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Sunday, 10 February 2013

#10 - Discovering why Paris is called the romance capital of the world, then discovering that this is in fact not really true

3 months later, he still hasn't noticed
 this picture on his camera...
Life returned to normal almost immediately after the French man's departure - I was enjoying my new job, he was on holiday with his family then with friends and we both seemed to be coping very well without each other. In hindsight, we would probably have benefited from stopping all contact for a while as we adjusted to being apart. Unfortunately, we instead decided to talk to each other most days, stay in almost constant whatsapp contact and generally behave as though he had not in fact moved hundreds of miles away. I didn't miss him as much as I thought I would, but I did think about him a lot - I looked forward to every contact, message or skype call, and slowly but surely began to realise that I was no longer in a position to let go  and move on.

This realisation coincided with him inviting me to visit him in Paris. I did not know what to think of this gesture at first - he had made it very clear that he did not want us to continue a relationship, but his behaviour since the day he had left England seemed to imply the complete opposite. After a few days of quiet deliberation I agreed to visit him in Paris for 4 days, and booked my ticket on the Eurostar. Though he had not said anything, I felt that his invitation, coupled with his constant contact was proof that we were both missing each other, and that maybe there was some hope for our short-lived relationship. I boarded the Eurostar two weeks later eagerly awaiting the moment when I would finally see him after nearly two months of separation. I was also a little concerned that, if I were to tell him how much I had missed him and that I wasn't ready to end our relationship, he may not feel the same way. I pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind, and focused instead on remembering my plans for when I arrived - I still had to trek across Paris by myself on the metro once I arrived, and despite having taken every precaution possible to ensure I didn't get lost, I was still very worried that I would get mugged, kidnapped or run over in my pursuit of my French man.

One uneventful1 metro ride later I arrived at my destination, and started pacing the street looking for the man. I heard someone call out my name, and turned around to see the biggest smile across the road from me. Fully aware of how cheesy the moment was about to become, I ran across the road and got swept up in a hug that squeezed the air out of me. All my worries fell clean out of my head, and I spent the rest of the evening in a tangle of laughter, kisses and exquisite cheese...

1minus seeing someone busking with a harp - a full sized bloody harp!

I was delighted to discover there was a
whole row of people doing this with me
All smiles until I saw the size
of the not-stairs queue
The weekend played out like a cheesy romantic comedy, in which I lived the hapless romantic dream of going up the Eiffel Tower, walking around the Louvre2, eating delicious hand-made ice cream, watching a film about polar bears, eating croissants off the chest of a naked man3, lounging about on the grass at Versailles, rowing a boat on a lake surrounded by various flora, fauna and French people, wandering around Notre Dame pretending to be a singing gargoyle, and of course lots and lots of lovely shagging. It was the most perfect moment of my life, and it was with a heavy heart that, on my final night in Paris, I asked the question that would, inevitably, end it all.

Rowing my boat at Versailles

2Yes I looked at the Mona Lisa, and yes it IS much smaller than in looks in The Da Vinci Code
 3Haha not really, that would be gross. It was cheese.

“What am I doing here?” Of course he didn’t understand – he knew I was upset about something4, but perhaps wanted to pretend everything was fine until after I had left, so as not to ruin a perfectly acceptable evening. After three days and nights of blistering happiness, I was rapidly sliding into a depression that would last for the rest of the visit - I did not want to say goodbye to him again. I needed to know why he had asked me to come to Paris. If his answer was that he had realised he was falling in love with me and wanted to continue our relationship, even though he was moving to Hong Kong, because I was worth the uncertainty and difficulties, then I would finally be able to tell him that I felt the same way.

4As it happens, he had also said something at dinner that had ticked me off, but considering I can no longer remember what it was I was probably overreacting

Unfortunately, he told me he asked me to visit him because he thought it would be a nice way to spend a long weekend. I don’t entirely remember the 10 minutes that immediately followed this revelation, but I think there was probably some crying. He was very confused by how upset I became, because as he quite rightly pointed out, if the situation had changed he would have told me so. He had not told me anything, and therefore nothing had changed. He still did not want a relationship with me, and he was definitely still moving to Hong Kong, where he intended to start a new life, without me.

By this point I had a substantial wadge of tissues stuffed up my nose to help stem the runny nose of a broken heart. I looked horrendous, and felt horrendous, and wanted the earth to swallow me up so that I could escape this mortifyingly painful conversation without further delay. Then something quite lovely happened. For all his protestations of solitude and separation, my French man wrapped his arms around me, kissed my forehead and told me I was still just as special and important as I had been before the conversation. His terribly male, terribly French sensibilities were completely out of synch with my own English female ones, and not for the first time the language barrier between us had turned into a gulf. We lay next to each other for the rest of the night, talking, crying, laughing, eating grapes and quietly getting ready to say goodbye for good.

24 hours later we stood outside Gare du Nord, after the most stressful car journey of my life. What had started as a tour of everything we hadn’t had time to visit in Paris had turned into a race against the clock to get to the station in time for my train. We drove the wrong way down a road twice in rush hour traffic, and I spent 5 minutes unable to speak for fear that I would end up stranded in Paris with a man who had, albeit very nicely, dumped me the night before. When we finally did arrive I had 5 minutes to get through check in and board the train. So we said good bye with a hug and kiss, I took my case from him, and walked away.
I expected to cry, but it never happened. Every other break up I have been through had crying in common – it’s how I know it’s definitely happened and they won’t be calling up in a few days to ask me if I fancy some Nando’s and a movie. Even now, several months after that day, I can’t quite cry about it. I still feel very sad about how it turned out, exacerbated recently by him finally moving to Hong Kong, but the tears never came. It’s probably for the best though, as I was able to return to my real life5 without much disruption6. I haven’t returned to the dating websites yet though. Despite some of his less pleasant qualities7 my French man is, to date, the best boyfriend I have ever had. Because when you weigh the pros and cons, he’s got a lovely face, and he took me up the Eiffel Tower whilst eating a croissant. Beat that English boys!

5as opposed to my rom-com fantasy life, in which I am played by a chubby Kate Hudson
6Drinking wine and singing ‘All By Myself’ in a pair of fuzzy pyjamas 
7I believe a man’s break-up methodology is a quality, just like the ability to play the bagpipes, or roll cheese

The best ice cream in the world, eaten by the best Fanny in the world!

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