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I met him in a cave in Paris on the night of my birthday. Well, a cave bar actually. You enter the bar on the ground floor and follow a trail of mysterious steps down into a damp room with exposed bricks that glisten in the candlelight. A miniature bar was set up in the corner with a limited selection of drinks. But all I needed was wine, which was in sweet supply.

I was sitting at a booth when a group of guys came in to join their friends sitting close by. I’d already been drinking. A lot. It was my birthday. And it was my first time in Paris.

He spoke English. They all did, along with two or three other languages (like most Europeans). I told him I was turning 29. The table sang happy birthday and he bought me a drink. I told him I was a writer. He told me he was a law student from Belgium. His name was Yves.

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The tortuous shell glasses on his face hid his age. I thought he must have been at least 28. But he was 25. And I wasn’t really turning 29.

He slid into the seat beside me. The dark lighting of a bar does a many splendid things, including aiding in the appearance of youth and beauty — two things I felt dwindling. He wrapped his fingers around my left wrist and looked into my eyes.

“What’s this,” he said, holding me and looking down at my arm.

“I don’t know,” I said. I’d never noticed the bone on my left wrist protruding slightly, making a curve in the straight line leading up to my hand.  He wanted an excuse to touch me, which was incredibly endearing and fine by me.

We walked out into the freezing cold that sliced right through my black tights and the dress I’d bought just for that night. Then I did something I’d promised myself I’d never do: I invited him back to the apartment.

It felt OK. Safe. I don’t know at what point the fear I should have had melted into lustful trust — maybe when I told him I had a daughter and he asked to see her picture.

We got out a cheese board and crackers and red wine that was left over from all the nights before, because every night included wine. But this was the first and only night that included a guy.

We played poker — the kind where outfits get smaller and the floor gets covered in a tangled mess of discarded cotton.

Then we danced in the den and I forgot to be shy. Enough wine will do that to the mind.

When you’re traveling abroad, it’s like you’re in another world. Nobody knows you, your history, or the future you hope to create. You are, for that fleeting moment, a version of yourself you never thought existed.

“You’re so beautiful, sexy,” he said. I bet he says that to all the girls. But even still, Yves was one of the good ones: incredibly smart, educated, and from a wealthy family that worked in academia, and probably took great care in crafting their son’s life.

He was going to change the world. That’s what he told me, and I absolutely believed him.

He stayed the night, but we didn’t sleep in the same bed.

I told him: “I’m not like that.”

“Not like what,” he said.

In the morning, I buried my face in my pillow, incredibly embarrassed. He left me his number. And I was left with the picture I’d snapped of him sitting on the couch  — lips stained red from hours of sipping grocery store pinot — starring into the lens of my Canon waiting to be kissed.

I never talked to him again. And it’s better that way, because now he can remain a memory that will never lose its beauty to the harsh light of reality.

Joie de vivre.

As always, please write to me with your questions on love, relationships, and life at: xsandoscolumn@gmail.com.

XOXO

Sarah

 

 

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