I met Duke* in Paris. He was actually British, visiting from London, and I was there from New York, sent by the magazine I worked for to cover the fashion shows. My boyfriend back in New York had just broken up with me for the bajillionth time, and I was devastated (as usual). When I met Duke, a blue-eyed scruffster with a gorgeous accent and a mischievous grin, the chemistry was immediate, and somehow I knew that he might provide just the rebound romp to lift me out of Dumpsville. We went to decadent fashion parties and danced all night, clinging to one another as if weâ€™d never let go. It felt like true love. â€œSo youâ€™re from New York, eh?â€ he asked. Yes, I told him. â€œIâ€™ve been trying to get back there. Iâ€™m banned from the country at the moment,â€ he said.
â€œWell, I suppose Iâ€™ll have to marry you so you can come back with me,â€ I quipped. From that moment, it was on.
We had amazing sex at my hotel that night, but after, I started bawling. I was crying for my ex, crying for my recently deceased father, crying for my own loneliness. To my surprise, Duke was really understanding about the whole thing. He didnâ€™t seem to mind when I shut down, put my headphones on, and rolled over in the bed. He was there the next morning, ready to explore Paris.
Over the next few days, I spent my off-hours walking the streets with Duke in an exhilarating champagne buzz, buying over-the-top French lingerie to replace my suitcase full of granny panties, sharing chocolate crepes and ham baguettes, staring out from the hotel room balcony at the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. We went to decadent fashion parties and danced all night, clinging to one another as if weâ€™d never let go. It felt like true love. We cried when we had to separate at the end of the trip and promised to write one another.
The next few months were filled with non-stop flights to London, constant phone calls and emails, and finally, a consultation with an immigration marriage lawyer. My hemorrhaging bank account and my on-hold professional life seemed inconsequential. I didnâ€™t care. We were madly in love, and nothing else seemed to matter.
Around that time, my ex started calling me constantly. He wanted me back. Iâ€™d have none of it. When I patiently explained to him that heâ€™d been replaced, he was insistent, â€œBut we have history, Erin. You donâ€™t even know this guy.â€
Then a crisis occurred. The New York City blackout of 2003 happened, and I was literally left in the dark for days. On top of that, I came down with a debilitating illness. My ex was there to step up to the plate. I couldnâ€™t think straight. Was Duke just using me to get a green card? Did I really know him? I wished Duke could have been there, but he was far away in London.
When I finally called him to break it off he was shocked. Even I was taken aback by my decision. But when real life intervened, my long distance love seemed like a fantasy that ultimately had to end.
*Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.