Relationships in Paris run on coincidences, run-ins, and screwball scenarios. It’s perhaps a cliche, and you might actually feel like you’re living in a comedic French movie, but the love triangle (or just crazy romantic entanglements in general) is ever-present. Between my girlfriends and me, there’s always something fascinating happening. Randomly, someone’s off in Morocco for a “platonic” weekend with their ex’s friend, another one is breaking up with her 55-year-old boyfriend and going on a date with a politician next week, or the guy someone met in a bar last week won’t stop sending the most over-the-top lovesick texts.
As for me, it seems there’s been a general stream of “love interests” and dates and “potentials,” but nothing’s ever quite been the whirlwind romance you’d expect from Parisian living. Until now. A few weeks ago, my friend Sara and I had stopped in on her roommate’s birthday party. Her roommate is a French girl, and because French women and American women have a notoriously difficult time getting along, I didn’t exactly feel at ease at this party and neither did Sara (we weren’t staying for long anyhow), so we basically just shared a beer in the kitchen with the only other English speaker there. At one point, a scruffy guy with rectangular glasses and a wrinkled, white button-up shirt came in. Sara apparently knew him and made introductions. His name was Henri, and I somehow assumed that he was the birthday girl’s boyfriend. I can’t remember what it was at the time that made me think this, but for some reason this seemed fairly clear. As we did the standard double cheek kiss, I thought he was attractive but, assuming he was taken, didn’t let my mind think about flirting or even getting to know this guy. However, we did talk for a bit, starting off in English, but switching to French once I realized his level was pretty poor. In the end, we actually did end up talking for a good 10 minutes after I learned he worked in online marketing and blog stuff. So we had a pretty nice chat about our jobs.
Within 40 minutes, Sara and I had finished our beers and were off. And that was that.
Then, last night, Sara invited me to a Sunday afternoon electro-rock dance party by the Seine, saying she had some friends who would probably be going. I was down in any case—the weather was gorgeous and a beer-soaked afternoon sounded like just the perfect thing to get the party season into swing. There, we ran into Sara’s roommate and her posse, and once again, we resigned ourselves to the sidelines, feeling awkward in the group of fast-talking Frenchies. A while later, Henri showed up, and greeted everyone with a kiss, ending with me. Standing there for a minute, he saw my empty beer, and asked me if I wanted a drink. I thought he was just being nice—French guys are such gentlemen like that. But when he refused to take my money and gave me a huge smile, I began to wonder if he was flirting. Quickly pulling Sara aside while Henri left for the bar, I quizzed her about him.
“OK … so this Henri guy is really cute, but he’s taken, right?”
“No, why do you say that? I don’t think so.”
“Really, he’s not Amélie’s boyfriend? Didn’t you say they were together?”
“Honestly, no. I don’t know where you’re coming up with this stuff. But do you want me to find out for sure?”
I hesitated for a moment. I wanted to say yes, to find out the real details, but also didn’t want anything to seem so obvious. I told Sara to stay put and maybe we’d do some snooping later, but for the moment, I’d just feel things out.
I was at first disappointed when Henri returned with my beer and started up a conversation with the guy to his left. Maybe I’d misinterpreted. But it was later on the dance floor that I started to realize Henri was maybe—no, make that definitely—interested. I found myself bopping along to the beat with him and, uncomfortable with making any moves, assumed my normal goofy smile, acting a bit cute and awkward. At one point, his hand grazed my waist, and I let him know it was OK by leaning slightly into it. He was careful not to do anything too obvious, holding one hand on my hip for a few seconds here, catching my hand there.
As it got dark and my feet began to swell, I felt ready to go home but didn’t want to end the night without something more from Henri. I knew I should try to make my exit fairly obvious if I wanted him to offer his number. What I got was better that that. As I gathered up my things, Henri noticed before I could even say anything.
“Are you leaving?”
“Yeah. I know it’s still kind of early, but I’m just really exhausted.”
“Yeah, me too. These things can take a lot out of you. I’m actually leaving, too. Are you walking to the metro?”
“Actually, no. I don’t live too far from here so I was going to walk. But do you want to walk out together?”
So we said our goodbyes. And when Henri was supposed to get on the metro, he passed it by, opting to walk me home and catch the train farther down.
By the time we got to my door, we both had smitten, bashful smiles on our faces. Being polite, he didn’t go in for the full-on kiss when we parted, but took my head in his hands, kissing both cheeks with slow care.
And since then, the OTT romantic texts haven’t stopped. So, if I know anything about French boys, I’d say this is a good sign.