Voilà, an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The Pandemic Year in Paris. A-Coming-of-Retirement-Age Memoir. It’s a flashback to the beginnings of a memorable, thrilling, romantic adventure:
“Today is the second anniversary of meeting Trocadéro Man via Tinder the day of my arrival in Paris in 2018. Too embarrassed to reveal this detail to friends and family, this scion of a prominent Parisian family concocted a story I validated about our meeting on the advice of a mutual friend I supposedly met at a party in New York a few days earlier. Trocadéro Man’s Tinder presentation, with an array of photos similar to mine—on sandy, Mediterranean beaches, skiing on snow-blanketed slopes, leaning languidly against ancient ruins, nattily dressed (in a suit and tie and wearing a shirt whose French-cuffed sleeves peeked an appropriate half inch from his jacket sleeves)—was appealing. I thought this signaled that he was my kind of guy. So different from the hordes I had left swiped: late middle-aged men who erroneously consider wearing wife-beaters or lounging shirtless an enticement.
Trocadéro Man was professionally accomplished, loved music and nature, and was proud of his children. That evening, he invited me to the Russian Cultural Center for what turned out to be more an adult talent show more than a music and dance cabaret. We rendezvoused on the Left Bank side of the nearby pont de l’Alma. I arrived first and identified him at a distance, strolling with carefree confidence from the Right Bank. He wore a navy cashmere coat and a brown fedora that he wore pretty much year-round except in the most oppressive heat of summer.
Trocadéro Man smelled like springtime and fresh laundry, spoke English, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian, was easy to talk to, and seemed to find my snide remarks about the entertainment amusing. We dined afterwards at a café across Avenue Rapp, sharing a salad, and each ordering a fragrant, steaming bowl of pumpkin soup and a cosmopolitan. When he asked me what I wanted to drink, I, always erring on the side of modesty, declared that water was fine, but he ordered a cosmo, and I said I’d like one, too. Since cosmos were the drink of choice for the Sex and the City ladies, and perhaps also because they’re pink I, had always pegged them as a chick drink. So, I was surprised this charming and accomplished businessman/engineer/mathematician/pilot/philanthropist ordered it. I would have expected a smoky scotch or a glass of Viognier or a Cab. But I liked that he did as he pleased.
I admired his untroubled, child-like impulsivity, but in retrospect, I’m pretty sure it was more a manifestation of rank having its privileges. He impressed me as intelligent, perceptive, and spiritual. I accepted his invitation to go horseback riding in the Rambouillet Forest on Sunday, desperately hoping the year of refresher English-seat riding lessons I had recently taken back in Purgatory, Indiana, where my day job is, prepared me adequately. As it turned out, barely.
On the following, dismal, misty Sunday, he picked me up on the rue Mouffetard, where I stayed in Spring 2018, a meandering street dating back to Roman times now lined with food shops, crepe stands, and boutiques. I climbed behind him onto his moto, a familiar experience I had missed since my divorce two years earlier; motorcycle adventures had been one of our great pleasures. I clenched the passenger handles below my thighs as he whisked us to his mother’s gardien-protected property south of Paris to borrow her car so we would not be drenched before our riding adventure began.
A petite, welcoming, raven-haired woman with enormous, kindly, blue eyes, Mother had prepared lunch for us. Well, this was a first: meeting Prospective Boyfriend’s mom on the second date! Afterwards, I borrowed her oiled cotton jacket and we headed to the stable in her shabby Renault.
There, I mounted a petite Landais appropriately named Rodin. I had never heard of a horse named after an artist, and I doubted either the stable owners or Trocadéro Man knew that in the mid-1980s I had curated an Auguste Rodin exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum. An expert equestrian, Trocadéro Man took off ahead of me, but soon slowed so we could ride side-by-side. He transferred his reins to his outside hand, removed his glove and reached out to me and I, understanding the intent behind the gesture, did the same. First physical contact. We held hands as our horses sauntered through the forest, sheltered from the light rain by a canopy of trees.
“Isn’t this romantic?” he asked.
“Yes,” I cooed.
After an hour, we dismounted at a crossing by a centuries-old stone marker, and he drew me towards him. His firm, gentle embrace warmed me inside and out. We stood there for a timeless, silent moment, feeling the contours of each other’s backs for the first time and our rapidly beating hearts through our thick clothing. My head nestled against his chest. It was one of those perfect instants when time stands still. Then, he pulled his head back, looked into my eyes, already shouting ‘yes, yes!’, and kissed me. A wonderfully gentle, yet passionate, kiss in the misty rain in the middle of the Rambouillet Forest.”
Intrigued? Details of how this adventure unfolded are revealed my book. Stay tuned!