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I'm sleepless at Gate 72C.

The restaurant I wanted to take Pope to was closing. It was one of those cozy hipster hangouts that transported me straight to Shoreditch, minus the jolly chop chop of British conversations.

He was unfamiliar with the area, which I found quite surprising, since it was one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Paris. We climbed on top of one of the arched-cat bridges to see both sides of the Canal. It was a hot, uncomfortably sticky evening, we were still odd with one another: it had to be a quiet terrace. After a few minutes walk, we spotted a hive of people on the corner of a street and decided to stick with it. Better to stuff our mouths than to continue babbling emptily about what we did that weekend.

It took over a year to get here, but that's how it works. It took us miles and months to walk a few hundred metres in fifteen minutes to sit down and touch knees. It took us space and time. And now it was effortless, like a ball rolling downhill.

But most importantly, it took a few words of honesty.

We bumped into each other the night I met Lucifer. I saw Pope in the crowd, at one point, we were even back to back, but we avoided contact. And then I saw Brooklyn and the friend whose swank party we had debauched and I turned to Laydi and told her I wished I could disappear. I met Brooklyn back in Beirut when he was visiting Pope. I had only met him briefly, both times at the airport, but enough to have given the two room to discuss our relationship, they were close, so close in fact that if you threw them into a closet, they could stay there for days, happy. I always had the feeling that he did not like me...much...and he had somehow helped the disintegration of the relationship.

Our eyes met. Brooklyn's face lit up with suspicious over-enthusiasm.

"Salut! T'es à Paris? Putain, ça fait longtemps!"

Earth, swallow me now. I was certain that small talk would follow and I would not find a graceful distraction to save me in time...

...and then Pope appeared. Brief hello. Insignificant news. Dispenser details. A leaf is falling somewhere, would you look at that.

"C'est quand ton Big Day?"

"Fin de Septembre."

"Oh, je serai sur Paris, je viendrai te féliciter."

"Ah bon. On s'est pas vu pendant toute la durée de ton séjour, et là t'as envie de me voir..."

"Come on, I still care..."

"Même si on n'est pas sur, comme tu m'as dit, same wavelength?"

"C'est vrai qu'on se comprend jamais. Faute de mélange de langues, surtout quand on envoie des textos!"

"Tu veux me dire que pendant tout les trois mois qu'on est sorti ensemble on s'est jamais compris?!"

"Bein, presque. Je me souviens bien des moments où j'étais tellement frustrée car je ne comprennais pas ce que tu me disais par téléphone, ou quand tu ne lisais pas entre les lignes de mes messages..."

And we did not stop talking.

The misunderstanding beneath my house.

"I thought you knew where I lived...and then you told me "je ne suis pas comme ça", I wasn't sure what you meant by that...and all of you were laughing in the street, looking at my messages on your phone..."

"J'avais vraiment envie de te voir, si non, je n'aurais pas t'envoyé un message...on était bourré, on rigolait du fait que j'étais en bas de toi, mon ex..."

The short fling between me and Sobriquet.

"Dites-moi que vous étiez amoureux, mais c'était juste pour baiser quoi. T'as voulu me chercher. C'est mon ami quand même..."

"I didn't think he'd tell you. What an asshole. For what it's worth, I regret it. It was pointless."

The never-calling him back after his friend's party.

"I was embarrassed..."

"Il faut que tu restes un peu en France! T'avais honte? De quoi? Tu n'as pas encore vu comment les gens boivent ici?"

"...and besides, you were being mean to me the whole evening. About my hair, my shoes. You even told me, "Personne ne te regarde". That wasn't really nice."

"Moi je t'ai dis ça? C'était pour te dire que tu peux te détendre, que voilà, sois à l'aise."

The break-up.

"Je n'ai jamais voulu te faire mal"

"Tu te souviens de la dernière fois qu'on s'est vu? On n'avait rien à dire! C'était l'horreur...après les trois mois de tout ce qu'on a eu, de n'avoir rien à dire...ça m'a marqué ce soir là...je ne te trouvais plus le même..."

"C'est toujours délicat ce temps après. Comment réagir? Comment garder des bonnes relations? Je ne voulais pas te faire plus de mal..."

"And from my side, I didn't want you to think that I wasn't over you, but if I was trying to prove it to you, it would look like me trying to prove something that is false, and if I didn't get in touch with you, you would think that I was getting over you...ahhh..."

