Today I watched a girl climb out of the metro at Étienne Marcel to the soundtrack of the Clash (album: London Calling). She was in my subway car, and I noticed her first for her extremely chic and Parisian coat before I ended up following her out through the turnstile and out of the station.
I was listening to music on my headphones, and thinking only of what I’d make for dinner later as I exited the metro, not paying a great deal of attention to my surroundings. But as this girl reached the top of the staircase, she broke into a huge grin as she spied what she’d been looking for and flew into the arms of her waiting boyfriend.
Surprisingly (to me, anyway), their reunion did not erupt into that infamous spontaneous Parisian make-out session. Instead my girl from the metro recieved an enormous hug that engulfed her, lifted her chic French feet right off the ground and said “I am so glad to see you. The sweetness of the scene put me into quite a good mood. It was kind of like the beginning of the movie Love Actually, with the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport – though this analogy apparently makes me Hugh Grant, which I’m not completely sure I’m comfortable with.
In the city of love and the extreme public display of affection I find it rather funny that instead of the joyful embrace on rue de Turbigo near les Halles, I get the awkward encounters with the boys I really don’t want to be encountering as I make my way through the 7ème arondissement.
I mean honestly. I really feel that Paris is a large enough city, and I am still enough of a foreigner that I really shouldn’t be running into anyone I know, much less three boys I’d either dated or had some sort of history with in the five short months I’ve been living here. I’ve only been back from the U.S. for two weeks, and while the first was pretty uneventful, I’ve managed to encounter all three of these rather awkward boys in various parts of the city since last Sunday.
First there was the run-in at the Centre Pompidou. Sunday afternoon Rachael and I, thinking we’d accomplish more in a library than in either of our apartments, packed our school bags and waited in a two hour line just to enter the library. (Yes, I know this is ridiculous – but not only is the Pompidou’s library catalogue the most comprehensive in the city, it is also really the only place to do work on a Sunday.) Approximately 10 minutes after finally making into the library, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to behold the boy I’d been off and on dating since October – and still hadn’t had the French version of the “I can’t date you anymore” talk with (partly due to my laziness, but mostly because I’ve been too busy with school to see him, and can’t bring myself to do the deed through a French text message).
The second boy I’d only been on one date with before deciding I’d rather just not return his phone calls. Luckily, I spotted him coming from down the street and was able to behave like an immature fool and run in the opposite direction down a little side street. A little disturbing to me, being that I’m 21 and living on my own in France – shouldn’t I be beyond the eighth-grade reactions by now?
The third, though, was Thomas. Yes, the one who upon hearing the “I don’t want to date you anymore” speech lectured me for being a “heartbreaker” and told me that he doesn’t just kiss any random girl. This was the first time I’d even seen him since the most awkward evening of my 21-year life, and it was just as uncomfortable as the last time I’d seen him. Luckily I was standing with a group of French friends in the St-Germain Monoprix, so I just blushed and grimaced at him (I promise I tried to smile – it just didn’t work out).
It’s true that everyone has the awkward encounter with an ex stories, but I really feel that three of them in less than a week (in Paris, of all places), is quite excessive. The Thomas encounter unfortunately happened right after the reunion at Étienne Marcel, so as determinedly as I tried to think of the smiles of the metro girl and her boyfriend while climbing the stairs of my building, it was impossible. Instead, I just blushed and cringed, enjoyed the smell of burned out candles from my neighbors’ dinner party, and felt that three awkward moments were surely a fair trade for at least another month of French boy drama-free days.