“Tu me plait,” she said to the Camionneuse, caressing my cheek. “Tu me plait, ne t’inquete pas, ma loup.” I went from zero to sixty in the time it took to mainline a gin and tonic. My arrival was punctuated with the awful realization that I hate clubs, of course, following my payment and subsequent inhalation of a drink. This realization was followed by the comforting knowledge that the alcohol coursing through my veins would soon mollify that awkward confrontation with society. Nevertheless, there I was, sandwiched between the two most unlikely people I’d have expected to leave with, an enormous gay man in a Hawaiian shirt named Jerome, obsessed with all things American and in possession of the vocabulary of a spammer.
“Do you know of hamburger?” he asked, caressing my cheek in wonderment. “Do you love the New York? Do you know of the internet?” To him, I was a rare beast of possibility. He wanted to know where my family was from, what I liked to cook for breakfast (“Pancakes, I love!”) my mobile number, my mobile number back home, my preferred soda, as he stroked my hand.
To my right was a curvaceous black woman named Sarah, six feet tall, with heavy-lidded eyes and crooked teeth. She moves slowly and tenaciously with the help of two canes and drinks a Hoegardden with a straw. When she danced, it was jerky but deliberate, sensual in its pacing, rounded and sweet. She strokes my cheek and I freeze, then relax. It is preferable to Jerome gently brushing his knuckles against my wrist on my other side. The bar was filled with beautiful people, attractive Frenchwomen with perpetual frowns and curvaceous girls from outside the city, their wild eyes and flagrant gestures betraying their pose, their backs a little straighter and teeth a little sharper in the heart of Paris.
I had come to sit there vis-a-vis Greg, another jovial man in a tuxedo who had befriended me while waiting for the bathroom. In fact, that was technically where I rang in the New Year, befittingly two inches away from the noise and excitement, alone in a small dark room. Just scratching the surface of enjoyment, but not quite there. But not five minutes after- “You are here all alone, by yourself on New Year’s?” I shrugged, like I’d lost my friends somewhere and just couldn’t be bothered to retrieve them. “This cannot be, you must come and sit with me.” He plunked me with his queens and various ladies and bought me a drink.
“Do not worry, I won’t razz it,” making the gesture for tipping roofies into an imaginary glass, using his other arm to grip and gently punch my shoulder. It was chilling, how he spoke to me as a woman, a slut, and touched me as a man. I could not tell his sexuality and did not dare to ask. Good ol’ boy games with a nasty edge to them. The drink he brought me was clean as far as I could tell. I drank it for propriety’s sake and thirst, my straw scraping against the lime at the bottom of the glass. The drink came with a glow stick, which I thrust behind my ear.
Sarah beamed at me, tipping her head back. “I have a gift for you, coquine,” her hand on my thigh but her eyes locked with mine. “Your French is perfect, it is like you have no accent at all.” I thanked her for her kindness, she gave me a white rose and kissed me on the cheek twice. “I am not only being kind, it is the truth.” She left lipstick on my cheekbones and I blushed. She laughed, and the DJ screamed over the Katy Perry, Rihanna, Gangnam style, “My little wolves, it is now 2013,” turning up Quebecoise music. I slipped out and danced, locking eyes with a sad-faced older butch in a bomber jacket. I tilted my head, she turned away. I gazed and flirted with a mohawked woman in a tight button-down, we kept our distance but looked back every so often. I held the rose between my teeth and looked toward the sky, and then at the table.
Jerome and Sarah had gotten up, perhaps to return, perhaps to not.
I made my exit gracefully and slipped out the door. I helped another girl stand, her inebriation no match for the uneven cobblestones, and she graced my other cheek with a final brand of wax and rouge. There are worse things than leaving a bar with roses and lipstick prints on both cheeks, and there are worse ways to start a new year than those as well. Even if I went home alone, I went with love, with adoration, appreciation tailing me down the dark, empty streets full of thousands of parties and thousands of people doing different things in this old, strange place. I would not have done it any differently.
Happy 2013 from the gayest of Paris, whoever and wherever you are. May your exits be graceful and may you always find your way home.