it’s funny how both directions of the hill are considered bad, isn’t it? any-hoo, the night had been fun overall. ami and i had some laughs (at other folks’ expense), and i was glad to have gotten out and had my paris club experience. even if it was a bizarro world salsa club.
ami helped me find a bus in the direction of the crib, and then she went on her way home by bike. i, on the other hand, was faced with a transfer. the bus driver was kind enough to let me know when to get off the first bus, and when he did, i realized that i knew where i was. not only that, i had just walked home from that exact place on wednesday. with no idea how long the bus would be, i decided to walk it. four inch heels be damned. i didn’t get far, though, before medhi (pronounced MEH-jee) appeared in my path. and this is where it all went downhill.
now, i’d like to juxtapose another incident with the one i’m about to describe to you. for comparison purposes. at the same party where i met ami, i met a white american girl. she was one of those brash sorts of people who extoll the extremes in life, like getting really fucked up or…well, let me relate to you the story she told a few of us in the course of a conversation that night. she had met this guy (through couchsurfing). he was british, and she’d never slept with a british guy, so she figured she should explore this portion of the culture, as was her way. she was upset about the experience, though, because when they got down to business, dude didn’t have a condom. (this should, of course, be the end of the story, but it’s not.) she then let him hit it raw. a dude she had just met. and for the coup de grâce of the story? she was upset because he was “disrespectful” enough to come inside of her.
so okay—my story now. i’m leaving the bus stop, and there is medhi. medhi is one of the brand of parisian guys i lump into the moroccan/tunisian/algerian group. black…ish. lighter-skinned than me, hair buzzed all the way off like a brotha. and he’s wearing glasses. he’s also got that lick, tuck, and slow release of the bottom lip thing down perfectly. it’s a real d’angelo move from when d’angelo was sexy, and it still works if a dude is good looking. medhi is good looking. now medhi has stopped in his tracks and wants to talk to me. only i don’t speak french. quel dommage. but where am i going? do i want to go to a party with him? soiree? you…and me? i think these are the most important two words in english to a frenchman.
alas—no. i just want to go home. my feet hurt, and i’m cold. ahhh, oui…says the lovely medhi, looking at me with such hurt. he puts a finger to his lips and kisses it, and then he touches it to mine. cute. but oh! there is my bus. i’m not sure where it stops, but i run to get on. i want to ask the driver, but i don’t speak french. eff it. i go to put my ticket in, and it’s no good anymore. one ticket per ride. i will have to spend yet another ticket to ride the bus to…i’m not even sure where? when i could walk? and money is too tight to mention? i will walk. au revoir, bus driver. and of course…bonsoir again, medhi.
are you okay, little american girl? what happened? what did that bus driver do? you want me to fuck him up for you?! i don’t speak french, but this, i think, is the gist of what medhi is saying. no, no—it’s fine. i’m just gonna walk. voy a andar, i try in spanish. ¿hablas espanol? ¿no? ay, qué lastima. i start walking. do you need help? should i walk with you? what about that soiree? no, no soiree. home. me voy para la casa. ¿comprendes? i stop a moment to check the name of the street. medhi stops with me. he says something in french. he kisses his finger and moves his face closer to mine. and in a moment of sheer impulsiveness—no more thoughtful than tossing a magazine on the belt with your groceries—i kiss him. just a tiny peck. on the mouth.
it’s pretty easy for me to analyze why i did this. i haven’t kissed a man in ever so many months. i haven’t felt a strong attraction to do so in even longer. i meet guys these days, and when i’m talking to them at pubs or picnics or on a cruise along the seine, sometimes i’m not listening to them but instead am thinking about what it might be like to kiss them. most of the time, the response is an internal shudder of horror. it’s not that i’ve found these guys attractive; it’s just that i haven’t had a physical outlet for quite some time.
and maybe there is a hurdle aspect, too. my husband must have slept with someone else by now. i’ve left him, and i left him with balls bluer than the caribbean sea. and of late he’s written overtly sexual come-ons on what was once “our” message board, indicating to the masses that he is available. and i know members of said masses that will jump at the chance. as for me, i can’t imagine actually sleeping with someone else. not now, and probably not for some time. but a kiss? could i do that? what would that be like? and there was medhi.
again, it was just a peck. an impetuous, meaningless peck. for me, it was more than enough. it didn’t do much for me, other than show me that i could do it, and it didn’t make me want more. in fact, i won’t even count him on the list of men i’ve kissed (yes, i have a list); it was that innocent. girls kiss their fathers on the lips like that. not that i don’t find that a bit gross, but you get my point. it was only a peck.
