Broken, sad and disappointed: that’s exactly how I felt the night I arrived to Mexico City, after having spent half a year in Europe. And no, it wasn’t because the tapas had been horrible in Madrid or because Parisian museums weren’t what I was expecting, nor because I had been disappointed by the clothing stores in Milan; Europe was everything that I had been promised in films and more. I was feeling disappointed because I had found myself right where I began: in my country, disappointed by a man, in the back of a cab, swiping left and right on Tinder. (Mostly left than right, you know how it is). As rain poured and as I was stuck in the middle of the abominable traffic of Mexico City, I couldn’t stop thinking: what went wrong? And HOW did it go wrong? After everything I’ve been through in all of my relationships and/or romances, how could I’ve been so stupid? But I blame Europe. I had been haunted by the magnificence of its cities and its iconic historical places in such a wicked way, that when I met the perfect French man, the prototype, no, excuse me, the EPITOME of the kind of man Edua wants, I was hypnotized by the Parisian romance and didn’t even stop to notice all the warning signs that were right in front of me. I had been seduced. And you may be wondering, but what exactly happened, girl?! Well, for that I should take us a week before flying to Mexico, to the day when I arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport wearing all red, white and blue, looking like the most cliched of tourists.
I had been in Paris before, but I didn’t want to go back to my country without stopping by the City of Love to pay a quick visit to one of my friends. We went everywhere, Champs-Élysées, Place de la Concorde, Tour Eiffel, you name it, but you’re not here for that, am I right? So let’s skip to the candid stuff. One day, as a good millennial in the quest of love, I didn’t hesitate to check how attractive the French were on Tinder and, as a good Latin-American, it was all for research purposes only! Suddenly, as I walked to the metro with my friends, my phone rang; it was a match. There he was: a handsome French guy whom we’ll call “Antoine”. He was asking me to go have dinner with him in the 6th arrondissement, but I couldn’t leave my friend, after all, I was there to visit him. It didn’t take long, after he saw Antoine’s pictures, for him to tell me to go and enjoy Paris. We’d had a marvelous time the previous night partying in Le Marais, so he wouldn’t stop me from having my first French date. We all need those kind of friends, can I just say that?
There I was, alone in Paris, walking along the Saint-German Boulevard, all dressed up, seeing all the bistros full of people chatting with sensual French accents; the street lights were turning on; the heat of summer had mixed with the cool breeze that comes after sunset and I was already in love. I felt like I was Taylor Swift in the “Begin Again” music video. Also… I may have been listening to that song on repeat as I walked to my date, just to indulge myself in the moment. I was like, “Bring it on Paris, give me love, I’m here for it!”, but as someone whose wishes tend to become a reality, I should’ve been careful for what I had wished for.
I arrived at the Danton Statue where we were supposed to meet and there he was: shiny, handsome, magnificent. He was wearing blue jeans, a white shirt, a pair of black tassel loafers and a navy blue blazer. He looked casual and yet diplomatic in such a refreshing way; he was tall and had a gorgeous Gucci smile on his face… and I remember thinking: “Vive la France!” He seemed nervous, however, after he greeted me, because his cheeks turned red right after I hugged him (I know it wasn’t very European of me, but I am Latin, so I have to hug people when I greet them!). We got to a cute restaurant called “Les Éditeurs” around 7pm, they sat us by the window, the Chardonnay was served and our conversation began. It was at midnight that I realized how long it had been. We had been talking about so many things and for someone who’s as interested in politics and cultural affairs as me, having someone to talk about those topics was the cherry on the pie. It turned out his diplomacy wasn’t only by the looks, but he was actually a prominent figure at UNESCO and held quite a public job, which is why he didn’t waste any opportunity to show with his words, with his Gucci smile or with those hazel eyes, his attraction to someone interested in such topics like me. Turns out, in that moment, we were the greatest match. We both opened up to each other almost instantly, we talked about our families, our ideals, our dreams, our fears, the world continued moving, the effervescent clientele of that restaurant left while a new kind arrived, champagne bottles popped every twenty minutes, but nothing could distract us; we were immersed in each other since the moment we greeted in front of that statue. We had so much in common and he was the kind of confident, successful and sophisticated man that I had always been attracted to. After dinner and those five hours of chatting, he held my hand and we started walking towards the Seine.
I had been in a very unhealthy relationship with someone that I never learned how to love the right way, which made me feel as if my heart had been frozen, but that night it was pumping blood. I felt so happy, so young and so alive being embraced by the romance of the night. I didn’t want it to end. We walked holding our hands, talking and laughing, until we got to the middle of Le Pont Neuf. There, we took the steps down to the river, and we sat by the Seine. I was experiencing something I had only seen in good films: I had met someone who was extremely smart and charismatic, the sky was full of stars and the movement of the river played a delicate melody that was rapidly making my heart beat faster as I sank in his gaze. We knew it was the moment, it was meant to happen. He got closer to me, not nervous anymore, but cautious; I leaned slightly towards him being able to hear his euphoric breathing as he wet his lips; his eyes were set on mine and my body became warmer when he put his right hand on my face. We got closer, without kissing immediately, as if we both were afraid of hurting the other. His passionate breath touched my lips and then, I decided to close my eyes. He kissed me… and I kissed him. We kissed so tenderly, so passionately, I thought one of us would have a heart attack. It was like two magnets colliding in an explosion of unapologetic jubilation.
