Je t’aimais: Part Six

 Long Walk Home

We met back up with our friends in front of Le P’tit Vélo. It must have been nearly 4:00 in the morning. I had no idea where the time went, but just at that moment I realized that the cute black heels I was wearing had taken their toll on my feet and the air around me was cold.

“Où habitez-vous?” French James Dean asked, wondering where Kayla and I lived. He spoke absolutely no English, which at first was charming, but that late in the night my brain was not up to the challenge. Together, Kayla and I managed to describe where our host parents lived on the northeast part of town.

French James Dean looked guilty and sad. He explained that he and his friend had plans in Paris the next day and needed to catch the first train out of Rennes. Because Gare de Rennes, the train station, was south of the town center, the guys had to go straight there.

French James Dean pulled me aside, “Je suis très content de faire ta connaissance, je souhaite je peut rester près de toi,” he kissed my cheeck, “peut-être, on peut revoir quelque jour…” just then, his friend pulled him away.

Kayla and I were left in Place de St. Anne with no ride, no bus, and a 30-minute walk home. Now I was really regretting that shoe choice. I was quiet, but a million thoughts were swirling in my head and butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

“So…where did you guys go off to? What did you do?” Kayla interrogated me as we started the long walk home. Before I had the chance to answer her, we heard loud footsteps approaching quickly. I turned around and there was French James Dean. He was a little out of breathe, but he was able to ask for my phone.

“Voilà, mon numéro. S’il te plait, m’envoies un texto quand tu arrive chez toi, j’ai besoin de savoir que vous êtes saines et sauves.” He handed the phone back to me, his hand lingered on mine for some time before he ran back to catch up with his friend. I guess if he couldn’t escort us back home, the least he could do was give me his number.

“Wow, he must really like you!” Kayla exclaimed.

“Yeah I guess…” He must really like me, I thought, not sure if it was out loud or not.

We continued walking down Rue d’Antrain. Kayla and I kept talking and walking, before I knew it, we were turning the last corner and our houses we only a few more steps away. I looked down at my phone; French James Dean’s number looked so foreign to me, as did his nickname… Flo.

“So, are you going to tell him?” Kayla asked as we reached her house.


“Your fiancé…”


Je t’aimais: Part Five

Pocket Change for a Rose

Against the side of the church, in the shadow of this old building hidden from passersby, he continued kissing me.*

“Ça va ?”

I liked the gentlemanly way he kept checking to see that I was OK. Though I repeatedly said “oui,” truthfully, I don’t know if I was; I let go of my worries and hoped regret wouldn’t find me in the morning.

He reached for the button holding my jean shorts on and my lace top tucked in. * We managed a few more kisses before his cell phone rang. It was his friend who was still at the bar with the group of Americans I went out with, including Kayla. They were all wondering where he and I had run off to and when French James Dean hung up, with an almost sad look on his face, he asked if I wanted to go back. Wine wearing off and reality catching up with me, I decided that we should.

He checked to make sure I was all put together, buttons buttoned and hair straightened out , before he took my hand and lead me back to Place des Lices. On our way there, we ran into a vendor selling roses; he looked both tired and desperate, but still managed to keep a smile on his worn face. He spoke very quickly and with a foreign accent I couldn’t understand, but I knew he was trying to convince French James Dean to buy “la jolie fille” a rose.

From the bottom of his pockets, French James Dean pulled out a few coins. He didn’t have enough to cover the cost of a rose and I could see a look of embarrassment  quickly spread across his face. The vendor, fully understanding the world of poverty, must have felt for him. He accepted the coins from French James Dean’s hand and motioned for me to pick a rose. There were plenty of colors to choose from but each was slightly wilted from a day on the streets. The nicest looking one left had a strong, dark green stem and petals of red and yellow.

“Merci beaucoup,” I uttered, then took the rose in my right hand and linked my left arm with French James Dean’s as we weaved through the empty, cobblestone streets to find our friends.