for medhi, on the other hand…well, i had opened pandora’s box, and there was simply no closing it. for blocks and blocks, there was no closing it. it didn’t matter how i said “no” and “impossible”—in english, in spanish, and in french—medhi would not be deterred. it didn’t matter how many benches i sat on to rest my wailing feet. medhi was there. are you cold? here, take my jacket. you…me…no? ok, no sexualité. just sleep. then tomorrow, we see paris. you and me.
no. no. no. impossible. no.
it doesn’t matter why—i said no. by the time i reached the last bend before my house, i was getting frazzled. i didn’t want to lead him to my building. i didn’t want him to see me enter the code to get in. i just wanted him to go away, but he would not. and now he was getting irritated. you didn’t tell me i couldn’t come in with you! i walked all this way! why did you kiss me, then? nothing i said would shake him, and i started to think of bad outcomes. how angry is he? am i about to get stabbed in paris? what can i do? there are taxis, medhi. taxi there. taxi there. please go. but he has no money, he says. no money!
fuck. i really am about to get stabbed, aren’t i? stabbed and robbed in paris. and no one will help me here.
i don’t know what to do. i stand in the middle of the street. maybe if i stand here, the oncoming car will have to stop, and someone will get out and help me. the car is coming, and i don’t flinch. medhi tries to pull me out of the street, but i resist. damn, that car sure waited a long time to swerve around me. but i have just played chicken on a paris street and won. maybe medhi will think i am crazy now and go. a big, big truck is coming. it goes around me. this isn’t helping. and he’s not leaving. and now i’m back on the sidewalk and he’s complaining again. i think he wants money. i don’t have it to give. i walk to the phone to see if i can find the number for 9-1-1. ah—bon chance. dial 17.
i guess medhi thinks i am calling a friend. i block the display screen with my body, and when i get an answer, i say “parlez-vous anglais?” the man at the other end says no. i say, “uhh…is there anyone th–“…he hangs up on me. what the…? i find this alarming. suppose i was in serious trouble here? well, whatever kind of trouble i’m in, i need help getting out of it. if the police will not come to me, i decide, i will go to them. i know where the station is—about three or four blocks up rue de clignancourt. i have passed it several times before.
i start walking with grim determination. medhi follows. perhaps he thinks i have surrendered and am going to my home. i walk in silence. he says something here and there. i recognize references to hard drugs. toxicos. cocaïne. héroïne. wtf? i’m almost there now. there are the police cars lined up along the block. i wonder if he’s onto me yet, but no matter—there’s a guard outside. a woman guard.
i approach. “bonsoir. parlez-vous anglais?”
“uh…a little. if you speak slowly…”
i explain, perhaps unclearly, that i do not want this man to follow me to my home. she doesn’t understand at first. then i explain, pointing with my eyes, that i don’t know this guy. he’s just standing there while i have this conversation. i wonder what he could possibly think i am saying. she understands now and begins to address him, telling him, i assume, that he needs to leave me alone. there are a few back-and-forths, and then she is stern with him. he makes a tooth-sucking noise and starts to walk off, but not before sending some french in my direction that must have been atrocious because it angered her a great deal.
now their exchange is heated. raised voices. a couple of male cops emerge to see what’s going on, and she tells them something. they move quickly, chasing him now. “entrez,” she commands to me, and i hurry through the station door. in a few moments, they are returning with medhi. he enters the door, and starts immediately walking toward me. oh, fuckballs. stabbed and robbed in paris in the police station? he is grabbed and taken inside. i am summoned back out to stand with the guard, who wants details of what has transpired.
one of the male cops comes back out in a moment. “did you…make a kiss with him?” he wants to know. this is medhi’s defense? bleh. what do i know from paris. perhaps i have broken a law. i say yes, that i kissed him, but i demonstrate the peck on my finger. i add that i told him no no no after that, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. the cop goes back inside. the guard tells me that what i have done is “very bad.” never do this. especially not in this district. i thank her and assure her that i’ve learned my lesson.
she tells me to go on home. i ask if they will keep him until i can reach there. she says yes, and i set off. “merci. merci beaucoup,” i say, walking away. “quickly,” she says to me. buh? what is this—just a head start? i begin to run. this is an awful, fearful, horror movie run. in loud, excruciating four inch heels i run downhill for four blocks, all the way to the apartment building. i punch in the code at the entrance doors, but i don’t turn the lobby lights on because i’m afraid he will come back this way and, seeing them on, will know that someone has just entered this building and suspect it as my home. by the time i get inside the apartment, i am scared and exhausted. it’s also about 5am. maybe waiting until 5:30 wouldn’t have killed me. maybe medhi will.
anyway, my point in telling you earlier about what the little white girl did is that i’m no longer sure whether hers or mine was the more dangerous act. it seems, in the final analysis, that we both put our lives at risk.