The theme for the day is kissing men in front of French landmarks; I’ve arranged to meet some guy I met online in front of the Bastille monument that evening. I had only clicked the heart beside his picture by accident, but I was glad I did. We’ve traveled to many of the same places, and I chatter happily at him as he squires me around the neighborhood of Marais, pointing out buildings built before the first American colonies were a thing. He is older, more diminutive than I generally go for, but he writes reviews for the opera world and he is well-read and delightfully informative. He indulges without commentary my wish to have chocolat chaud even though it is August, and he brings me to this amazing place beside the Louvre, where they put crème fraiche instead of whipped cream on top.
Afterwards, I think he’ll kiss me in front of the Louvre’s glass pyramid, illuminated and surrounded by brides having their photos done, but he doesn’t. Nor does he kiss me on our stroll over the Pont Neuf bridge, or at the Paris Plage, where we sit with our feet dangling over the Seine and watch the Eiffel Tower go all disco. The lights twinkle madly for five minutes on the hour.
He waits until we are in front of Notre Dame before pulling me in close to kiss me. He is slim and smart and kind and thoughtful, and the moment is beautiful, and I wish I could feel the lust and joy I think it ought to elicit, but I don’t. I really like him, but my vagina is tapping her watch and pointing out that the last Metro is in ten minutes.
What is it that makes chemistry with some people, and not with others? I would be delighted to feel it with this informed, charming man. We could make out in front of monuments all over the world. I want to feel it, but I don’t. Even as he kisses me, I am distracted, trying to think what verb I might apply to him for this blog entry and coming up short. Expirer, maybe. The French word for breathing out, with the English word for running out of time tucked inside.
I am running out of time here in Europe, and I still don’t have any answers. In Paris, the leaves are already changing color and skittering along the sidewalks. I want to feel what I feel with Sketch, with someone else, anyone else, but I don’t. I want to call him, from across the world, even though I know what it will cost me.
I get an incomprehensible, Google-translated text from one of the men who demonstrated real French kissing on the Rue des Lombards the other night. He wants to meet up, and I think about his enormous hands, and I put my hands on myself and I am tempted, but it’s too frustrating trying to conjugate all the verbs in someone else/s native tongue. Maybe there is someone other than Sketch that I could love, but maybe he is on the other side of the world and we do not speak the same language so I will never know him. It is a depressing thought.
There is a language barrier here, a concrete dividing wall between me and even the English-speaking Parisians. I ask for something: Avez-vous le wifi? Or Are you still serving lunch? They answer with a curt non. Not: No, I’m sorry, I wish I could help you, I’m sorry you don’t have the thing that you need. Just non, with the implication that it was rude of me to even ask.
Maybe this is something I need to cultivate for myself, non as a complete sentence. I can’t just say non; I need to make elaborate excuses. I don’t know what is wrong with me.
This city is making me crazy, so I try to do the things that make me feel more like myself: I go to a Bikram yoga class, and although it is all in French, I can follow along. I know what ouvrier means, and I do. Amidst the reeking carpets and the jacked Parisians, I open.
I decide I need to spend a day by myself, and I go to Pere Lachaise cemetery, where the crows call out overhead in French and I visit the graves of Jim Morrison and Balzac and Delacroix and Charlie Chaplin. Alone, contented, I spend time with the bones of Collette, a French writer who asked her man to lock her in her room and not let her out until she had finished her writing for the day. I identify with Collette.
I eat my lunch near the grave of Oscar Wilde. I had gone there, looking for something pithy on his tombstone, and here’s what I found: “And alien tears fill for him/ Pity’s long broken urn/ For his mourners will be outcast men/ And outcasts always mourn.” It’s not funny, and my eyes fill up unexpectedly. No other grave has been so defaced with lipstick kisses; they had to put up a plexiglass screen to protect it. I kiss the glass, leaving a mark amidst the all the other outcasts.