love being different
Part Four of the short story 10 Days in Paris
“So Matilde insisted that I have a REAL French crêpe.”
We were sitting in Louis’ living room. Louis was one of Matilde’s friends, and we’d come here after dinner to have some drinks before heading to a club. I was surrounded by Matilde and her friends, all of them curious to get to know the ‘friend from abroad.’ Thankfully, all of them spoke English.
“It was important to me,” Matilde said as she rummaged through her purse.
“Yeah, but that’s what you said about steak tartare,” I replied, “and the croissants, and the quiche, and the escargot.”
“Did you like it?” Loren, a pretty girl with perfectly cut blond hair, asked me. “The crêpes?”
“Yes!” I said, smiling at her. “I always thought of crêpes as snacks. I didn’t know you were supposed to eat two salty or savoury ones and then a sweet one. Because in THAT case… well, that makes a great meal!”
They all laughed. “She even drank cider with her crêpes.” Jacques said.
“Ugh. I left it in my other bag!” Matilde looked at me. She was clearly annoyed with herself.
“Always happens to me when I switch bags,” I told her. “I was at Musée Rodin today and I was sure I had some change in my purse. Turns out it was the OTHER purse. I ended up paying the 9 euro entrance fee with a 100 euro bill! I thought the lady was going to kill me!”
“Did you like Musée Rodin?” Loren asked.
“So you became an annoying tourist?” Matilde teased.
“Loved it!” I said to Loren. “The gardens were especially pretty. I think I spent the most time there.” Then turning to Matilde, “And I AM an annoying tourist, remember?” I was about to say more, but was interrupted by Louis, who was dancing with his girlfriend, Natalie, in the open space of the living room.
“Let’s go to the club!” he said for probably the eighth time that night. They’d warned me that he was hyperactive.
“He really wants to go to a club,” I commented.
A discussion had started in French, and Etienne, Matilde’s self-proclaimed best-friend who had stayed by me most of the night, began to translate. “They’re discussing which club to go to,” he said. I nodded my head.
“Thanks for translating,” I said.
“No problem. I speak the best English. It makes sense for me to be the one to do it. Also, I wouldn’t want you to feel left out or lost.”
“Thanks. I hope it doesn’t feel like you’re babysitting, though!”
He laughed. “I’m not babysitting you. I’m taking care of you. You’re Matilde’s good friend. I’m happy to do it.”
Matilde, who had joined Louis and his girlfriend to discuss the club situation, danced over. “Ready to check out a club?” she asked.
“Sure!” I replied. “Where is it?”
“Pigalle,” she said. “In the east of Paris. Near Moulin Rouge. Sketchy neighborhood, but fun!”
“Okay… what do you mean sketchy?”
“Uh, if you’re a girl, don’t walk around alone late at night. Who knows what will hit on you!”
We all got up and collected our things. On the walk from the restaurant to the apartment the weather dropped significantly, and having only brought a cardigan, I was far from prepared.
I wonder if I can ask Natalie for a scarf or a sweater. Hardly know her though.
“Everything okay?” It was Etienne.
“Yeah!” I said, smiling. “I’m just hoping this isn’t a long walk. It’s gotten a bit chilly.”
“We’re taking cabs,” he said as he took his scarf off, “but here.” He tied the scarf around my neck.
“Oh! No! Thank you! But I’ll be fine! I mean, if we’re taking cabs, then—“
“Keep it,” he said. “Keep warm.”
When we got to the club, Etienne and Jacques talked to the bouncer. We cut the line and quickly headed to one of the rooms on the ground floor. The floor in the room was sticky and the walls looked a little grimy. I instantly knew it was the kind of club that had disgusting bathrooms. BUT the music was good!
Matilde had found a spot near some couches. Not two seconds after I was half-sitting on the armrest of one of the couches, I felt someone slip their hand in mine. Attached to the strange hand was a creepy looking guy with a blue t-shirt and a hoodie. He said something to me in French.
“I don’t speak French,” I said and tried to take my hand back. He held onto it and gave it a kiss.
“I choose you,” he said.
More violently this time, I shook his hand off. “Thanks, but I don’t choose you.”
Matilde was laughing next to me. “Get used to it! He won’t be the only one to hit on you tonight! French men can be really aggressive. Like battling the Hydra! You cut down one head and two grow back in its place!”
“You girls want a drink?” Etienne asked.
Before either of us could answer, another guy was next to me, and he said hello to all of us in French. Matilde and Etienne looked at me. I looked at the stranger. “I don’t speak French,” I told him. He looked at Matilde and Etienne, shrugged, then walked away.
“Hey! It worked!” Etienne said. I smiled.
“Come on! Let’s get on the dance floor!” Matilde said. “You’re a sitting duck by these couches!”
As soon as we started dancing, I realized there was little difference. In fact, it may have been worse. Guys would get in between Matilde and me in an effort to catch our attention. One guy grabbed my hand and spun me. Another had to be shoved off.
Apart from the overly-aggressive men, the dance floor was so crowded and so full of people doing the weirdest dance moves that I was getting hit left and right. Within four songs, I had been punched in the arm, hit on the head, and gotten my feet stepped on as well as soaked with alcohol.
Is getting beaten up at a club part of battling the Hydra too?
I looked at Etienne. “This is ridiculous! I feel like a warrior! You have to fight to have fun!”
He just laughed then spun me himself, and in the process knocking me into some other dancers. “Welcome to Paris!”