This story is brought to you by Flora Alexandra, the London-based founder of Arteviste.com.
This is not a love story, but the sorry tale of l’eboueur (a fancy French word for “bin man”), who arrived on the scene during one fine Parisian summer a couple of years ago. Over my summers of living in the 10th Arrondissement, I had the pleasure of dating a broad spectrum of Parisian hipsters, many of whom were well-acquainted with the popular national concept of ‘les pieux mensonges’ – little white lies. And yet, none proved to be as amusing as J, the bearded bachelor who emerged from the darkness of Nüba, an uncharacteristically bobo haunt on the Left Bank.
The night began with the arrival of L, a Belgian beauty fresh off the Eurostar. We had big plans for the night and I had already texted her a reminder that black clothing and a sullen expression were a requisite to skip the line. When she eventually wafted in, clad in a pair of lime green Birkenstocks, I raised my eyebrows and requested she bring alternative footwear in the canvas bag that signaled her support of all things ‘authentic.’ And yet, despite the effort I had put into my black garb and Russian Red lipstick, my partner-in-crime easily breezed past the bouncer, immediately falling into the arms of our third musketeer, G, who was also wearing Birkenstocks and a pair of dungarees. At this point, I realized that I knew nothing about fashion or taste.
Once the vodka had been poured from our hip-flasks, we had a twirl around the dance floor and, before I knew it, L had wandered off with an attractive gentleman in spectacles. Not long after, G did a French exit, and I found myself abandoned by the ironic Alpine DJ booth, with a suitably frosty expression on my face. No amount of après-ski – themed fun could tempt me, and I was just preparing to depart, when a lost lumberjack introduced himself. While he wasn’t blond, that could be easily forgiven, mainly due to the set of razor-sharp cheekbones protruding from underneath his facial shrubbery. Soon after the standard, “je t’entends pas” (“I can’t hear you”), I was ushered to a secluded spot by the Seine, ensuring that every last poetic utterance of lumberjack J would be heard.
Despite my supposed fluency in French, his determined lack of English proved to be challenging. Over the next few hours (yes, hours) he offered elaborate descriptions of his favorite spots in Paris, insisting that a defenseless little English girl like myself couldn’t possibly visit them alone. As I was starting to puzzle over why I had remained there for quite so long – beyond his cheekbones, that is – he was suddenly saved by a vague reference to a degree in architecture, which set me down completely the wrong path. “Brilliant”, I thought, “he’s a creative and I work in art, so we’ll have something to talk about, beyond the Seine and his past exploits as a tour guide!” After a few more shots of whiskey from his clandestine bottle and the resulting chitchat about my ‘wild’ Scottish upbringing, it was suggested that we partake in what had evolved into a sweaty Latin rave, with L smooching Spectacle Man in the opposite corner. I quickly learned that beards do not fare well in a moist environment (important for my later life in Scandinavia!), as they quickly lose their suspension, causing the cheekbones look progressively less defined. Just as I was questioning what J would look like in the snow, I found myself on the receiving end of a violent dance floor lunge. Amidst the bouncing backpacks and gyrating hipsters, Cinderella and Prince Charming had their first kiss. Butterflies didn’t immediately surface, but I allowed the ‘tender embrace’ to continue, up until the moment that L came flying over to declare that her Birkenstocks were getting squishy and that she wished to depart.
A couple of days later, I had recounted the episode in my illustrious journal and relayed an embellished version to my Parisian girlfriends. Having gotten myself suitably wound up, I was thrilled to receive a text from J with an invitation to prendre un verre – grab a drink. As I walked to our local tavern by Canal St. Martin, I pictured the lovely life Adonis the Architect and I would share in our hand-built ecolodge in the depths of Scandinavia, a dramatic affair that would span for days, months, maybe even years.
Upon arrival, J looked quite different. A little more homeless that hipster, he was also significantly less charming than during our first encounter. I was immediately accused of living a futile existence by working for an art auction house, rather than advancing society with good, hard work. On that note, he proceeded to declare that he was, in fact, not an architect, but a bin man. Apparently, it had all been a test – or rather, an attempt to lure me to the other side and convince me to abandon my capitalist career choice and join his Eco-warrior mission by spending my summer cleaning the streets of Paris.
Exhausted and defeated by the gravity and weight of his argument, I wistfully bid adieu to my dreams of reading Kinfolk and Architectural Digest in the sauna of our Scandinavian ecolodge. As the beautiful beard continued to rant and rave in my direction, I soon found myself discretely texting my confidante, requesting the obligatory emergency call, which never came. Even my explanation that I had to run home and prepare for work failed to move him, and he quite literally demanded that I remain seated and finish my soured glass of red wine. Eventually, I whipped out a fiver and make a fleeting exit for the door, nearly squishing the stray cat in the process. I never did see J again – not because of his career choice, but because he was just far too ‘authentic’ and ‘alternative’ for my mortal (and occasionally selfish) soul.
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