When you go far away from home, you end up making carbon copies of your life and relationships. You recreate habits with people that remind you of home, and you suddenly are behaving as if you have a relationship with this complete stranger in front of you.
One person at Cannes described a relationship with a woman who kept following him:
“She just follows me everywhere and it reminds me of this girl in high school who was the same way. I see the same obsession.
I had only been with two women at that point in my life. You know,
really, I didn’t have much experience- and those two were over 4 years
apart, or so.
And she sat on my face.”
He continued, “Yeah, I bet you didn’t see that one coming. She sat
on my face and it was the most disgusting smell and (eugh!) . .. the
same suffocating taste comes back 24 years later to haunt me.”
I wasn’t much better with Portland.
Poor Portland was still enduring flirtatious texts from me, coupled
by the odd, hostile drunk text. I would apologize in the morning, and
eventually I said, “There is no excuse. I am an asshole.”
He chippered a “Hey, thanks!”
And we both laughed.
I was insistent on proving that my affection for him were noble and texted things like:
“I would learn to cook for you”
Me: “Things like meat.”
Portland: “Not good enough.”
As with any joke, I kept texting and texting until he stopped . . . and I kept going.
Me: “Can we hold hands?”
Me: “Naked, on top of each other?”
I was pushing and stopped when it became evident that he did not want
to play. He wasn’t Abe who sedately took what I dealt him. I had to
just stop texting like I was at home, with an ex-boyfriend 38 miles away
who knew my conversation would swing unpredictably, and engage when it
was foreplay then disengage when it got bitter.
It was a bad habit I had to break, anyway.
Sitting with our supervisor, who was this 50-yr-old happy-go-lucky type but with a razor fine sarcasm:
Supervisor, “[Portland], [StarFire] looks like the fraternal twin to
this guy named Jeremy I know. Sweet disposition. Smokes a little bit too
much ganja . . .”
Portland, “That’s one thing they have in common.”
Me, “Yeah, not sure about the sweet disposition part with this one.”
Supervisor, “That’s hard to believe.”
Portland, “She’s brutal.”
Supervisor, “Really? Why?”
Me, “I don’t know. Probably sexual tension.”
Supervisor, “Yeah, I do feel the heat between you two. Its intoxicating. Intense.”
Me, “I know. It’s very difficult.”
Supervisor, “The conflict of attraction. Mixed messages.”
Me, “Lots of conflict. I just don’t know what to do with myself.”
Portland, lowly, “You have no idea.”
A man passed by and glanced at me, just a millisecond too long.
Supervisor, “Did you see that man look at you? Hey . . . when you got it, you got it.”
Portland, “You’re playing with fire.”
So, I tried telling everyone I was hot for Portland. Everyone was supportive of it . . . except for Portland.
Karisma asked him about it one morning, and when I asked what he
said, she told me that I am, in some ways, “a glutton for punishment”
and should find a man who “appreciates the kind of woman” I am, “like
Frank had swung by to visit me at our office. He had various
meetings, but would stop by in between to invite me to hunt for free
drinks and appetizers at the foreign pavilions.
Karisma’s reading of my personality was so dead on, I thought
Portland had told her details I confided in him just days before about
Abe and my father. Later, I realized, Karisma was just very good at
reading people’s personalities. Not just ‘very good’, that’s an
understatement, frighteningly brilliant.
she followed up this heart-to-heart with a “And after all, [Portland]
is a man and has a certain kind of woman he responds to.”
The truth was tart. I was too aggressive. Too forward. Too loud and
always in the center of all the attention. Nothing would change that,
and in my mind, this was misread as a label: “Mistress Material: DO NOT
Then, Portland went to a red carpet screening with a tall, blond,
beautiful student. I was tipsy from visiting the Hungary Pavilion a few
too many times, and took the bus home with Sandals and Karisma. Now, it
was raining in Cannes. I turned to face the window on the bus so no one
could see me crying.
you know, and I know, that I didn’t know Portland enough to cry about
him. It was the symbology of it in my mind, I failed. I failed at
getting this one man to fall for me and it meant that I was damaged
goods. Just like what my father said to me on the drive up from Staples
the week before. “Too much emotional baggage.”
I was exhausted and Sandals said to me, “I don’t like you when you
drink. Your eyes get glazed over and you’re all over the place.
Seriously . . .”
I said, “Ok. Am I moody, is that it?”
He said, casually, “No. Its just harder to talk to you. You aren’t the witty, sharp woman I enjoy to banter with.”
I said, “Ok. Ok. I get it.”
