Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Love and AIDS - Antoine, Mon Amour


Don't infuriate a girl waiting for love in Paris

Paris 1994. Maybe 1993 but pretty sure it was '94. That was a collapsed year in between frustration, a night mare and finally leaving the country heading home to New York in '96. I was taken for a ride in an old yellow Volvo by paramour Antoine de la Motte. Our love was unconsummated.
He had a yellow Volvo
He was tall, handsome, with dirty blonde hair and he adored me. Our day together after a blow out was a reconciliation of sorts since I had refused to speak with him for about a year.  Maybe two. In spite of a friend of his imploring me to come back over to his side I let it be known that I was infuriated by his shenanigans. Really if he wanted to speak with me at all he'd have to make an effort and grow up as hell would have to freeze over first before I played his stupid game again. And I meant it. He'd been playing with my heart in the City of Love a faux pas. We had met one day by chance in mon deuxiemme bureau Le Cafe de L'Industrie owned by my pal Gerard LeFlem who kept a fierce and watchful eye on me and all the other filles who stepped foot in the place or worked for him. To say he was protective was an understatement. I was a regular and we spent long hours talking.
I sat on the extreme left. Antoine reached through the window
He didn't approve of Antoine. I didn't know that at the time. As I sat  eating my salade by the window that opened out onto the side street suddenly there was a smile and an out stretched hand caressing my cheek through that window. It was Antoine. How funny. I didn't think much of it or at least told myself that. I see his face so clearly now. He walked away towards his apartment somewhere in the 20th, cigarette in hand and said he would call me or some such. I think he gave me his phone number on a cafe receipt. I thought no more about it. Eventually there was calling that began a frustrating series of encounters with someone who was definitely flirting with me hard over the phone but who somehow was always unavailable and distant once I appeared in the flesh. What was his deal?  He'd invite me to his home and when I arrived there was always another girl present. Our conversations were shallow. He was avoiding me even though he'd invited me. Weird. I was angry that he would waste my time and after a drink (if I even drank it) and chewing on some cocktail nuts I left. Retreating home I'd think WTF?  French men. Who knew what they wanted. It was a cat and mouse game that I was simply not up for. I let him know by letting him have it resoundingly when he dropped me home by car after another ridiculous evening. I remember him looking ashamed while dawdling with his cigarette. I told him in a high rage to never, ever, ever call me again. (He told me I was being too harsh. I told him I didn't think so). Much later he said that he found me absolutely ravishing when I was angry. A sign of love for sure.  As I get older it's nostalgic fun thinking of how I must have appeared to him with my green eyes flashing, my hair wild and chin turned upward. Proud and indignant.

Morrocan Style Wedding?

Purple is the color of choice for weddings
Now we were at a bar having a glass of absinthe or some such before he was taking me to a new Espagnol recently opened in the troisieme. He had tried to reach me when I had moved. Hadn't I gotten the messages he'd left for me at L'Industrie? (I hadn't. Gerard). I was open to talking now, my anger having cooled with his forthrightness and surprise return. I had a sense of forboding. He was going to open up and tell me the truth at last. About something.
That Parisian afternoon I was feeling like a Queen. I dressed in my most elegant exotic casual ensemble. Purple robe stitched with white (or perhaps it was gold) thread over an ankle length purple batik skirt from India. I had a lot of fun swishing in and out of the car as we drove around. Antoine had BIG blue eyes and was enjoying this low level flirting I was doing while I was not really flirting.

I was hopeful. He told me I shouldn't worry, that he had a good nose and he knew I was going to marry the guy il faut. Of course I thought he was referring to himself in the third person and that somehow this night was leading up to an ardent and clever marriage proposal. Finally we ended up at Le Cave St Gilles. That's when told me everything I already knew in my heart. We were sitting by an open window my back to the street the whole place painted Valentine red. I had thought about him from time to time wondering why two people who were so attracted to each other just couldn't get it together to get together. When I asked my heart I knew I was being spared. And so he began with just that thought. After telling me he had Le Sida (AIDS) he confessed that was the reason why he could never bring himself to be alone with me. He might dare with other women but jamais toi.  I was off limits simply because he would never be able to forgive himself if he infected me. He wanted me to know just how far he had gone in his minds eye imagining our life together living by the sea with two beautiful children. He wanted me to know just how far gone he was. Just how much I'd been a part of his dream. And he wanted to come clean with me. I listened as he confirmed everything.  My heart sighed a sigh and broke a little more. He was only 32 maybe 33. The perfect age to have kids.

Sacred Heart

The last time I saw Antoine was in his apartment near Sacre Coeur. I could see the cathedral from his bedroom window. He had a mattress on the floor and was still chain smoking those hand rolled jobs. We spoke and I remember becoming impatient with him. He told me of his illness in such a fatalistic way, it's progression, how he felt. I felt like he was giving up. He was so fragile emotionally. He had nothing but tender feelings for me always. Why couldn't I be the same? I left after a couple of hours not sure what to do, not wanting to cross the line. I left armed with his phone number and left troubled. My Antoine seemed to be dying. Some time passed and I called him. A woman's voice answered the phone and I asked for Antoine. She replied he wasn't there. I asked when he'd be returning. And that's when she told me he wouldn't be. He had died two months before. How I demanded? How? She explained that he had contracted pneumonia and rather than wait for the inevitable he injected himself with an overdose of heroin. He died dreaming. He is buried in a family plot somewhere in a region outside of Paris but I don't know where. Antoine how frustrated I was not being able to visit you and lay roses on your grave. You know I wanted to right? Today you came to me during a beach like atmosphere at twilight as I sat on the roof overlooking the city. It was still warm and the fog was about to roll in. We were sitting so close, you right behind me. I felt you so near and you telling me not to cry. Tears are hot. I miss what we never had. I hope that nose of yours is still working. xo 8/13/2013 Brooklyn

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