It is a toss up whether the Frenchman showed up at the absolute best time or the worst.
On one hand, I wasn't exactly in the right emotional state to take in his international charm. On the other, his heavy handed affections, continental affectations and puppy dog persistence made him a perfect distraction to my bruised heart and wounded ego.
When I met him we were sharing a blanket in Brooklyn Bridge Park, both of us with friends of friends of friends, watching a movie al fresco in the glow of the Manhattan skyline. I was distracted at first, half petrified of running in to the latest boy to make me consider lesbianism, half hoping I would. It wasn't until we were standing on the same subway platform waiting to go home that I really took him in.
The gapping spread of his unbuttoned burgundy dress shirt was the first thing I noticed. As a rule, European men can pull of chest hair. Americans look like cast offs from the Jersey Shore.
His name was Michel and he was in New York on holiday. In fact, he had been traveling for months and wouldn't be returning to France until the growing season in September. His family owned a vineyard in the southwest and he spent his time traveling around the world instructing sommelier and meeting with distributors. He didn't tell me all of this in our first meeting - no we had a few more days for that - but it seems to stick out now that he is gone, no doubt hiking somewhere in Chili, looking for his next great conquest.
We made mild chit-chat on the subway platform, the A/C an interminable wait. It was early and he was cute so it was decided we should get a drink.
I was not prepared. I was not prepared for the French and their sense of beauty and passion and love for art. I don't know that I have ever had such a conversion and not just with a stranger - with anyone. He made my heart hurt with the way he looked at the world and the way he spoke of our 'long moment together in time'. It was too much. I am too American and he was too... too something all together more.
When he stopped in mid-conversation, chin in palm, unafraid of the silence, taking in the world around him and losing himself exclusively in the thoughts within his own head, it was like something within my own heart snapped.
I realize the melodrama of this all but I am telling you HE WAS FRENCH; they have their own rules. I wanted so badly to pause the world for a moment so I could capture the words he was saying, pictures he was painting that I knew would fly from my memory before the sun came up again.
For the first time in months I wanted to write and not just about my petty indiscretions with the males of my life but about art and what it means to feel an overwhelming sense of joy at just being allowed to walk around and witness other people’s joy. I wanted write silly flowery poetry and for a couple of hours I felt ridiculously happy, like a scene in a movie that feels too perfect to last for more than just a two minute montage but one you wouldn’t want any other way.
That night I let him kiss me but I didn't let him walk me home. As brilliant as his poetry might have been, I wasn't ready for what that could lead to.
The next day the Frenchman sent me text messages early in the morning asking how soon he could see me. My foreign film feeling had worn off in the light of day and I couldn’t figure out if the poetics were a full time thing for him or if his English was just really terrible in a really fortunate manner.
I debated whether to see him again - some perfect things should just be left a perfect mystery - but my funk was starting to roll in again, heavier now because I had a few free hours to contemplate my wounded heart. So I decided to indulge the Frenchman with a little tragedy and arranged to meet him near the Met before taking a train to the Bronx to see an adaption of Blood Wedding in the park.
When we got lost and spent thirty minutes wandering around aimlessly, the Frenchman explained to me the the definition of “foireux” - a sort of half-baked plan, something that sounds really great in theory but turns out to be nothing much of all. I worried that this was what our evening might be.
Play or not, he assured me with a smile that just called for trouble, this night would be nothing of the kind.
On the subway, after what turned out to be an epically terrible show, he laid my palm facing up and slowly outlined the regions of France with his finger. As we walked around an unfamiliar Brooklyn neighborhood, he serenaded me with songs from his childhood. And as we sat on the patio of a local bar he did his best to explain to me what he saw as the way to treat a woman, a “real man’s” view of relationships and why I should enjoy each “beautiful long moment” with passion.
Meanwhile, I was directing his attention toward pronouncing my home state like something other that the Kathy Bates film that caused me to question the safety of the writing profession.
What can I say, I have an ooh la la threshold. Yes, it was incredibly romantic but it was all too much. The Frenchman was sexy but I couldn’t exactly envision rolling around in bed with him, laughing at an ill-timed dumb joke or the innate awkwardness of almost all things naked.
I guess I am a girl who needs just as much La Dolce Vita as Wet Hot American Summer and a guy who falls somewhere in between.
The Frenchman was obviously someone who would want to spoon or whisper sweet nothings in my ear or wake up early to watch me while I dreamed. And that just sounded gross. Even his plea to come home with me was stifling. He should have judged his audience when he told me he just wanted to come home so we could talk and he could hold me all night. I attempted to explain to him the definition of a personal bubble but the language divided seemed to great.
I walked him to the subway - okay in the general direction of the subway - and gave him a hug goodbye. I tried to pretend I didn’t see him actually pouting as I walked away. I am not sure how long he stood there - I never turned around.