*parts of this chapter were omitted from this online version

Je t’aimais: Part Four

Late-night Stroll

“Do you want to go for a walk?” French James Dean asked.

By this point it was getting to be about 3:00 in the morning and almost everything was closed. The streets were growing silent and those who had been partying just twenty minutes before were slowly making their way home. I wasn’t sure if it was that last glass of wine or the thought of going back into the crowded bar, by now the only one still open, that drove me to say yes. Probably not the safest of decisions I’ve ever made, but I wanted to live every day in Rennes as though I might not have any more. 

“Sure, why not.”

He took me by the hand and led me down the cobblestone road. The darkness was interrupted by street lamps that decorated the sidewalk every twenty feet or so. As we walked, he told me how he grew up in this town and knew every street by heart. He told me stories of his childhood and his family. Then he told me about his job and his girlfriend, both in a nearby town. I didn’t talk much. Although I speak French, I was so tired and frazzled by the whole evening, that I couldn’t put coherent sentences together. He didn’t seem to mind; I was grateful he never put me on the spot.

He pulled me to the left suddenly; we were still holding hands. The street lamps were gone and through squinted eyes I could make out the side of an old church. It wasn’t the breathtaking kind found in travel magazines, just a stone building that had seen a congregation through countless decades.

Our vocal conversation had fallen away and was replaced by a steady gaze. Neither one of us could turn our eyes from the other. To me, it seemed silent and ear-shattering all at the same time. Within seconds, one hand pulled me close while the other cradled my face bringing me in for a kiss.


Je t’aimais: Part Three

A Cigarette Break

Then the lights came on.

We were all a few more drinks in and going home was the last thing on our minds. I followed my friends and as we left El Latino we found ourselves surrounded. The crowd, emptying the bars and filling the Rue de la soif, struggled to find their bearings; it was too dark and every square inch of the small, cobblestone street was occupied by people and smoke. Men with wandering eyes tried to get someone to take home; it was a last chance to fill their lonely bed. While the women decided whom to go home with.

After a momentary separation, I was reunited with my group. Though Kayla kept an eye on me, I walked with French James Dean all the way back to Le P’tit Vélo, which was one of the few bars not closed for the night. This translated into a very crowded bar. We each pushed our way through to get another round of drinks. There was no place where we could all sit together, so the group broke down into threes and fours. FJD, two other Americans, and myself found a table against the wall. Because I was too short to stand at the tall table with ease, FJD got someone at the bar to give me their chair. My feet, which were trapped within a cute pair of heels, were grateful.

The four of us chatted for a bit, though it was hard to hear each other over all the crowd. A lot of our conversation was in English, FJD tried to follow but I could tell he was getting bored. He leaned over to me and asked if I wanted to go outside. At first, because he was talking low, I thought he asked me to go home with him, which I started to decline, however, no doubt after seeing my concern, he repeated himself. I agreed to go with him; it was nice outside after all.

It was a little chillier out than I remembered; the crisp spring air was working hard to sober us up. We sat down on the curb just across from Le P’tit Vélo and he started rolling himself a cigarette. I wanted to seem cool, but I had never seen anyone roll a cigarette and I just stared. After he lit it, he offered it to me, but I simply put my hand up to signal, “No thanks.”  He took a drag then immediately started kissing me. Either he wanted to share the smoke or he was trying to warm me from the inside out. Whatever the reason was, I didn’t care.

People walked by and we just continued kissing in between drags.


A True Saint

A True Saint

In 300 years, if people were to look back on my life and decide that I was to be named the patron saint of something, I think that something would be la douleur exquise. This is a French term that is most accurately translated as, “the pain of wanting someone you cannot have.”

Like many women, I find myself always wanting things that I cannot or should not have. I do love my life and those in it, but after traveling to France, there are things that I want to do, people that I want to be with… However, I’ve gotten really good at talking myself out of those things and into realizing what blessings I do have.