Last week I told you how I met Romain, in an empty movie theater in the North of France, back in 1990. And how we kissed and made plans for a first real date. I spent the next day smiling, filled with hope and excitement that I would seethat stranger again. As any 16 year old, I spent the day at school and went home around 4pm. I took a nice bath, shaved my legs and applied my new French perfume – L'Insolant, a title that would soon fit me well. I was becoming a little bit cynical, a little bit audacious.
I spent more than half an hour figuring out my outfit. I wore my navy blue blazer, the one inspired by Vivian's last scene in Pretty Woman, and a pair of 501 Levi's that were my go-to jeans. A pair of flats finished the look and I was ready to go, no make-up!
Pretty Woman or Nice Girl?
As I tiptoed myself to exit the big red brick house – a little bit afraid I would get yelled at by my foster parents for coming home after school, and also worrying about being late for my date. Sure enough, Emmanuel came after me.
“Laura, do you have plans for tonight?”
“I’m going to the movies,” I replied as I put my coat and gloves on.
“Well, we are having a friend over tonight, we would love for you to stay home.”
That caught me completely off guard.
“Yes! I’ve been talking with Sandra and we feel guilty that we haven’t been spending time with you. So, we will cook your favorite dish – pasta al pesto – and will make your favorite desert – crepe au Nutella.”
Crap! They were trying to be nice but why right when I had my date?
“Oh, wow, I wished you had told me before… I made plans; I have a friend waiting for me at the movies…”
“Oh, sorry about that. It was kind of last minute… Can you call her?”
I didn’t even bother to explain that it was a he, or anything else. Sandra came down the stairs smiling, and I could see that they were really trying hard. I smelled the fresh pesto being prepared in the kitchen, and I realized I had no choice but to stay.
I removed my coat and blazer to join Sandra in the kitchen. But I felt so bad about not going to the one fun thing I was looking forward to... Two days prior I had just received a letter from my mother, and her words were still resonating with me: “My dear daughter. I know how hard it has been to be in France and to reconnect with your roots. You are a true fighter, and a winner, because you got out of a dangerous situation fast enough not to be at risk. But you also have emotional damage now, and I think you deserve to grasp any small chance of being happy, joyful and light, and make it yours. Go have fun, go meet people, go enjoy the little things. Don’t obsess about studying too much, don’t compare your grades to your French colleagues. Don’t lock yourself in your room or in your soul. You made it there to seize the journey, now go for it, my dear!” And that was what I was trying to do!
Date Night Dilema
Sandra was pleasantly cheerful, singing while cooking. I was chopping tomatoes for the salad, my mind so far away picturing a lonely Romain waiting for me at the movies, I don’t know how I didn’t cut my fingers.
“You had a date tonight?”
Wow, she was paying attention to me, after all! “Yes, kind of…”
“I’m sorry we didn’t communicate better; I want to be better at it.”
“No problem. What is the occasion, by the way?”
“Oh, no big deal, Emmanuel invited his business partner over. We mostly wanted to do this for you. Since you arrived, we never had dinner together and this is a big thing for French people…”
“Thanks for making pesto, I really love it!,” I said while attempting a failed hug – she was so stiff she just stood there as a street light pole.
We started drinking wine, they put Jacques Brel to play on the phonograph, but the guest was late. I decided to call the movie theater. The projectionist picked up after more than 20 rings.
“This is Laura, the girl who comes in almost every day?”.
“Hey Laura, I was waiting for you to start the film.”
“Oh, I won’t be able to make it tonight, sorry. I will come tomorrow! But hey, my friend Romain is probably waiting for me, can you please tell him that I cannot make it tonight?”
“The guy you were making out with last night?”
There was a pause. The projectionist was this older man whom I never expected to talk to me like this.
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“Well, nobody is here, and we are like 15 minutes late… so if he shows up, I will give him the message, ok?” I could hear him dabbing on a cigarette.
“Please tell him to come tomorrow, same time?”
“Hu-hu,” he sighed while hanging up.
Same Old Bastards
Oh, gosh, he wasn’t there! He wasn’t probably going! I would have been stood up, watching Dick Tracy for the third time! What a bastard, I thought. They are all the same: men are the same anywhere in the world. They just change addresses, but fundamentally, they are the exact same bastards.
I poured myself a little bit more of wine, feeling drunk with anger and frustration before the alcohol could even get to me. The doorbell rang, I went to get it. As I opened the door with my rebellious attitude against life, it took me ten seconds to realize that it was Romain who was standing up before me. Instinctively I came outside, “how did you find me?”
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I live here!”
Right away, Emmanuel came and cracked the door open, “Salut, Romain! I see you already met Laura! What are you guys doing outside?”
Oh my God! I could not believe it! Romain was Emmanuel’s partner from Paris!
“Laura was helping me find my keys that I dropped outside, but we are just meeting right now.”
“Come on in!” Sandra screamed from the other side of the living room.
After the initial shock, we manage to fake our way through the night – although we rubbed legs under the table, and kissed in the bathroom, and held hands behind their back. We were on fire, until desert, when Sandra dropped the bomb.
“So, Romain, how is Emilie doing?”
Romain gave a weird smile, obviously feeling trapped.
“She is fine, thanks!”
“Who is Emilie?” I asked.
“Oh, she is Romain’s wife. They have a lovely 2 years-old!”
Of course, Romain had to excuse himself and go to the bathroom to cough and hide. I came right behind him “you married? Fucking asshole!” He gave me the shoulders, as if that was a small detail, and I went back to the dining table to have not one – but two crepe au Nutella.
So, wait– I thought, as I devoured my second crepe. Now I understand the world: there are absolutely no available or honest men on this fucking planet! Not in Israel, not in Brazil, not in France. No men! They are all married and cheating. That’s why women like Sandra are so fucking depressed! I bet Emmanuel is cheating on her!
I myself got pretty upset and went to my room right after I finished dessert, saying a brief goodbye. I heard when Romain left the house. Shortly after, he started throwing cigarette butts on my window.
Same Old Excuses
“Can you stop, please?” I whispered.
But it did not stop him.
“My marriage is falling apart. I felt this huge attraction for you, I am not in love with my wife. Laura, I can’t stop thinking about you…”
“I don’t date married men!” I said, very firmly. But then the need to make him feel a ping of pain surfaced from my chest. And I changed my story: “If only you had told me! Stupid jerk! I just wanted to have fun. I just wanted to have sex tonight, stupid!”
As I moved away from the tick wooden window and closed the shutters, I could hear his desperate reaction down on the street. “Oh, shit, please, have sex with me, please, please! Nothing changed, we can still have sex!”
What an asshole, I though. I was furious. I wanted to go to Emmanuel and tell him the truth about his partner, but then I came to the conclusion that he was probably a member of the asshole club himself.
Obviously, I could not sleep that night. Maybe Romain was a great lover, and I was at a point of isolation where I could definitely use some physical connection. But wait a minute: he was the third committed guy that had lied to me. In a row! Sergio, Igor and now Romain. Something was wrong. I had definitely missed that how-to-spot-a-cheater lesson.
Live and learn, my father always told me. So, as I waited to fall asleep, I thought to myself: What can I learn from this situation? How can I learn to read men? They always lie? Are they all married? Or just the ones I attract and am attracted to?