He said, “You really shouldn’t drink before 7pm, as a rule.”
I said, “OK. I GET IT!”
He said, “Ok.”
I said, “You aren’t the first to say this to me, alright. I know. I can be difficult when I drink.”
Abe hates it when I drink.
Among strangers, it’s fine. Its when there is a level of intimacy,
perhaps I get defensive. Maybe I am less open, less compassionate, and
less myself. More unpredictable, more hyper and more of an entertainer
to everyone in the room. I really don’t know.
What I do know is that night, I slept for several hours and when I
woke up, I didn’t care about Portland or his blond date anymore. In
fact, my attraction had completely self-destructed overnight.
The body heat. The tingling thighs. The hunger to catch him looking
at me from the corner of my eye all vanished, and I was once again, a
That is how I knew it was never about Portland, it was always about the ghosts I was carrying in my luggage.
The next day, it was still raining in Cannes, and I loved it anyway.
Cannes wasn’t cold when it rained. It was warm, perfect and romantic.
the movie theaters were the perfect temperature. There was no ice cold
air conditioning blowing on you for hours. Everything was comfortable
and I didn’t have to bring a jacket to dress for inside, as well as out.
Sandals and I wanted to see Michael Haneke’s film ‘Amour’ opening
night. I don’t know why I was hard pressed to see it at the time, but we
all kind of were.
Portland, Karisma, Sandals and I tried for the first showing, and we
all mobilized from the entrance, up the stairs, across the hall to the
We waited in the rush line, which is a line for people with passes
but no tickets. We had our passes to the market and festival, but
without a ticket- we were not guaranteed a seat unless some ticket
holders didn’t show up. Only then are people from the rush line are let
in to fill those seats.
We were turned away.
We tried a second screening for another movie. Up another staircase.
Back outside in the rain. Back inside. Up another staircase. Wait for
Me (in the reflection of the steel elevator doors), “I look like shit.”
British Journalist, “You look lovely.”
Sandals, “Don’t feed the monster.”
Elevator is here. Up another staircase. Another screening. Turned down.
The four of us gave up for an afternoon screening and decided to have
beers at a local cafe. They were playing jazz, very low, from the
speakers behind the bar.
After the cafe closed, as they close late in the afternoons before dinner service, we broke off into our own little paths.
and I stuck together for another go at the evening showing of ‘Amour’. I
was in a nice dress for the red carpet, and tights- but had my leopard
print converse on. My heels were in my bag.
The rush line was on a narrow red carpet, off the side of the Grand Théâtre Lumière.
Everyone had umbrellas up, but I was so tall, they kept poking me in the side of the face.
When the line started moving, and it looked like we were going to get
in, I pulled out my heels and realized I had big holes in the feet of
my stockings. Well, I couldn’t wear those with open toe heels, so I
asked Sandals to hold me as I peeled off my wet tights. Then I
remembered, I wasn’t wearing any underwear.
It was a short skirt too. Why don’t I troubleshoot?
So, I braved it. One of the security guards was a beautiful, tall
blond boy who kept his eye on me as we waited. He was way too young for
me . . . or at least I thought so at this point in the trip. His eyes
were kind, held mine and he allowed me to pass into the theater with
I grabbed his forearm and squeezed as I walked by. I just needed to touch one.
Sandals and I trudged up the wet red carpet, showed our badges and were led into a side theater, up and above the Lumière.
We took pictures of ourselves and I said, “Don’t you think we act like a couple sometimes?”
He said, sharply, “Definitely.”
And that was the end of the discussion.
I leaned up against him in the theater. I was wet and in a small dress.
The film was so good, I had to hold on to something, so occasionally I grabbed his arm.
When I talk about the film ‘Amour’, I want you to know what it was
for me was an experience. Its a movie you have to sit in and endure for
two hours, before finding yourself in this forgotten, French apartment,
with this fragile and deteriorating elderly couple. You wait and sit
there through their breakfast, through their showers, through their
growingly difficult exercises to walk and speak and you will be brought
to a holy end.
Some got up and left within the first half hour. With no patience,
you don’t deserve that experience. You, as an audience member, are not
allowed in their romance, and, therefore, do not have the privilege of
seeing where, in your mind, the film can take you.
The house lights went up, and I was weeping.
I was the only one weeping.
I didn’t care. It felt great. I sat there and cried. Occasionally, I laughed at a joke made at my own expense.
Sandals tried to be whatever I needed in the moment, as we discussed the opus of an ending.
Then I cried again.
