As the only human left in Paris in the month of August, alongside the SDFs, tourists, and alcoholics, I have had a lot of time to reflect. A lot of time to wonder through deserted city streets and speculate about the delicate balance of baroque buildings and puff pastry skies, to smile creepily at random older folks who seem rightfully content to have the city to themselves, to reminisce days of Parisian past… My past, that is. On August 15th, on a French holiday known as Assomption, I had a vivid flashback to the same time exactly six years ago, when I kick-started one of the biggest fiascos of my dating career, not to mention my first one on Parisian turf. Without further ado, this is the story of Aaron, the Original French Douche who stole a year of my existence!
It was the summer after my junior year in college, and my best friend Emily* and I decided to finally cross the “study abroad” mission off our bucket list and enrolled in a one-month French course in the South of France. The goal was to kill two birds at once, learning French by day and pursuing the glitz n’ glam of the French Riviera by night. Not knowing much about the area, we selected the University of Nice, a city that had long seen the heyday of the Fitzgerald era and was mainly swarming with local beaufs and tourists. The problem was that neither of us were confident enough drivers to tackle the cliffside roads, and so ended up staying in Nice much more than we had originally anticipated, predominantly conducting experiments on how many dinners we could fit back-to-back in one evening. Around mid-August, we realized that the fluttery silk outfits we had paid overweight fees for had not only remained in our suitcases, but were also feeling snug in all the wrong places. The three-day weekend of Assomption was coming up, and we figured it was the perfect excuse to skip town and finally do something worthy of a Facebook album. Unaware that most Parisians would rather sell their soul to the Devil rather than be there at that particular time, we decided to head up north.
* Fake name. Duh.
Paris met us with a feeling of a large, deserted city, a Twilight Zone completely void of locals, particularly the Sartorialist-chic crowd I had eagerly anticipated. Instead, Chinese tourists scurried around the 8th Arrondissement, trying to buy up as much Vuitton as humanly possible before the stores closed. Wind lifted our silk dresses as we stumbled down the Champs Elysees, only to discover that Neon, a club one of our Parisian friends (who were out of town for the month, of course) had told us about, was closed. Before long, a couple of guys detected the lost looks on our faces and eagerly jumped to our rescue, inviting us to accompany them to le Cab, the only club open that weekend. We clearly hadn’t seen Taken, because we got in a taxi and headed across town.
Aaron the Original French Douche and his friend Jonathan were the first two people I saw when I walked into le Cab. I saw, I liked, I decided to conquer. Ten minutes later, we were making out. It turned out later that Aaron had originally set his sights on my friend, and his friend on me, and yet I had pounced so hard and heavy that I had never allowed for the natural dynamic of our delicate quadruplet to unravel organically, setting a precedent for the troubles ahead.
You see, if somebody would have asked me at that time what I wanted in a guy, I would have described Aaron. He was around 30, tall, Jewish and handsome, drove a Range Rover and had a gorgeous apartment in the 16th, which we visited on the first night. (We CLEARLY hadn’t seen Taken.) He also had a model girlfriend who he was “on break” with, a detail that he mentioned five minutes into meeting me, but I had decided to ignore. By the time he drove us home at 4am, I had already envisioned my life with Aaron, surrounded by Haussmann fireplaces and Philippe Starck chairs, selected out by his tasteful ex. The next morning, the guys picked us up and took us to Montmartre, fed us Bethillon ice cream, and then later drove us to the airport, Coldplay’s Vida la Vita blasting on repeat, sealing the notion that he was, indeed, the man of my life. The only problem was that he took my number, but never gave me his. I returned to Nice in love and in anguish, determined to find a way back into my Parisian future.
Three agonizing days later, he called. “It would be nice to see you again,” he said, promptly hanging up without leaving me any information on how to reach him. I felt like Mr. Big circa SATC: He could reach me, but I couldn’t reach him. Never one to let minor details stop me, I convinced Emily to quit the summer program, borrowed a few hundred bucks from my brother, and headed back to Paris for a full week, staying at a Best Western by Châtelet that we got at a discount rate due to “renovations”, which entailed a crane being shoved in our window at the brink of dawn.
Don’t ask how I located Aaron, but I did. His buddy had a penchant for Emily and called almost immediately, and Aaron was probably in such shock that the crazy b*tch that was me had reemerged that he dutifully spent the week co-tour guiding us around. To their credit, they took us to all the Parisian institutions, from drinks at Café Marly to steak at l’Entrecôte, to falafels on Rue des Rosiers and jazz cabarets in Saint Germain. Every night that I saw him, Aaron and I had an explosive, volatile fight, a predicament caused by the simple fact that I was a delusional alcoholic and he was a douche. (While I like to block out most of it, I do have one vivid recollection of running down Rue du Louvre in my Louboutins, flipping birds at him, as the rest of our posse watched from his Range Rover, terrified.) On the last night, he picked me up on a motorcycle, whisked me around Paris, then took me back to a boutique hotel in the 1st Arrondissement, a prime indicator that his Haussmannian palazzo was off-limits. I saved the free candy from the hotel as a token of our love.
Two weeks later, I was at the dentist’s, when I received a call – Aaron was coming to New York for Coterie! He had a room at the Mercer, and I imagined us the ultimate cool fashion couple, even loaning Chanel booties from a girlfriend, which I promptly messed up and spent my annual savings fixing. Once again, we weren’t exactly on the same page, as Aaron had never even envisioned me staying with him in the first place. One day after realizing that my Brooklyn-based butt wasn’t planning on leaving, he proclaimed that he “needed some space” (to his defense, the rooms at the Mercer are mildly claustrophobic) and kicked me to the curb. I spent the rest of the weekend sleeping on friends couches, drinking wine, and being uncharacteristically heartbroken and French.
Alas, hope dies last. Although my dreams of an idyllic French future were slowly fading, I kept him on the roster, which came in handy as Emily and I looked for a place to crash in Paris over Spring break. A month before we were due to arrive, he messaged her to tell her that he wanted to spend time with her, alone. Incapable of holding back something that disgusting, she told me about it. BAM. Finally, reality hit, and pride appeared where there had been none. Although Emily cancelled for other reasons, I went to Paris and stayed with friends, never even giving him a heads up. On my second day, I was walking down the streets of Paris, proudly ignoring Aaron’s incessant texts, when something bizzare happened. In le Marais, on the corner of Rue Vieille du Temple where there is now an Amorino, I saw him. In a Carrie Bradshaw-slash-Barbara Streisland “Your girl is lovely, Hubble” moment, I came up, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and walked away. A moment of karmatic retribution had occurred.
I never saw or spoke to Aaron since then. In three years of living in Paris, in the heart of his beloved Marais, I never bumped into him on the street. Instagram says that he’s alive and well, married to the model and happy with his two children. Although I hope his dark soul is tortured by the memory of his sins towards me every day, I know, realistically, that he doesn’t remember my name. As for me, whenever I look at old pictures and admire my smooth skin and youthful glow, I think back to how stupid I was at this time and instantly feel better, making every loss in skin cells worth the newly acquired brain cells. Zee end.