It must have been around 2am, when we got to his place: a small apartment not far from the Musée Rodin. It was all dark and we played 80s music. We laid on the floor, playing with our hands without saying a word, as “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode was playing. I knew we would spend the night together, I knew I was going to sleep on his bed, but I didn’t want for it to become awkward the morning after, which, let’s be honest, it’s what usually happens after going on a date that ends up in sex. And then, before I could get distracted by the unromantic reality of dating in the 21st century, he said: “I want to hug you all night”. Moments later, we were on his bed, still with our clothes on, he held me firmly in his arms and kissed my lips until, without noticing, we fell asleep.
The morning after, a Monday, I woke up on his bed, and he walked into the bedroom wearing a navy blue suit, holding an espresso. He gave it to me before I noticed the time. It was 11am and he had to go to his office. I got out of the bed and he stopped me. He said I could stay there for as long as I would like to and that I only had to pull the door whenever I chose to leave. He looked happy, he was smiling all the time and he said goodbye, not without confirming our next date for Tuesday. As I wandered alone around his apartment, memories from our conversation at the restaurant began to arrive in my head. I remembered how he mentioned his family as being an old-fashioned and very respected family from a town close to Versailles. I remembered how he mentioned his struggle with having his ideals colliding with theirs. I remembered how he mentioned that, his public job as a diplomat, had put him in a difficult situation, but even then I couldn’t understand why. But I would eventually. There was no food in the fridge and his closet was tidy, but had mainly professional clothes, a couple suits, plain shirts and formal shoes. I noticed there were no sentimental items in his apartment, no family or friends’ pictures, it was a functional but lifeless apartment, as if it had no soul or personality, which very much differed from the man who lived in it. He seemed to be, what nowadays we call, a “workaholic”, living in the office, using his apartment as a hotel, so I thought that would explain. After admiring the Parisian view from his balcony, I brushed my hair and left the apartment.
The day after, as I visited the Gustav Klimt’s exhibition at the Atelier des Lumieres, Antoine and I couldn’t stop texting, he seemed very excited about our second date and I couldn’t wait for it to happen.
I went back to the Eiffel Tower that afternoon with my friend and climbed it step by step, being rewarded with a promising view of the aftermath of that date night with Antoine. We all know that Paris is beautiful, but everything seemed to be even more vibrant and alive as I watched from the top of the tower, but maybe it was just my heart having been defrosted. That evening, a tremendous rain fell on the streets of Paris and suddenly, as I was having an iced tea on the Rue Linois, Antoine’s messages became ambiguous. All of a sudden, he seemed to have forgotten about our date and wasn’t as expressive in his responses. I didn’t understand, was he ignoring me now? He then apologized and said that he obviously wanted to see me again, but asked me to go to his place instead, since the rain was so bad that we wouldn’t be able to go for the walk we had planned.
I took a cab, not without ignoring Antoine’s strange switch in behavior. When I arrived, he was anxious. He was wearing a peach polo shirt, just like the one I was wearing, and his eyes looked haunted. I asked him if he was okay and he said that he was, but I knew it was a lie. His voice was trembling. I said: “If it’s difficult for you to hang out tonight, it’s okay”, he immediately stared at me with a fearful expression and placed a hand on his face looking overwhelmed, right before saying: “I screwed it up again”.
Turns out, Antoine was in the closet. He had spent forty years keeping a secret, not only from his family or colleagues, but mainly from himself. Then, as he explained to me, I understood what he had screwed up: Antoine had given up on love in the past, because he was afraid of embracing himself as a gay man. As soon as he noticed things were going great with someone, he would do self-sabotage out of fear, not of being seen or discovered – he grabbed my hand all across Paris, for crying out loud- but fear of accepting his true self. We had known each other for barely 48 hours, I know how crazy it sounds and how stupidly quick the way in how I developed feelings for him sound, but on that night by the Seine, I saw him for who he really was. I saw him and he made my heart beat again… and I wasn’t going to give up on the man who had made me feel alive after such a long time of feeling blue, I wasn’t going to give up on the man I had lived with one of the most romantic nights of my life in Paris. There, after expressing his concerns and his struggle, looking at me with sad eyes, seemingly disappointed of himself, I comforted him grabbing his hand, letting him know that he wasn’t alone, as the rain fell over the roofs of Paris.
