Friday, July 20, 2012

The Broken Glass

Before I left Paris for a crazy summer of nannying, the last night before, in fact, I happened to have an old college friend passing through town whom I hadn't seen since graduation. He's the kind of fellow that no matter how little or well you know him, he's genuinely someone it's pleasant to be around. And let's be real, I don't mind catching up and shooting the shit, particularly if it involves gossip surrounding mutual friends and acquaintances of varying degrees. Such was the genre of the drink date we'd set up, a small aperitif.

I arrived at Cafe Mabillon in the Saint-Germain des Pres neighborhood ten minutes past our scheduled rendez-vous at seven in the evening, a casual and chic Parisian sense of fashionably late perma-glued to my mental rendering of time's passage, and spotted him on the corner. He was as thin as ever, but he'd grown a long beard and his skin was radiant in the soothing ever-so-French summer sunset. He told me about his hostel and the hot pack of foreign women staying there.

I parked it and joined him on his conquest of the wine menu, ordering a cold glass of Sancerre (j'adore) to his red. And we started shooting the shit. Shooting the shit with an old college friend you haven't seen in a few years is a head fuck, and even more so when you conveniently expatriated three months after college graduation and haven't gone back since. Chatting with this gentlemen was like an insta-time warp back to a place--and dare I say it, a Lindsay--which I now struggle somewhat to recognize. Catch-ups of this sort also serve as good reign checks, the kind of checkpoints that stop and make you reflect and say "hot damn i'm doing even better than i wanted to be doing at this point in my life, in the lovely fantasy i have concocted should I ever need to sell my biography for film rights" OR they make you say "well. shit."

Luckily, I fall into the hot damn category of this sort of reflection. I'm loving my life and feel like it's more than I ever could've hoped for. My only conundrum at the moment is the ambivalence I feel for my two countries of residence: do I ultimately stay in France, get my dual citizenship, and most likely forgo a PhD and pursue other enriching projects? Or do I sacrifice myself on the altar of academia, repatriate to America where universities are more rigorous and better for an academic career, and sell my soul Faustian style for another 4-6 years to earn a shiny piece of paper and a tam? It's a tough decision for me, one I have not yet decided that I don't have to decide upon just yet, a decision that hangs agonizingly in the balance, the sorts of decisions I hate the most. The kind of decision that makes you wish you were a child again and didn't have to deal with these sorts of conundrums. But alas....

College Friend and I are both doing well in our own ways: we talked jobs, relocation (he moved from California to New Orleans), and then, we dropped the bomb. Somehow, wine loosened us and made us pounce somehow on the subject of The Love Life.

The Love Life is a sticky subject, and one that is even sticker for me than the aforementioned PhD conundrum. This is mostly due to the fact that I am a hard fit. Not because I have super demanding standards...though I do have standards. More due to the fact that I'm an odd creature, through and through, and I need an equal: someone intellectual, smart, creative. Someone who can hold their own against me. Blah blah blah. I refuse to mutter on and on about this. Point is: The Love Life has been a rocky road. It is getting rockier, what with all these friends getting married and serious and me approaching my mid-twenties. When you hit mid-twenties, the mentality of freedom and liberty, of "well hey, you're fun for NOW but i'm too young to get married, I'm probably not going to marry you, let's just sleep together" starts to disappear. The mid-twenties are the period of scary realization that "shit's getting real" and you are not far off from marrying age. Don't read me wrong: i am in no rush to get married. I would rather have none than the wrong one. But this does not stop me from the realization that in a few years, should I meet the right person, I could settle down. Yet another scary decision the child wants to run from hanging in the air....waiting for me one day.

The Love Life discussion College Friend and I were having inevitably (and admittedly, excitedly!) led me to describe my most recent (and continuing) Love Interest. He's a engineer a bit older than I am. Holy cow if I was not turned on by the fact that the first time we grabbed drinks, he was reading an article on engineering IN ENGLISH on his portable tablet computer. God, I'm intellectually promiscuous. Nerds turn me on. He's also athletic, a good photography, funny, and thoughful. Now damn if I am not screwed.

When I left for France, I was jokingly told I would be swept off my feet and never come home. I swore it wouldn't happen. It has not happened for two years. Repatriation is on the one year horizon. This has  been my plan since day one. My plans make me feel safe, secure, keep me from dreaded anxiety, fuel my perfectionism for excellence....but I am starting to realize they also trap me into not-living. Into the dead state where I wake up realizing I have perfectly executed, but I have not fully experienced.

I do not know if I want to keep living like this.

