What Happened Was This

What happened was this: the concierge’s bra was padded. There was bottle service. I drank Absolut, since it was Europe and that seemed the urbane but inoffensive choice. I thinned it with fruit juice so it turned ruby and I could nurse it better. There, Jack Daniels was what the bon chic, bon genre wanted, what marked them as of the world. That’s what was in her tall, thin glass: what she imagined Americans quaffed.

She and I danced on a white platform. She had shed the two gold skeleton keys pinned to her lapels hours before, when she recommended this place as not one many tourists knew. He and I had thrilled to that bit.

The music slowed. Her lips were pink. The floor was dark, slashed by strobes. Her foam-covered breasts brushed mine in that brusque yet intimate way a shopper’s will when she reaches over your cart to grab a box of name-brand cereal. I was similarly startled. Then her eyes shifted and I felt her lips’ cling cool as the outside of a cheap jewelry box, the quick damp dart of her tongue before it was gone.

Along the banquette, a French guy high-fived the guy who one year later would become my fiancé. I didn’t see. I only know because he told me so. Made a point.

Outside, the sky had gone lilac, the Haussmann buildings tinted pink. Hip folks milled, negotiating, locking down alliances. We went for soupe à l’oignon gratinée. The dining room mirrored and bleary, après-danse. A bottle of something French and mid-tier, enough to impress. The soup arrived, cheese stretched thin enough over each crock to see through. It had sat under a lamp.

“I’m surprised,” the concierge said, her plucked blonde brows raising slightly at the idea. “Most Americans are so… what is the word?… prudish.”

What happened was this: nothing happened. We ate, then went home for two hours, packed the suitcases. The sun knifed through the blinds in bright slats. He wanted to take photos. I did not. In the end, me with a lollipop on the poufed hotel duvet, tears dissolving into vignette, white thighs and cherry-blossom nipples in focus. I still exist there, somewhere on a camera’s card.

In order to get out, you must drive through the part of town that’s not so picturesque. There was champagne on the plane in plastic cups. I drank it pre-takeoff, closed my eyes but didn’t sleep, like a shop where the clerk hides quietly behind a Roman shade till the would-be patron leaves. That shop stayed shut for years. The things it held became antique. They gathered dust. Accrued.

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