Story time. Involves a sugar baby, a love story in Paris, making an idiot of myself, and one year that aged me fifty
I was studying in France earlier this year and while living across the world, my life in the States was falling apart. I was spending too much money, eating raw pasta and cans of spam in bed while watching Netflix and crying because I was lonely, and French people were very harsh with me. I had taken courses in French at this university, studied endlessly beforehand- translating movie scripts at my work study job, endless French films, podcasts, and when I arrived the cold French exteriors strangers had was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I felt lonely, socially incapable, and could only communicate at the level of a child. People would say disparaging things about my body, or hold me responsible for Donald Trump, or tell me not to speak French at all. Strangers and acquaintances alike showed no empathy as a lugged enormous suitcases up stairs, or asked questions about where classes were, or for directions to complete student insurance. My only friends were English speakers who got on with these things much better than me (one was from French Canada, an Australian had already settled in the previous semester), but I would get drunk in my tiny room alone quite a bit. I’m used to being seen as intelligent and sociable, and this semester shook me to my core. At home, my mother would eventually be arrested and I grew more depressed as I stayed in touch with them. One guy I slept with posted my nudes on the internet. Another invited me to a gala, where I looked beautiful, and didn’t speak to me at all. Another ruined great sex by immediately telling everyone and confirmed my identity as the American slut. I got blackout drunk on a university trip and hooked up with a Brazilian girl in a French boarding school that had been rented, excused myself, spent the rest of the night vomiting in nothing but a pair of overalls, repeatedly hitting the button that activated the shower for thirty seconds. I had no memory of any of this.
But I learned to do things alone. I grew. I forced myself into conversations and realized I didn’t care about looking like an idiot. It still stung.
The academic year finished. I had failed half of my classes because I couldn’t bring myself to go. It was over, and now I would just travel. I went to Italy, Spain, the south of France, Austria, all over. I met with my sister. She can be pretty cruel, always removed because when my mom was arrested, it was for assault after accusing my sister of fucking my father. She’s colder than me though, saying things like how I would look heavier if I didn’t have my chest. “You want to prove you’ve grown and can handle yourself in Europe, that you’re different,” she said after I misread a German train stop, and we were stuck overnight in a station. “You’re exactly the same”.
But before my trip, something incredible happened. I posted on a web site, hoping some kind stranger in Paris would hold a bag of clothes during my travels before I returned home. I put attractive photos up, sifted through dozens of responses, chose one that looked stable. Normal. Booked a bus to Paris. On the way there, someone else messaged me. He looked really kind. He had travelled all across South Asia and sailed across the Atlantic. I told the other guy something had come up, and followed through with- let’s call him Q. We met up at a metro station. I bought him a gift- two books, the Garden of Eden by Hemingway in French, or a blank notebook. “Only an American would buy Hemingway in French,” he laughed, and took the notebook.
He explained that he constantly hosted people for free, and gave bike tours of the city without charge just to meet people. He was the least French person I’ve ever met. I thought that was fantastic.
I originally asked for him to harbor an enormous backpack, but instead of troubling him, I left a small duffel bag. I didn’t want to inconvenience him, since he had also offered to let me stay the night. I would carry an extra thirty pounds around for a month because of this- rainboots and sweaters while I sweated in June in Venice.
We had met at a subway station, he took my gift, we biked around the city and bought ingredients for a salmon tart. I was utterly charmed. I used a city bike, and in between drop off stations, he would let me sit on his handlebars and pedal like a maniac. I gripped his arms tightly as he swerved to avoid cars and pedestrians alike, and we zipped down the Champs-Élysées and spoke in French and English. He gently corrected my mistakes, and mercifully let me feel intelligent for a few moments. We cooked dinner together, laughed about French science shows for children, talked about the best techniques for driving in the snow (he grew up in the mountains), and killed a bottle of wine.
The night reached its end and I readied myself to stay on his futon. Q looked from beyond his door and asked if I was coming into his room. He saw my confusion and explained that he had a better mattress to set up on his floor- or, if I preferred, I was welcome to exactly half of his bed. I’m not sure whether it was the way he always looked as though he was smirking, or whether his arms felt nice as he cycled through the city, but I opted for his bed. It seemed like hours chatting, barely touching, then overtly shifting bodies, then fingers brushed my hair out of my face and we were doing exactly what you might guess. He was so careful and gentle. He traced his fingers around my ears and gave half second massages to my feet. He didn’t last very long, but somehow it was a relief. He didn’t do this for hookups. He was just that kind of person. He told me the next day it had been a long time since he had done that sort of thing, dressed up professionally for his work as an engineer while I tried to desmudge my makeup and make my way back to a bus stop.
He said goodbye at the metro station, we did la bise kissing each other on the cheeks, and he was gone. We would see each other in a month when I had to pick up my bag and return home.
I spent the whole time thinking of him. We talked just before time was up- he messaged me on my birthday. I was so excited. I was in Venice and a bunch of Moldovans had bought me champagne while my sister and I sat on the beach. A friendly guy brought me his jacket as I came out of the water, draped it over my shoulders, and flirted a little, but all that was on my mind was him.