The hours went by and we made love that night. His body was hot and shivering as mine was. He kissed me with that characteristic passion of his and I held him in my arms, making him feel loved. I was heading to Madrid the day after and, from there, I would fly to Mexico City for the summer, before officially moving to Liverpool later in September. He talked about how he had been planning a trip to Los Angeles for the summer, but had been unsure of it. I said: “Well, if you want some company, I could fly and meet you in LA, it’s only a few hours away from Mexico City” and he said, looking at me with those sad but optimistic hazel eyes: “I don’t want company. I want you”. Afterwards, he was quick to propose that, instead of a trip to LA, he could go visit me in Mexico and, of course, I was delighted to hear that.
The morning after, I woke up to find him wearing another of his nice suits, ready to head to UNESCO. He gave me a long kiss and we said goodbye, promising that we would see each other again very soon. I went to the balcony to watch him walk away and he stopped after crossing the street, texting on his phone. Mine rang: it was a text from him, thanking me for that night. I spent a few hours contemplating the view from the balcony, before leaving his apartment that morning. I should’ve known what the obvious denouement of that love story would be, but I ignored it. I was seduced by romance in Paris and I hoped for the best.
I went back to Madrid, ready to take my suitcases and clean the apartment before heading to Mexico, and Antoine was present all the time. He seemed more confident and enthusiast about his true self. We spent a few more days chatting, sending pictures and talking for hours. He was proposing things and activities that we could do when we met again, which made me feel confident about us. As I arrived at Barajas Airport, I couldn’t help but imagine meeting him again, in a month or so, but this time in L.A or even Mexico City. I couldn’t help but imagine an incredible summer ahead, where we both would be able to get to know each other better and that, if everything went well, going from Liverpool to Paris was only a short flight away. But I was daydreaming. Eleven hours of flight went by and I arrived to Mexico City, only to be welcomed with the unpleasant text from Antoine self-sabotaging himself again.
I wasn’t shocked, but it did hurt. He said it wasn’t normal for him to be 40 years old and hate himself for being gay. He said it wasn’t okay for him to sabotage every chance he had whenever he met someone he really liked and that he wouldn’t put me through it, because it wasn’t fair. He said it wouldn’t be until he finally accepted himself that he was going to be able to be with someone and start living. I said to him “relax, it’s not like we’re boyfriends, we’re just getting to know each other”. Then I kind of began to apologize, just in case I had said something wrong, I said: “sorry if I gave you the impression I was going too fast”, because I was trying to take away all of his negative thoughts once again, but then I realized that I had nothing to apologize for. It was him the one who asked me out, it was him the one who said “I want to hug you all night”, it was him the one who proposed the idea of going to visit me in Mexico, it was him the one who said “I don’t want company, I want you”, it was him the one who was giving summer ideas. Why was I trying to calm him down or even trying to sort of apologize if ever I made him feel like I was rushing him into something, when it was him in the first place, the one who gave the first step for all of these emotions and plans to flow? But it was too late, he had defrosted my heart and now it had become attached to him after those romantic nights in Paris. I tried to find a cab to take me home from the airport as I was texting him at the same time. He repeated many times that I deserved better and that he would most likely never accept himself or stop being worried about what his family would say or about the image he would give at his job if he ever came out as a gay man… and just like that, he blocked my number. There it was, the obvious denouement of our love story that I had decided to ignore, slapping me on the face. And there I was, back in my country, disappointed by a man, in the back of a cab as the rain poured in Mexico City. I felt sad for realizing that my Parisian fairy tale was nothing but a bad romance; another anecdote that I would end up telling to friends in my late 40s over a few cocktails. I felt worried for Antoine, wondering if he would ever find peace and happiness within himself. And there, as the rain slipped out the window of the immobile cab, I wept. However, Antoine had revived that enthusiasm for romance and love that I had lost… and it didn’t take long, before the traffic started to move again, for me to wipe my single tear, take my phone and, as a good millennial, open Tinder to continue in search of the much sought after, Mr. Right. Swiping left and swiping… right.
Time changes everything and with a little bit of hope and hunger for love, the one that is right for you will knock on your door. I had been hesitant to write about this for many reasons, but two years have gone by since that trip to Paris and I recently visited again, this time with my boyfriend. It was a cold day and 2020 had just begun, we were in the 6th arrondissement looking for a place to have lunch and then, as my boyfriend read one of the menus outside of a bistro, I felt my heart stopping for a second when I noticed Antoine walking along another guy. He looked charming as ever, and exuded that diplomatic and refreshing confidence that made me like him in the past. I don’t know if the other guy was a date, a friend or a boyfriend… but he seemed happy… and that made me happy. With a few flashbacks of those nights in Paris, I smiled without saying a word to my boyfriend and, instead, I took his hand and looked proudly into his green eyes, ready to continue with our very own epic romance in the City of Love… a city where romance is definitely, the last thing to die