I may have killed someone when I visited you in Paris.
After I left your apartment, bags in hand, I wandered around the Place d’Italie in the October sun, looking for a cheap place to stay. There were so many people in the streets that it looked like the Thirteenth was being ransacked. The Rugby World Cup was happening, all the hotels were booked, and my flight back to Montreal wasn’t for another two days — the earliest I could get it bumped ahead for less than three hundred Euro.
Hôtel de l’Espérance had a room on the top floor. It was roasting, dusty, and the bed, fitted with a beige, stained corduroy cover, was pretty much all that was in there. I threw my bags down on it and walked down to the Avenue des Gobelins. I made my way over to the Marché Mouffetard, where you and I had sipped coffee and smoked on the terrace, or walked by as the Algerian vendors shouted at us, and sometimes we bought their cheap cheese or fruit — it was always good.
Two weeks earlier at de Gaulle you came to meet me, and we kissed, but missed each other’s lips. You giggled it off, and held my hand on the long train ride, past the Stade de France where the rugby matches were playing out. Your tiny apartment on the Impasse du Petit Modèle was crammed with red quilts, candles, scarves, your clothes, playbills and posters of Rimbaud stuck to the chintz wallpaper. But when you told me how much you paid, I said for half that price, we’d get a massive loft in Montreal when you moved back in December. You pursed a smile with those Parisian lips of yours, the upper bigger than the lower, pink, foremost in the only photograph I ever took of you: sitting across from me at the little café on Fairmount, your blonde tresses tumbling over pale shoulders, the summer sun bringing out your cheek freckles beneath steel-blue eyes, your eyelids folding lightly over the lashes — my Gallic lioness.
When we met for the first time, after my performance of The Montreal Massacre at the Players’ Theatre, you told me you were writing your own play about a man who kills women. We agreed to meet again, at Dieu du Ciel, to discuss our morbid passions, ending up back at my place on Laurier. Above all the boutiques and chichi shops was my squalid one-bedroom: cats and ashtrays, fridge empty but for maraschino cherries and a few beers. We couldn’t stop touching, kissing. We emptied into each other.
You were over all the time, because you were staying with a young family on Esplanade. We would shag away, while the cats meowed at us, then suck on Gauloises, order Thai, and drink Beaune, while we listened to Genesis and King Crimson—I couldn’t believe you loved Prog. And theatre. And poetry. And you were beautiful. I wrote a poem about it, and haven’t written one since.
In Paris, we sat on your floor mattress and watched movies on a portable TV: La règle du jeu, Gosford Park, Withnail & I, and your favorite, Peter’s Friends. They all had something in common, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Mostly, I did the watching; you had reading to do for your lecture at the Sorbonne on Les Illuminations.
When you weren’t at the university, we would meander along the left bank. You knew where all the little ruelles were — quiet cafés where we were even quieter. We went to the Louvre on the day it was closed. One night, I drank too much at your local, Connolly’s Corner, and told you I should have never come. The next morning I thought about apologizing, but decided to try and make up by making love — I ended up fucking you instead, and you fucked me right back.
Somehow, it worked. We held hands again along the Seine, to the Jardin Tino-Rossi, where they were dancing tango in the warm autumn evening. You knew how to tango. We watched the couples and the river lights for a while.
Suddenly, I took your hand, led you down, and danced you around as best I could. The bit of tango training I had done in theatre school was enough to get by, and you told me after — sweating as we made our way back to your place — that I was hallucinant.
The following afternoon, we went for dinner at your parents’ in Ivry-Sur-Seine. The house had three floors, and there were three gold cars in the driveway. Your mother greeted us with two-cheek kisses and champagne before giving us the tour of the place. She was probably once quite attractive, but countless cigarettes and dye-jobs had claimed her beauty. She and your father had separate bedrooms, which you said was quite normal in France.
At dinner in your backyard court, your father frowned at me through his browline glasses when I cut away and ate the center part of the Pont L’Evèque. You told me it was the viande and that it was okay — though you frowned at me too. By dessert, your mother was flirting with me, while your father talked about mice in his garden. You explained to him that we had raccoons in Montreal; he was incredulous.
When he drove us back in his Benz, I sat in the back. It was raining, and the two of you were talking, so I watched his single windshield wiper work at unblurring the lights of oncoming cars. He started shouting about the traffic, and l’étalement, or something. You pursed your lips.
Back at your place, you told me that you had no future in Quebec, and that Paris was where you needed to be.
I was already half-cut, so I figured I’d finish the job elsewhere. I left, and worked my way from Connolly’s, to The Fifth, to a place whose name I can’t remember. Soaked, I made it back to yours. You helped me out of my clothes, and let me take the floor mattress, which I wet during the night.
You weren’t mad the next day, but I wanted you to be. I told you I couldn’t stay. You sobbed quietly. We didn’t kiss goodbye.
Not far from L’Espérance, there was a laundromat. I washed my pissed clothes, read a newspaper, and smoked. England was playing France the next day at the Stade. I brought my clothes back to the hotel then walked around some more. You never spent any time on the right bank, so I took the métro up to Montmartre. I wondered if maybe I would meet someone or hire a prostitute, but I didn’t have any condoms. I wasn’t sure if I would find a pharmacy up there, but they were everywhere — their green crosses lighting up the night. After sitting on a noisy, packed terrace for a few hours drinking Duvels, I got tired and went back. On my way, I walked past a statue of Rimbaud in his drunken boat.
The next morning, I called to tell you where I was staying. Your answering machine picked up, so I talked to it. Then I called my folks and told them I was coming home early. My stepfather told me to enjoy Paris and come home on my original date, but I had already changed the ticket.
Still, I figured I’d do my best, so that evening I treated myself to a bavette and a half-bottle of Bordeaux on the Mouffetard. Connelly’s wasn’t too busy, so I had a few Guinness, then played darts with a couple of old Frenchmen. I played really well because I always do when I’m down. They asked what was troubling me, and I told them about you. They said oh la la la la la la, that I should have known that you would never come back to Quebec, and when I asked them why, they said because you’re Parisienne.
I got drunk with them, mostly talking about how the Canadian dollar was now worth more than the American, and how the French had lost that day, but had beaten les Blacks in the quarter-finals.
There was another bar after that, somewhere nearby. I got kicked out. Then I met some people — a couple of guys and a girl. We drank wine by a fountain, and walked around for a while. I might have killed one of them, and then took a taxi back to the hotel.
There was no blood on me, so it probably never happened — just a vaguery from too many binges and blackouts — but sometimes, I imagine it had.
You came to my room in the morning. We said goodbye with our bodies. You had set out to do me, clutching me tightly before I went down into the métro.
At de Gaulle, there was a mass of beefy, drunken men at customs, celebrating the English victory.
I drank all the way home on the plane, but there was no escaping it.
You were all over me.