It’s your birthday? He said. That changes everything for the menu. When I came back he baked me a birthday cake with courgettes- zucchinis. It was strangely delicious. The first day we walked around in circles, talking about nothing in particular around the city. Old movies and why I hate sudoku puzzles, reasons why he doesn’t care about football. We spent quality time together in his room. Tu m'excites, he said while fucking me. You turn me on. Bouge pas. Lache-toi la. The next day we travelled to the illicit section of the Parisian catacombs. If you see the police, he warned, run, they do give out fines. People aren’t supposed to be here. I sat on his handlebars and we biked to an abandoned train station after slipping through a construction zone, slipped into a hole that looked like an animal might live in it, and sloshed around in water up to our thighs. It looked like tunnels from Lord of the Rings. He had a headlight and a hand-drawn map. We looked at the graffiti and ate dumplings, and we turned off all the lights so everything was silent and completely dark. While biking back, he laughed. You weren’t scared at all, he said, impressed. A lot of people would yell at me, or lose their minds. You were okay just sitting there and enjoying the quiet. I had been totally out of my element, but I smiled. We zipped by a group of fancy looking Parisians outside of a gallery and made loud beeping noises to rile them. That was perfect, he said of my particular noisy exclamation.
That night we went home and fucked in the kitchen. It was great. On top of laundry. Near his saxophone. Standing up. By his friend’s futon. Afterward, Q stood up and looked outside the window, flashing some neighbors who rolled their shades down, ruffled. We laughed. I went home to my own (superfluous) Airbnb that night but almost got locked in the metro while switching stations, and in doing so lost my keys. My phone was dead, but by some miracle a neighbor let me in the apartment at 1:00 and the door of the place upstairs was unlocked. I crashed to bed. The next morning I was determined to find my keys. I didn’t and was locked in. I had literally tied my clothes together to hop down into a courtyard when my host arrived. I would have to pay 200 euros for a new key (Parisian apartments must have the highest security) but I didn’t care. I saw Q again that night. We fucked twice and despite his work in the morning, we stayed up nearly all night. We talked about staying in contact, and I told him he was the type of person I would want to be with. That’s crazy, he said. You’ve known me for two days. But I feel the same way.
I left Paris. I went back to my home. I got two sugar daddies and a sugar mommy, worked two jobs and took nineteen credits. I used a fake name and number and hid gifts from my family like iPhone 7s. I had threeways and went on shopping sprees. I saved up money, stayed in touch with Q and made up a story about a conference in Paris in January. I planned a trip back. He told me he missed my curls, and me as well. I bought a quarter pound of weed at a time and sold it. I found another boy to bide my time with. He was boring but pretty, and I craved sex as an escape. I hooked up with my ex. We’re good friends, he’s trapped by a family situation, and has only ever fucked me, but he talks down to me in Russian and I like it when he slaps me in the face during sex.
The semester dragged on as my family issues worsened and I studied our elections, ISIS and Syria endlessly. I was so depressed. I gave into old addictions on and off but kept it together. My mother didn’t, but it’s okay.
I’m in Europe now. Meeting up with Q again was one of the greatest disappointments of my life.
I thought I deserved a last hoorah, that whatever powers that be would pity me and start off the fabled 2017 with a cathartic sexual release. He was moving to the Ivory Coast to digitize government files the day before I left Paris. I booked a private Airbnb for three days, since he didn’t have an apartment at the beginning of the month I told him he could stay there, he seemed to accept, asking if it was private, telling me he would reserve the weekend for me. He didn’t. We saw each other only one afternoon. The problem was, I thought I could manipulate him into liking me just the same as one of the people who paid me for my time. It didn’t work. I think I’ve grown too steely and bitter. He like the girl that got so lost trying to find his apartment, she took the metro outside of Paris. He didn’t like the sophisticated me with better clothes and expensive makeup and a slick place to crash. We got lunch together, ate galette de rois together which I couldn’t finish, so I fed it to a crow. He got the lucky feve that you find in only a few slices, a little tchotchke baked into the cake. A French policewoman yelled at me. We walked quietly through museums. We drove through the city in his company car- like a maniac, yet again. Sometimes he would wander off into a completely different room within exhibits. It was pleasant enough, but it was clear he was distracted. He said goodbye to me at a metro stop. I didn’t understand it was the last time I’d see him. I sent a Facebook message telling him I understood his position but that he was welcome to stop by my apartment. He saw the message and didn’t reply the whole night. I cried, put on a face mask and sexted my ex alone. I told my friends we had wild sex and that I’d never have a romance like this one again. I don’t know where I’m going from here. Don’t trust people, I suppose, prioritize yourself, and know when not to push a good thing too far.
I feel so bitter. I’m lucky, young, intelligent, and sitting in beautiful Lisbon as I type this up, but I don’t feel as though I’ll find something like this again. I have men who will Paypal me if I need anything and offer to fly me all over the world. They have pictures with famous hockey players and the Tampa Buccaneers cheerleaders. I don’t care. I’ll go back to my ex, maybe, to avoid the sting of being really alone. He understands me pretty well, even though it’s more of a friendship. This is going to fuck me up so badly, he says, as I ask more and more intense sexual frontiers to be pushed. I’ve thought of that. I care a little, but I need it right now.
Everything here is true. I wish it wasn’t. Wish me luck.