I saw a distinguished man across the aisle with white hair. He looked
up at his phone to offer a brief but genuine smile, then returned to
Sandals and I exited the theater and stood underneath a tarp outside the main entrance, erected to keep people dry I suppose.
strangers crammed in underneath the tarp, languages from around the
world spun around me with cigarettes so close, I worried they would burn
Then I started crying again.
Sandals looked back at me and smiled, a big smile.
Sandals, “Do you want a glass of wine?”
We ran in the rain to a hotel at the end of the main drag, where
people often refer to “Old Cannes”- though I was never clear where that
Sandals said, “There are restaurants up here, if you like. Or we
could just take a cab from the hotel. You can’t wave down taxis here,
they have to call them for you.”
His umbrella was continually blown inside out.
He grumbled, “Come on! You aren’t going to make it if you keep flipping.”
Then he would flip the umbrella right side up again.
We got inside the lobby of the swanky hotel on the corner. I had
changed back into my leopard print converse, since it was too windy and
rainy for heels. At least, for me.
night staff at this ritzy hotel kept laughing at my feet, but I really
didn’t fucking care. I just came back from Haneke country.
Sandals said, “Do you just want to get a drink here?”
I said, “Yeah, that sounds good.”
He spoke in French to the concierge and they directed us up to the top floor bar.
Just before the elevator doors closed, all the employees stopped to look at my shoes. I waved back at them.
We got to the top of the building and entered a very chic restaurant,
and were promptly directed to an almost empty bar. The room was
circular but the glass was still covered in blanket after blanket of
raindrops. There was a television screen on the ceiling.
went to the bathroom while I ordered a glass of wine. He returned and
got a much more exotic drink, he suspected was made virgin, without
We saluted our drinks.
He said, “To us. In another time and place, who knows?”
I said, “Cheers.”
I liked Sandals. I liked Sandals for being comfortable with all the
fucked up things we talked about, for making me feel pretty but
untouchable, for making me laugh when I was crying, for starting
conversations out with things like, “You may not know this about me, but
I only have one testicle.”
Me, “Why would I know that about you?”
Sandals, “I don’t know, but I lost it in the 8th grade.”
We exchanged secrets, casually, without judgement.
I have notebook pages of our transcribed conversations, but even with
these aliases on my anonymous blog, I question which sections of brutal
honesty I can include and which I have to close and use for later,
under more masks and more curtains of obscured time and context.
That night, wet from the rain and disturbed from the film, we clung
on to each other’s conversation for warmth. To know and affirm what love
we see and identify with is real.
Sandals, “I was having a relationship with this ballet dancer. Not a committed relationship but we were having sex.
So right after having sex with her, I don’t shower, I don’t do
anything and go over to this virginal, beautiful, innocent girl’s
We get hot and heavy-"
Me, “With the virgin?”
Sandals, “Yeah- and I had just seen a doctor [and wasn’t sure if I
was clean or not. Turns out I was.] No big deal. But I had to tell her
about it before we went any further.
I thought I could keep going or come clean with her about it and I knew what her reaction would be.”
I asked, “What?”
Sandals, “She wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
Sandals, “So, I told her.”
Me, “And? What was her reaction?”
Sandals, “She didn’t want to have anything to do with me. But that
was the moment I became a man. That was the moment I realized what type
of person I wanted to be.”
I thought about all the men who bullshit me in Los Angeles, the men
who were cowards with their cocks, and the others who were vampires. All
my venom towards the young and old men, who tried to corner and
intimidate me, the ones who tried to make me feel sorry and responsible,
the ones that felt entitled and ungracious, and the others who tried to
plow their flag through me just so they could keep looking for more.
And in that moment, as I tried to ration my last few sips of house
chardonnay, I realized there are real men out there. One was sitting
across from me.
But . . . he wasn’t for me.
At the same time, I recognized, that I am the type of woman I am,
because that is who I have always wanted to be. Everything Karisma said
to me locked into place. I wasn’t Portland’s kind of woman because I was
constantly moving, constantly shifting and challenging, not to mention,
constantly pursued (at least for now).
I want men who make me shine, not ones who jump to stay in the shadows.
As Sandals said, “He wasn’t up for the challenge, and he had no idea what he was in for after that first night.”
We shared a thin chuckle, then quietly sipped our drinks.
Platonic though it was, it was my first romantic night of France. The
romance was in the rain, the wine, the film, the country and in the
warm conversation on a cold, Monday night encased in glass with someone
else’s husband. Whatever it was, whatever it is, it was a kind of love I
will never forget.