365 Days In Paris: Great Ex-Pectations

I haven’t been much of a believer in gut instincts until now. I’m one of those neurotic, analytical, thinks-too-much girls who tends to question her reasoning and feelings. But in the past few months, I’ve let go and gone solely on the gut. It’s what made me leave my job in New York and what brought me to Paris (so, thanks, Gut). And last Tuesday night, as I was rushing to my date with TDH (the tall, dark, and handsome Frenchman whom I met through friends), my gut was telling me, “This is not a good idea. This isn’t going to go well.” For starters, I already knew TDH probably wasn’t a good potential mate for me—the info I managed to scrape up on him from K wasn’t all too favorable. He’d been in a long relationship with a girl in China, but most likely cheated on her whenever he came home to Paris. I wasn’t surprised because TDH definitely gives off the player vibe. So why did I even go out with him? I figured it couldn’t hurt, and at the very least I’d have a nice conversation in French.

This wasn’t so much the case. While our texts to set up the date were flirty, some dynamic changed when, somehow, he left it to me to pick the time and place to meet up. “Just tell me when and where,” he wrote. The enthusiasm seemed totally lost. He knew I was new to Paris. A bit of help would have been nice.

When I arrived at the bar I picked — Chez Prune, a young and lively spot overlooking the water of the Canal St. Martin—the place was packed. I spotted TDH standing at the bar with a glass of chardonnay. (Heh. Chardonnay.) We kissed on the cheek and I looked around for a table. The first few minutes of the date included an awkward dance between us, the head waiter, the bar, and the crowd — we were trying to figure out what we should do. I felt like I was in charge of everything, and it was beginning to really stress me. Why couldn’t TDH take the reins and figure something more comfortable out? We finally ended up wedged into a corner table for four, where two others were already sitting. Great, I thought as I sat down. I just love having strangers at my table on a first date. Why doesn’t everyone join in the fun of uneasy getting-to-know-you convo!

Settling in, TDH raised his eyebrows and took a long sip of his drink, as if to say, “OK … so what now?”

I started by asking him about what he was doing in Paris, and my French quickly floundered. He kept asking me to repeat things, which then caused me to question if I was even making any sense. Each time I’d pose a question, he’d answer with one or two sentences, and then pause, waiting for my next move. I don’t get the impression that he was nervous, but more that he was snidely amused by the situation. It felt like he thought of the date as a novelty … like he was doing me a favor. My heart sank. I just wanted to go home. I felt so, so, so stupid. Both for the language barrier and for trying to date normally in France, which as I’ve explained before, isn’t a real possibility.

We finished our drinks quickly enough and called it a night. Out of some random courtesy, TDH decided to accompany me to the metro. We kissed goodbye on the cheek, not even saying the standard, “So, I’ll see you soon. I had a nice time.” More like, “OK, goodnight. Get home safe.” I went to the bottom of the stairs, waited for him to disappear, and then went back out, deciding to walk home. The evening had been a real downer and I needed to clear my head.

I put on my iPod and turned off of the busy Place de la République, on to a quieter street where my boots slowly scuffed the cobblestones with my long strides. Of course, “clearing my head” in times like this often means indulging in romantic sadness—Why do I feel so alone? Why can’t I just be in love? Lately for me, however, the inner monologue has been way more specific, going back to my Ex, the boy in Europe who broke my heart last February.

Alex. How could I lose him? How will I ever feel the same way about someone? Alex, Alex, Alex. I miss you so much. Why is it so hard to move on from the relationship you continue in your head when you know situations won’t work out? You can’t make someone love you, I try to remind myself. It’s just so hard knowing that there’s no longer an ocean separating us. I sometimes get myself so deep into reminiscing that I begin to wonder if he is (or was) “the one.” It kind of feels like watching a frustrating romantic movie where the happy ending could just be resolved if someone got on a plane. Or even picked up the phone. Or sent an email. Anything.

But in the end, I have to ask myself, would it really work between us? Aside from a lackluster first fling with Mr. Cupid, and a crappy first date with TDH, I’m pretty content leading my life the way it is. I keep my eyes open. I go out when I want to and hope to meet intriguing guys when I do so. I’m actually not sure that’s a feeling that would end by taking up with Alex again.

The truth is, I really need to move on from him. But there’s something a bit sadistic that won’t let me emerge from the fantasy and the pain. It’s almost more romantic to indulge it, you know?

So that’s why when I got home, I put on some dreamy music, poured myself a glass of red wine, and opened the windows. Settling into the windowsill, I took a gulp of my drink and lit a cigarette. (I know, I know. It’s very occasional, I swear.) Closing my eyes, and leaning my head back, I let the lights of the tourist boats on the Seine wash over my eyes, and wondered if Alex was alone right now, too.