When Henri and I got on the train this morning to go back to Paris after our long weekend at his parents’ house, I genuinely didn’t want to go home. Well, not like I wanted to plant down my roots in the middle of Nowheresville, France, but as the train chugged away from the mountainside, I didn’t feel ready for our mini-break to be over.
In my experience, at the beginning of a relationship, mini-getaways or weekends spent entirely alone can be make or break moments. Forcing two people together for literally every minute of a three or four day period either drives you crazy or brings you both closer together. Honestly, I wasn’t worried that our first vacation would negatively change things between me and Henri. I was more concerned that this time we had set aside for ourselves would end up being more exhausting and stressful with his family factored in. Things definitely got off to an uncomfortable start. There was no easing into this situation. We arrived on Friday at about 11 p.m. and were greeted by two of Henri’s closest friends from childhood who picked us up at the station and then brought us to a bar for a nightcap. I was instantly nervous and intimidated by them. I stayed quiet for a while, concentrating as hard as I could to keep up with the conversation (no one spoke English), and trying my best to not misunderstand anything. (Nothing worse than smiling and nodding like an idiot when some macho dudes have just mentioned something to the effect of Hey brah, looks like you’ve been gettin’ laid a lot. or That chick’s got a tight ass.)
The first interaction with the parents was just as awkward. Because we got home so late, I met them in the morning. Henri and I came down for breakfast and the family was in full-swing mode, updating each other, rushing around, making food, and minding the attention deficit cats bouncing off the walls. As for my lingering fear over whether to use the formal “vous” (as opposed to the friendly “tu”) when talking to his parents, Henri’s mother made the decision for me by immediately employing a “vous” when talking to me. The moment this happened, my caution lights went on, and something told me to proceed as carefully and as respectfully as I could.
Eventually, however, there came a point with both Henri’s parents and his friends when I realized I didn’t need to be afraid of being American. That it would be OK if I made errors when speaking. What mattered most is that I did have things I wanted to say, questions to ask, and stories to laugh about. Once I let down my guard, I found I was completely appreciated for who I was. A day into things, Henri’s mother asked me if we could use the informal “tu” when speaking to each other (I happily agreed, also because conjugating verbs with the pronoun is far more difficult). And I also realized that perhaps being a foreigner helped my case. I could tell Henri’s friends were pleasantly surprised by inside jokes I got, or the (few) witty retorts I was able to get out. Between getting an at-ease feeling with Henri’s friends and family, and taking in the absolutely breathtaking landscapes, I came to really appreciate the time we were spending together. Henri has never brought a girl home. Even when he was living at home, his parents never met his girlfriends. The fact that everyone seemed to treat this visit as something serious and special gave me a warm feeling inside.
There was one particular moment that seemed to shift everything. It was Sunday after lunch, and we’d headed up to his room for a nap. We were lying on the bed, facing each other and hugging. We slowly kept embracing each other tighter and tighter so that there was no empty space between our two bodies, every corner and crevice filled up with the other. (Um, just FYI, we’re talking totally PG here. We were fully clothed, thank you very much.) Here and there Henri would kiss my ear or eyelid. I’d respond by pecking his neck or squeezing him tighter. As we did so, we’d sometimes emit a little cry as if to say, If anything happened to you right now, I’d lose myself.
I knew I loved Henri before this weekend. We’d already said the words before. But I really started to feel myself falling then. The I love yous or Je t’aimes said in that moment seemed to go deeper, and at one point Henri looked at me and said, “I’d never let you get away.” I started to think to myself, You could really be the one. It could be you. Maybe.
OK, OK, enough with the mush. I’m getting nauseous just thinking about what it might be like to read all that. And I’m young and emotional and slightly crazy, so it’s no surprise I fall hard and probably sound really naive as a result. But at least it’s honest.
It’s probably best to let you all know that I’ve decided that 365 Days in Paris will soon be coming to a close. I didn’t want to spring it on you out of nowhere, so next week will be my last entry. Things are at an ideal place for an end. For starters, Henri doesn’t know about this blog. I haven’t hidden it from him, and I know he wouldn’t be upset about what I’ve written, but I do feel like what I have with him is too good to risk putting online. It’s very easy as a blogger to treat what happens in your life as “material,” and I’d never want to treat Henri like that. (Unless, of course, some book publishers out there want me to write some dreamy Paris memoir, in which case I’m sure Henri would be more than fine with becoming an intimately-detailed character in my book as long as I buy him some expensive wine with my winnings. Or just reward him with blow jobs. Either or.)
In any case, 365 Days is nearly up. (I can hardly believe how quickly it passed.) And summer is a good time for all of us to take a break. Or for you to find some Parisian-inspired love of your own.
Until next week, mes amis.