That we should see each other more often. Hang out. Dance. Talk. Eat.

Our knees were touching. He excused himself. I didn't budge. It's only boney knees, slimy cartilage.

He ordered my wine for me, a glass of Alligote, arranged for a change to a better table once the other couple was ready to leave, called the waiter by his name, joked around, called me Mademoiselle, and halfway through my ratatouille I remembered why I once liked this guy and why I was glad to be able to like him again.

With the elephant out of the room, conversation was flowing, forks in mid air, neatly cut up parcels of food cooling down, plates half finished, wine order, encore, "Jacques, deux verres, s'il te plait", santé, a nod here, a nod there, mirroring, smiling, preening, point of emphasis, a hand, a finger, pokes to emphasise the point of the anecdote on the upper arm, shoulder, slap on the thigh, touching, and coming to realise that we were  flirting, measuring the distance, offsetting the limits inch by inch.

"Ils sont là tes amis?"

"Oui, je crois, on a dit vers 23:00...tu veux rester avec nous?"

"Je ne suis pas venu pour les voir."

"Ok, comme tu veux"

One of the guys was already waiting for me, sitting on the bank of the canal, hunched over his sketchbook, headphones blocking out the world, pencil lines deliberate...

We sat down for two beers and a glass of wine, quelque chose un peu plus sucré pour Mademoiselle. We sat at the edge of the row of tables, beneath a street light, they spoke in French, one faster, the other with pronounced last letters, and I listened to the calm patting of peaceful hands building a sand castle for the sake of raising up a white flag high enough to announce a safe place...

The other two were two hours late. Drunk, lost and shirtless, and still eager for adventure seconds. I had to go home, finish packing, and for once, I'd choose the easy way to go home. No walking, no Velib, no running after cabs, no skidding through the tunnels to catch the last fish about to slip through the labyrinth... Paris looks different through the windshield. It shrinks to half its size, especially at night, when you drive beneath the surface of oily tungsten yellow, its clingy film hiding the upper floors from your sight, the unknowns multiply, the streets divide amongst themselves until there are four: the dark, the lit, the full, the empty.

"Regardes, il y a même un espace pour stationner..."

He squeezed his car in front of the large archway that led to my house.

"Bon, I had a wonderful evening, I'm glad we're back to normal, on se vera quand je revienne..."

I kissed his two cheeks.

"Ne m'embrasse pas comme ça..."


I was tempted to let the night unroll, like a wallpaper of beautiful, golden, intricate motifs repetitive in a continuous crimson sea. But it wouldn't be one of those nights were we'd spend the hours talking until we'd both fall asleep one next to the other, someone's head on someone's lap or shoulder. It would be one of those nights we could possibly regret, one of those decisions we'd wish we didn't take. Were it inevitable, it would have happened, but at this exact moment it felt too...scripted.

Nights like this should come easily.

I kicked off my shoes and the phone buzzed.

"Putain, il y a plein des flics..."

"Alors t'as peur des flics!?"

"Il avait l'air méchant"

"Fais pas un accident"

"Mais bon je suis passé à travers. Moi je suis cool c'est eux les salope"

"Ouais, ouais, t'es toujours...cool. C'est un don ;)"

"Et t'as l'air de l'apprécier de plus en plus"

"Tu n'as pas perdu ton charme. Ca te dérange si je l'apprécie? Je crois pas!"

"Non, continue"

"Il y avait vraiment des flics? Dimanche soir?"

"Oh que oui et plein ils arrêtaient tout le monde"

"Je pensais que t'étais créatif..."

"Si je suis toujours la c'est que je le suis..."

"Là où exactement?"

"Dans ma voiture à t'écrire"

"Mais tu conduis pas, j'espère..."

"Pas devant chez toi, et si je conduis"

"C'est dangereux."

"Je vais te texter après. Me fait pas des bisous comme cela, pour me dire on se voit quand tu rentre..."

"Tu veux dire?"

"C'est cruel"

"Hahaha, me taquine pas, c'est cruel vu que t'es vers Alésia"

"C'est toi qui me taquine. Presque chez moi"

"Ah oui, c'est loin..."

"A 10 min"

"De moi? De toi?"

"De nous"

I made sure he was home and in bed. Only then would the night come easily if he made the effort to go all the way back to see me.

Goodnight Paris, with fire, the works, and all.

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