Once upon a time, in a city that could be considered magical, in front of a bar just like any other, a boy turned to a girl and said, “You’re speaking English, are you American?”
And that’s how the story of us began.
Killer opening line, right? Direct and to the point. Seriously though, all kidding aside, it was so organic that it actually worked. There was no eye-rolling amongst my friends (“ugh, this guy is sooo hitting on us”) and only a little awkwardness (“it’s an Irish pub, of course we’re speaking English”). And then that was it. Or rather, that could have been it. Fortunately, you know this story has a happy continuation.
After he bid us goodnight and turned back to his friends, I turned back to mine and said, “He was cute!” My friend Briana, boldly loving soul that she is, pushed me in his direction. “Well, go talk to him then!”
I shook my head. Not this time, I thought. I’m a chaser- I like to be the one in pursuit, I like the game, I like the butterflies and the feeling of something shiny and new. But it never ended well for me like that, and I was sick of it.
“No,” I told her. “If he wants to talk to me, he’ll come back and talk to me.”
Of course, I knew I couldn’t rely simply on that; sometimes we all need a little push in the right direction. So I shot a few looks in his direction. He would later tell me that after his friend intercepted the first one, he said something that translates along the lines of “Dude, she’s got the hots for you.” After a few pointed glances, he and his friends brushed past me and mine to go get more drinks inside, and I flashed a full-on smile, which is not something you do in Paris- the default facial expression is a scowl lest you encourage any creepers to prey on your positive demeanor. He smiled back before disappearing into the crowded pub.
“See?” Briana nudged me. “He’s not gonna come back. You lost him.”
I shrugged, and repeated, “If he wants to talk to me, he’ll come back.”
A few minutes later, he was back, friends in tow, beer in hand.
He turned, however, to Briana. A bit startled, but not fully disappointed as I had no investment in this he-looks-she-looks flirtation, I began to chat with his friends. Soon, though, the interaction had progressed to where I was talking only to him, his friends excused themselves to go home, my friends Lindsay and Briana disappeared into the bar to find their bartender friends, and my buddy Remy was left outside with us, knowing that he would soon excuse himself too, but not before the boy bought us both another drink.
The next few hours passed in a blur of dancing, kissing, but mostly talking. I learned he was from Marseille and had studied abroad in Sweden during his time at engineering school, and he wrapped his arms around me to ward off the cold and told me I was beautiful. I twirled most of the way back to Lindsay’s place after they finally pulled me away from him when the bar closed around 5am.
One year and five days ago, I met a boy.
One year and three days ago, he sent me a Facebook message asking me out for later that week. Problem was, as an au pair I often babysat on Thursday nights, which I told him, but I was free tonight. Did tonight work for him?
A few hours later we were shoulder to shoulder at a little jazz cave on the rue de Rivoli, sneaking glances at each other and unable to keep the smiles from creeping onto our faces. We watched the sketch artist next to us render each of the musicians on paper and tried not to kiss each other while in such an intimate music space.
One year and two days ago, I was sitting on my bed at my apartment grinning ear to ear as we texted about how much we were looking forward to our impending date on Thursday- after the success of the previous date, I had asked my host parents if I was expected to babysit on Thursday and had gotten the go-ahead to plan something with him. I was still hesitant about falling too quickly, but this guy seemed like the real deal.
One year ago today, I sat on the couch in his apartment next to him, a book of chords and lyrics in front of us and a guitar in his hands. We went through the whole book, and he played and I sang every song I knew.
One year ago today, I sat on the barstool of a bar that was just downstairs from his apartment, bumping knees and chatting with the owner, who made us killer cocktails and told me “Bienvenue au bar” at least fifteen times. It was there that he turned to me and said straight up, “I want you to be my girlfriend.” And that was when we became us.
One year minus one day ago, we were taking goofy selfies in his bathroom mirror after a dinner date and lamenting the fact that he had to go home to Marseille for the weekend to celebrate his brother’s birthday. He loves his family, of course, but we both knew this would be the beginning of something wonderful and wanted to savor every moment possible.
Fifty weeks ago, we sat on those same barstools, glasses of champagne in hand because it was my birthday, and he leaned over to my ear and told me he loved me. I had been wondering a few days before if he was going to say it this soon, and decided it would be okay if he did, because I could say it back and mean it. So I told him I loved him too, and we smiled at each other contentedly as the bar owner topped off our drinks.
Ten months ago, we stepped off the train together in Marseille to celebrate his and his sister’s birthdays with his family. I was nervous- about my French, about whether or not they would like me, about meeting the extended family that Sunday. But they welcomed me with open arms, opened their home to me, and didn’t seem to mind if I wasn’t terribly chatty and amused myself by playing with the dog.
Eight months ago, after finishing my stint as an au pair, he came to my apartment to help me move my large and heavy suitcases to his place, where I was moving into. Most of my important stuff was already over there- basic clothes and all of my electronics- but now it would really be official, us living together. Truth be told, at that point I spent far more time at his apartment than at mine (better company, better wifi and closer to the metro) so it made sense, and fortunately it has kept making sense for the past eight months, despite our mutual messiness and the sheer amount of stuff we packed into a tiny apartment.
Four months ago, I officially renewed my visa for another year, so we are assured to be together in Paris until at least November. After that, who knows? But I can’t imagine living without this man, so whatever happens, we’ll try to make it work.
One year ago today, I said yes to a boy who asked me to be his girlfriend, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Even though you don’t believe this counts because we’re not married, happy anniversary, my love.