darted out. In the taxi, I started getting hot flashes as we neared Jeremy’s apartment in the 6th, still no luck. When the taxi driver pulled up to the curb, I gave him a nice tip and he thanked me. In Russian.
I am on the verge of tears as I begin my decent up the stairs to Jeremy’s apartment. Before I hit first step, a head pops over the railing on the second floor, “J’arrive, my Russian Princess.”
Over crepes while I still tugged at the stubborn string, Jeremy made fun of me and kept insisting I raise my glass so that he could watch the other people in the restaurant watch me as I said, “L’Chaim,” in my authentic Russian hat. I did it and blushed. Not because I was embarrassed but because, he is…oh, so hot.