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.

“Who?”

“Your fiancé…”

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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.

Je t’aimais: Part Two

El Latino and Liquid Courage

As the drinks poured and our dialogue became slurred, we decided to head to another bar, El Latino, where the cozy dance floor gave strangers a reason to get close. One of my favorite bars on Rue de la soif, the brightly painted walls takes everyone who enters away from France to a latino paradise. Our group pushed our way to the back of the bar to a small sub-room lined on all sides with bench-style seating. The air was thick and the music boomed in our ears, I don’t exactly remember what was playing when we first got there, but then Michel Teló’s  Ai Se Eu Te Pego came on and we made a unanimous decision, solely through eye contact, to join the crowd of dancers.

I smiled at French James Dean who was sitting across from me. With liquid courage pumping through me to the beat of the music, I couldn’t wait any longer. I stood up and reached for his hand,

“Come on, I want to dance!”

Not understanding a word of English didn’t keep him from understanding me. We were face to face, or rather face to chest; I didn’t realize how tall he was until I was standing next to him. We danced. Because of the music, we couldn’t hear anything the other said, so we communicated with our eyes, with our bodies. He pulled me closer as the beat dropped and we danced more closely.

Through the crowd of dancers who seemed dependent on close contact to remain upright, I glimpsed Kayla. She looked concerned for me; she was following the unspoken girl code which dictates that friends save friends who are dancing with creeps. But I, being almost hypnotized by James Dean’s  good looks, gave her a thumbs up to signal that I wanted to stay wrapped in his arms.

We danced. Closer and closer, until there was nothing separating us but his leather jacket and my purple, lace top. Then he gave me that look, the one that begs permission, then lifted my chin up and bent over slightly to kiss me.

The crowd, the music, the worries, they were all gone. Everything faded away. In that moment, I forgot who and where I was. It was only him and I. It was the kind of thing that happens in book and movies; certainly not to Midwest gals. A kiss that lasted forever and no time at all. I don’t remember how long we stayed like that, but we held each other close, not wanting the song to end.

 

(still not sure about the title of this series)

Je t’aimais: Part One

Writing 101, Day Four

C’est salement romantique

It was April 5th, nearly midnight, and I was a half bottle of wine and two tequila shots in.

He was tall with dark hair, dark jeans, and a dark leather jacket. I instantly thought of James Dean when I saw him; I wondered if this rebel had a cause… He sat right across from me; our melange of francophones and American college students had decided to go to Le P’tit Vélo, a small bar near Place de la Lice. I noticed that he was staring at me, but not saying much. I leaned towards my bestie, Kayla, and she confirmed what I was thinking – he was cute and clearly interested. Most of us were speaking English, that’s what study abroad students do on their time off. James Dean understood only a handful of the words that were being drunkenly slurred across the table, but I did hear him when he whispered to his friend, “Elle a les plus jolies yeux.” She has the most pretty eyes. 

I was smitten. When a brooding, French James Dean falls for a sophomore from the Midwest, she can’t help but fall too.

 

(the title is also the name of a fabulous song by Cœur de Pirate)

Link

Where in Rennes

Where in Rennes

It’s raining. I can hear the click of heels on the cobblestones as people brush by me. All of us trying to get to where we’re going, heads down, umbrellas up. The road is small and the buildings, monuments to a rich history, are close together. I continue walking, sometimes with and sometimes against the crowd, until suddenly, the buildings open up. There I am, La Place Sainte-Anne. The medieval façades are made more beautiful by the spring shower; even in the rain, perhaps especially in the rain, Rennes in the most beautiful city.

There is no specific place in Rennes that I feel most connected to, it is the whole city that I am drawn to. I may have only lived there for half a year, but a piece of my heart with be there forever.