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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 15 - My love affair in Paris!

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

I am now sleeping at Maryse’s apartment with 2,000 books. One day, when I return from school, I see Maryse talking to the people who sell petrol next door, and they are very friendly. We take a photo, and the man squeezes me a bit creepily. The bar next door is really busy and alive, and people are overflowing out the doors. Maryse says we will have a drink, and there are two very cool young men standing outside. I ask if I can take their photo.


As it turns out, they are friends of Maryse’s, and they live on the first floor of the same building as we do. She seems to know everyone, and they all seem to love her. There are no seats, so we sort of stand around in that French way of standing around without a drink for ages while Maryse tries to talk the owner into finding her a seat as her knee is still sore from her fall on the trottoir.


Of course, no one offers her their seat. The French are very proprietary. Politeness is mainly in words like "bon appétit" and "passez une bonne soirée". Finally, a little stool is found for her. Francois is the principal of a school which teaches makeup, and Euan sells produce. A lovely young woman taps Maryse on the shoulder, and I think she's going to tell her not to smoke so near her, but she asks for a cigarette. It is the world we once knew. I am in the bar at Casablanca.


Francois whispers into my ear that he is in love with another boy, and Euan is very sad. By way of sharing confidences, I tell them I am alone, and that he must find me a husband. I say he has 15 days. 15 minutes later, I am talking to a potential husband, and it happened like this: there is a man sitting alone at a table amongst all the gaiety, but I can only see him from the back. I say to Francois, "See, he eats alone like me." The man gets up and leaves the restaurant, and unbelievably, Francois follows him. I see the two of them talking, and I’m so embarrassed because I know they’re talking about me, and the man is looking at me, and he seems interested, and I can’t believe he hasn’t just walked off. I am wishing the earth would swallow me up, and I stare fixedly in the opposite direction while peeking back to see what’s going on. Then I can’t bear it anymore, and I go over to the two of them, and this man is absolutely charming. We have just been learning in French that a "coup de foudre" is falling in love at first sight, and I think, "Goodness, what a good student I am, practicing my idioms." We talk, and he is smiling at me, and we are both in a sort of daze, like we are suddenly actors in a small romantic comedy. His name is Jacques and he leaves Paris tomorrow. Maryse are watching, and I really can’t explain it, but it was the impossibility of it all that made it so romantic. We swapped emails.


After he has left, Euan and Francois come up to our small apartment for dinner, and they bring a bottle of white wine. I see them kissing on the balcony, looking out to Montmartre. I take over cooking when I see Maryse about to cook chicken in an unheated pan. We eat linguine, steamed tomatoes, chicken lettuce leaves, and a Whittaker’s chocolate that I have brought over from NZ. The next-door neighbor, Sophie, pops in, as the news that a New Zealander is living in the building is spreading, and the French are curious, even though they pretend not to be. Neighbor Sophie, who looks very cross all the time, takes great care of Maryse, and Francois did Maryse’s shopping in the lockdown.


They tell me Maryse was coming back from shopping one day and sat down and fainted, and they thought she was dead. It seems that everyone in the building knows each other because of Maryse, and Francois whispers to me, "You give her life."


Sophie joins in the debate on whether I should email Jacques or whether I should wait for him to email first. They all say, "Mais oui," I must email Jauques and that it will be a love story or I can practice my French.


I go to bed and send Jacques a little email apologizing for my friends who I encouraged. In the morning, I wake up and want to see if he has replied, but I leave it a while as with uncertainty, there is always hope. When I finally look, I see that the email has bounced back; I mistook the "v" for a "u." The French have illegible handwriting, even though they insist on writing in little squares. I send an "is this you" email putting a "u" this time, and he replies and says:


"I take a plane this afternoon. I take a bus for the plane at 1400 pm. If you are free, we can meet at the same place this midday. I would like to talk with you."


I reply, "I will be there."


He is waiting at the bus stop for me. I am so pleased to see him, but my nose is very blocked, and my eye has glugged up, but I feel shy and hopeful. He is so pleased to see me, and he has a scarf around his neck, and he really is very attractive in the way of pedigree dogs. We go to a Thai restaurant, and he asks me where I want to sit, and I sit in a little booth looking out while he has only me to look at. He is such a gentleman, and we order pad Thai, and it is disgusting, but I eat it to be polite, but he doesn’t touch his, which makes me a bit cross. I try to tell him that it is more important that the company is better than the food, and because the food is so bad, it won’t be hard, and it sort of gets lost in translation, and it seems like I’m saying this food is terrible, so you are better. Jacques keeps shaking his head in disbelief that we are having this stolen moment and that according to ikigai, all life is a balance. He says he is angry that Macron has extended the retirement age as now he can’t see me for 3 years as he is 60. I am a bit confused about where I stand, but I don’t want to start harping on like a jealous wife when I have known him for less than 2 hours. Everything gets lost in translation. I say it is good to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t speak your language as you can interpret what they say to mean whatever you want. I draw a parallel with a dog which always approves of what you say and do, and he nods his head, smiling at either my brilliance or in total confusion. I conclude my philosophy on life and tell him about the purpose of the journey is to return home and see it for the first time. He gently takes my book and writes, "Quand on part longtemps, on redécouvre chez soi comme le premier fois!"


We leave and walk to the metro together, and I link my arm through his. We walk together like two Parisiennes, laughing and looking into each other's eyes. It's like there's a camera, and we're acting out a farewell scene that, if done well, will make the audience cry. We descend into the metro, and I am pulling one of his bags, as he has two, which is a lot for a rather small man. We stop before the ticket gate, and he looks into my eyes, then pulls something out of his bag. It's a little box, all wrapped up in blue paper with a ribbon. The French love wrapping up presents. Then he starts to kiss me very hard on both cheeks, and in between each kiss, he holds my cheeks and looks into my eyes with a look of disbelief that he has found such a one as me. We walk to where you put your ticket in, and he puts his suitcases down one more time and takes my face, kissing me again very firmly on both cheeks. He picks up his bags, and I take his ticket and put it in the slot. He goes through and looks back at me just before he goes around the corner. Then he is gone.


I have been a lonely spectator of the beauty of tender embraces in Paris for weeks now. I never thought for one moment I would ever be one of those couples that I have looked at with such sweet envy. But just for a moment, I was, and for that, I thank God yet again. We have really become great friends.




A couple for a moment in time.




A squeeze too tight!


The gift of a pen.



Evan, Francois and Maryse.


Cupid et moi!


Sophie.


Dinner.


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8 Comments


Guest
Jun 14, 2023

Hahaha the 'new man' in the pic does not suit you! You and Charlie are so funny, I love your guys wit xxxgayle

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Guest
Jun 11, 2023

What a delight is Blog 14...finally love in Paris mon amie...fleeting but caught! (hope you had to do a twirl!!!)

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Guest
Jun 11, 2023

Oh, so good to laugh out loud, I feel I am there with you. You look radiant and have at last found a tender corner of Paris to make your own. Parfaite!


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Guest
Jun 11, 2023

So brave, so free, living as the character of the most beautiful storyxxxxgayle

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Guest
Jun 10, 2023

We are just LOVING your blogs Ash and can’t wait for the next one each time. You sure have a great and humorous way of describing people and things. Thanks so much for sharing. Pippi and Philip XXX😁

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