“… leaving it all behind. Well, most of it. She left New York for Paris, taking the show with her. The super vedette of the vedettes.
On this particular evening, she sat backstage in the dressing room, at the mirror. Removing her makeup. Next to her fellow performer and friend Charlotte.
‘Charles and Marie-Thérèse phoned the theatre AGAIN to make sure you are coming to the party tonight.’ Charlotte said.
‘I really just want to go home and read.’ She told her. ‘I don’t have anything to wear. I came to rehearsal in my trainers.’
‘Don’t be silly. Wear one of your show dresses!’ She gestured to the clothing rack.
She protested. ‘I can’t walk into their party like that. With my boobs half out.’
‘Oh, please. You walk out on the stage every night with your boobs completely out and nobody looks! You are being stupid. They are our friends. You’re coming with me to the party. Now get dressed.’
She did as Charlotte commanded, and off to the party they went. To the very chic apartment of their friends Charles and Marie-Thérèse. When they arrived, it was already PACKED. But the moment they arrived, she was glad Charlotte had dragged her. They were greeted warmly, with kisses and joy and music and friends. She was comfortable. Even with her ‘boobs half out.’ Genuinely happy to be there. And her hosts were genuinely happy to have her. Maybe suspiciously slightly too happy.
Marie-Thérèse opened her arms to welcome her and gleefully began, ‘Ahhh… you came!’ She handed her off to Charles and slid through the crowd to answer the beckoning door. Charles took her by the hand, “Good, good, good! I’m so glad you’re here! There’s someone visiting who very much wanted to meet you. A fellow American…’
That’s when it happened. She realized it was a setup. Annoyed. Until she looked to the door… and saw him. Everything else in the room seemed to dim for that moment. It was as if time had slipped into slow motion. The music suddenly sounded like it was being piped into the apartment through a tin can. ‘Who • is • this • incredible • man’, she wondered in a staccato thought. He was very tall and very handsome, with an absolutely beautiful smile. Impeccably dressed. Removing his overcoat and his scarf. He was carrying flowers and wine and a beautifully wrapped box and laughing with Marie-Thérèse.
Charles’ voice broke the spell. “Come! Let me introduce you… ‘This is Marty…’
He jumped right in, ‘Hi, I’m Marty.’ He shook her hand. She didn’t let go. She held it a little too tight, maybe.
‘It’s very nice to meet you, Marty.’
‘Marie-Thérèse, the flowers and wine are for you and Charles. And these are for you.’ He handed her a box of beautifully wrapped chocolates from A la Mère de Famille. ‘Marie-Thérèse told me you don’t like flowers.’
He was right. She didn’t. Flowers reminded her of funerals. He’d obviously put thought and effort into this gesture.
‘Thank you so much. This is lovely.’
‘I wanted to give them to you after the show the other night but you were talking to someone and I didn’t want to interrupt.’
‘Ohhh, you’ve been to the show.’
‘Once with Charles and Marie-Thérèse, and then I came again on my own. It was really wonderful.’
‘Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.’
Charles spoke. ‘Well, I will leave you to it. There is champagne in the powder room, but do not close the door all the way. It sticks and the lock is broken.’
‘OK.’ she said.
‘Shall we?’ He extended his arm for her to follow, and gently touched her bare back. Spiriting her away to the spirits.
The powder room sink was full of ice, with six empty bottles of champagne propped up in the basin and one left unopened. There were glasses on top of the cabinet under the towel rack. He opened the lone bottle with a gentle pop and poured a glass for her and one for himself and began with a toast, ‘To the Expats!’ She laughed. They drank. To the din of the party on the other side of the door.
‘So, Marty. How do you find yourself in Paris.’
‘Well, believe it or not, I was working at NASA…’
‘So you’re an actual rocket scientist.’
He laughed. ‘Sort of. Yes. But then I was consulting on something of an art/technology project. Which is at the Pompidou.’
‘Ahhh. Incroyable! So this is how you know our hosts.’
‘Yes. Charles told me you are a New Yorker…”
And with that, a CLICK. Someone at the party closed the door. Pulled it shut tight. And they tried. They both tried. The party goers on the other side tried. Until they all just gave up. They were locked in. And they didn’t mind one damn bit.
They talked and talked and talked about everything under the sun. Under the stars, really. For hours and hours that seemed to pass in minutes. Laughing. Sitting on the cold tile floor. With the beautiful view of Paris at night nearly touchable right out that long thin window. And then it was quiet for a moment. He lowered his head and laughed to himself.
‘What’, she asked.
‘I was just wondering’ he said, ‘what you’re like in bed.’
‘Oh, who me? I’m a total DUD.’ She replied.
‘Really?’ He laughed.
‘I find that very hard to believe.’
‘No. It’s true. I just kinda like… lie there.’ She flopped her arms out and put her head back. ‘Just BLAH. I give myself one star. Half a wormy apple. Do not recommend.’
He laughed but brushed it all away, slightly embarrassed. ‘I know. I’m sorry. It was a stupid question.’
‘No, no.’ She said. ‘It’s just… can one really declare themself bad or good at it? So much of it, it seems to me, is circumstance. It depends on the mood, if there’s chemistry, and do you want to be there… If you both want to be there. You know what I mean?’
‘But also. I have this weird thing.’ She was suddenly very serious. Contemplative, almost. She looked back up at him. ‘I was born without nerve endings in my lips.’
‘Yes. So if you were to kiss me… I wouldn’t feel a thing.’
He slowly leaned in on all fours, and very gently kissed her on the lips. And then, just as slowly, he pulled away to check.
‘See?’ she said, shaking her head. ‘Nothing. I felt nothing.’
‘Let me try again.’ He repeated the gesture.
“Nope.’ She shrugged. ‘It’s tragic, really.’
They both smiled. And then they were both still.
And then he leaned in and kissed her for real. And she kissed him back.
‘My God.’ She said. ‘I’m healed!’