I remember being immediately attracted to him. He seemed interesting and weird, and I liked his dark, impressively groomed beard. He was kind of tall and definitely skinny. Even under his poncho/jacket thing I could tell. He was a hipster, for sure—ironically political tie-dye t-shirt, baggy skinny jeans (baggy because he was that skinny), Vans. I probably weighed more than him. But as soon as I saw him, I kind of knew. I don’t know what I knew, but I knew something. And it seemed like he did, too. We shook hands, and introduced ourselves. Then, we—him, his friend, my friend, my friend’s friend, and I—decided to leave the overcrowded bookstore and go somewhere else for drinks.
The five of us walked down (or up? It was uphill…) the winding cobblestone streets, talking in pairs. Or not talking, and walking solo, as was the case for my friend’s friend, who was younger and more introverted than the rest of us. My friend talked to his friend, who was kind of cute, in a retro, poor-man’s-Ryan-Gosling kind of way. He was nice. I walked with him, feeling that eagerness you feel when you like someone in middle school and don’t want your best friend or nemesis to claim him first. Because back then people could be claimed. I didn’t need to worry, though. It seemed like the feeling was mutual. I told him about myself, and he told me about himself, and the shared information was well received on both ends. He was as interesting and weird as he’d initially seemed, and I really did like his beard.
The two other girls and I ordered gin and tonics instead and the guys got beers. We sat at a small table downstairs; me next to his friend and him next to my friend. My friend’s friend sat in the corner.
After the first round of drinks he and his friend went outside for a smoke. The two girls and I stayed inside and got another round. When the guys came back, they switched seats, and I could tell it was intentional. He and I started talking, and he apologized again for letting me down with the lack of hot wine.
I proved to be disappointing in my own right when we went upstairs to play pool. It was slightly embarrassing (I literally dropped the ball) but he didn’t care—and even tried giving me pointers in that cliché way guys do in movies. I continued to fuck up and my friend intermittently tried to interject on our inside joke but failed at getting his attention. She was great at pool, actually. And pretty. And wore sexily androgynous loafers and trousers. I would have been impressed if I were him. But I don’t think he was.
We stayed like that at the bar for a while: drinking and playing pool well (all of them) and badly (me) until the two other girls got sleepy. They lived near me and it was late, so I decided it was a good idea for us to walk home together.
It took a month of hint-dropping messages before he and I finally made plans to see each other again.
We talked about living in and traveling to different countries. Some people in the grade above me in high school were friends of his in college. It was a strange coincidence but not one I wanted to dwell on since I didn’t particularly like any of them. I was more interested in knowing about his years living in India, which prompted a discussion about The Darjeeling Limited, one of my (and his) favorite movies. After a couple of mediocre glasses of hot wine, we decided to try our luck somewhere else.
We sampled vin chaud of varying degrees of palatability at four or five more places before walking back. I wasn’t sure where exactly he thought we were going, but we ended up at my apartment door.
We climbed the one flight of stairs to my apartment door; I opened it, and we went inside to find my Single White Female roommate sitting on the couch. I’m convinced she’d been looking out of her window (which faced the courtyard), watching us come in. We barely got through the door before she started berating us with her afternoon tragedy: she’d passed out on the bus ride home. We hadn’t spoken in at least a week, so her sudden talkativeness was no coincidence. She wanted to find out who the guy I brought home was. And gave me no choice but to tell her.
I remember liking how I felt standing next to him in the living room of my apartment, feeling like he was kind of mine, at least for the time being. I liked his hat, still liked his beard, and was endeared by his corduroy blazer that clearly hadn’t been warm enough for our hot wine trek around wintery Paris. I also admired his equanimity while listening to my roommate’s endless saga that didn’t concern either of us. I shifted my weight from one boot to the other to pass the time.
“You say ‘word’ a lot.” I said.
He took another swig from his flask when we were done, and I took a sip of water from a glass I left on my table before I met him for the evening. He played a song for me on his phone, but I don’t remember what it was. Something by David Bowie, I think. RIP. We talked for a while before he said he should probably head out. I pulled up my tights, put on my cocoon coat and we quietly exited my apartment.