So I kept gushing to College Friend about Frenchman. I was so damn excited and so caught up in my girly grinning-ear-to-ear gush fest that in one single gesture I swooped my half-full wine glass so that all my Sancerre cascaded deftly in 5 seconds flat onto my dress and paraded in a silky string, tugged by gravity, to the pavement, where the wine glass shattered with a small but sharp shriek. I was tipsy. I wasnt, however, too tipsy to worry about smelling like Sancerre, or about the broken glass, which I felt guilty for murdering.College Friend grabbed extra napkins and the server mentioned I could dry my dress in the bathroom if I'd like to with the hand dryer. Non, merci.

It was at this point that an elderly gentlemen, tucked behind the small table behind us, caught my eye and said to me in broken English, "We call this...this broken glass, in France, we say it is a...a...a..," he struggled to translate his words, "a porte-bonheur. A sign of good things to come. Good things must be coming your way."

I looked at College Friend. A porte-bonheur, roughly translated, means "good luck charm," something that literally "wears" or "brings" happiness.

"Well, it must be good, since you were just gushing about Frenchman!"

Did I mention that two days prior to this breaking of glass on a Friday evening when Frenchman and I got drinks the waiter took my drink glass and it too, after he took it, fell off the serving plateau and proceeded to smash itself with the force of an Indy 500 race car into the cobblestone behind the Pub Saint-Germain?

I smiled. Please please please please please please.

The Broken Glass is my reminder that sometimes, I cannot be rigid. I can no longer fix plans and things and people. I must take life in measure, as it comes, imbibe it in sips and cherish it even when it ends up smashed on the pavement and is no longer drinkable. My life is a broken glass, hanging in the balance, between countries and decisions and two different lives and two different Lindsays.Two Lindsays who want different and similar things all at once.

I did not come to France to find a Frenchman. I came to France to train myself in French literature and language.

I did not come to get swept off my feet and break glasses and hope that they mean good things for my relationship with this Frenchman.

This Frenchman thing is scary, because what if we could be really (like I'm starting to suspect) good together?

I hear voices in my heads of all the foreign women whose relationships with Frenchmen have imploded and left them bitter and estranged in their adoptive homeland. I hear Maria, the Spanish woman whom I met last summer, telling me again like she did on the beach in the twilight that long-term, I should marry within my culture because I will never know if the fighting is because of "cultural differences or your personalities." Her ex-husband was French. I hear all the cliches and stereotypes about how philandering French husbands are.

I don't know who to believe. I want to believe in the fairy tale, but I can't do it fully. But this one is wonderful, I like him, I like him more than just liking him, I'm starting to wonder if we have long-term potential....who. the. fuck. knows. Either way, he's working his charm and I'm going to fall very, very hard at this rate. Frenchman is making it even harder to make up my mind about what I am knighting the "PhD, Country, Citizenship, and Future Plans Mega-Conundrum," which is really just the looming threat of a quarter-life crisis if you ask me. A huge hinge on which my life is swinging in two directions.

The very thing I came here NOT to do seems to be happening, and it has me questioning all it is I have ever planned for, hoping that I will continue to fortuitously break wine glasses, literal and metaphoric, all over Paris, it makes me want to buy the most expensive ones I can in the fanciest wine shops in the city and pummel them into the gates of the Luxembourg gardens and the banks of the Seine and pray to sweet Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus that I do not surrender to the fear of the unknown and the void of anxiety.

I ordered another glass of Sancerre after I broke my first and drank it thick and viscous beneath my lips. I felt a pleasant buzz come over my mind when College Friend and I parted ways.

Minutes later, my phone rang. It was Frenchman.

I reminded him hours before, a mere four or five, infact,  that I'd be leaving for two months the following morning, and that if he wanted to see me one last time that night before we left for the summer (he's traveling too...), to call me. And he did.

So I joined him 45 minutes later, on the rue de Rennes, for a movie. We held hands and cuddled and it felt perfect and I felt so sad to leave the next morning.

I didn't want to tell him about the broken glass, about how I wished it were a good omen about him. I wanted to keep it my little secret for later on, if we work out, a secret for a rainy day to share with him and smile.

But I couldn't help it, so I told him about the glass. Only the glass.

I didn't tell him I wished the glass was a good sign about him. Part of me really wanted to.

"Hey, the waiter broke the glass on Friday must be bad luck there!," he laughed.

"Really now?" I smiled. He held me around the waist. It was time for us to part. The film was over. My red lipstick was fading. He smelled so good and I wanted to linger his his embrace for just a moment longer, and another minute, and another minute...

He leaned in and kissed me and we both reluctantly curled our way out of one another's arms. As I left him, I turned and looked over my shoulder. His gaze hit mine. I felt my stomach tighten and my heart drop.

God please let me keep breaking wine glasses unintentionally.

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