By the time they left the club, the metros had shut down for the evening and a soft rain had begun to fall. The decided to hop into a taxi passing down Rue de Rivoli.
He had been watching her dance inside La Scala with a group of her friends for quite some time. It wasn’t until she elevated herself onto a tall stage block to dance that she noticed him seated in a booth along the perimeter, though. They maintained eye contact until she finally came down. They went straight for one another. There were coy introductions and the false modesty. The minor language barrier didn’t deter them. They alternated between being on the dance floor and kissing in a booth till exhaustion and the thinning out of patrons, closing down of the place, took them outside. Her friends had long ago left to their hotel, and his workmates had long ago lost interest. They didn’t want to part ways yet.
She ended up in the back of a taxi with him. Little debate commenced over whether to drop her at her hotel on his way home. It was slightly muddled by slow communications, but she felt spontaneous and carried a certainty about her safety. She was also compelled by curiosity around how he lived, how his place looked. Wasn’t she here for this investigation and assimilation into the culture, after all?
She is seated in a chair at the end of a wrought-iron bed. In the daylight, she notes all the details missed when they came in. There is a rusty quality to the bed, and the old, hardwood floors creak dead giveaways. She would love to run out now and avoid any awkwardness. She remembers nothing of passing through the living quarters or greeting anyone. Now she is wide awake. And now it is dawning on her the predicament she is in. The smell of coffee is coming from the wakefulness of his mother. He is still sleeping like the dead.
His father had long ago passed, but he and his mother still shared a flat above a store they used to run. Such a quaint, old-world arrangement, she thought. Now they lease out the store, and his mother is retired. He is a pompier, a French fireman. Like American fireman, he works consecutive days on, then consecutive days off. He likes being around to care for his aging mother. ‘There hasn’t been a good woman nor a good reason to move out,’ he says. In America, if a guy in his twenties had invited her back to his place -his parent’s house, she would think he was a loser for still living at home. It is an entirely different matter in Latin-rooted countries, she knows. It was the understanding his mother would be asleep in near proximity that made her feel safe.
Now she doesn’t want to make her presence known without him beside her to buffer the thorny introductions. Who is this stranger coming out of her son’s bedroom? Also, does his mother speak any English? Her own French isn’t articulate enough to explain she didn’t actually have a one-night stand with her son, all the while donning a large t-shirt of his in the middle of their kitchen.
Much of the evening was a dreamy blur; stumbling through the dark, lying in the bed trying to share personal anecdotes neither could feel certain of. Both fell into exhausted sleep quickly. Honestly and truly, they did not have sex. Now, she must stir him alive to get out of here. She braves it, and they lie there briefly laughing a bit over how uncomfortable she feels. He seems nonchalant. It was all in genuine fun; nothing to regret.
The entire time they are in the kitchen drinking coffee, his mother never makes her way in. He must bring people home often, she considers. Curious voices don’t seem to draw a curious mom out. He walks her downstairs to the communal garden the tenants in the building share and says ‘Bye’ at the double, wooden and iron door that opens to the street. She is relieved when headed in the right direction towards her hotel, knowing how dangerous her choice to go with a stranger could’ve turned. The truth is, she had no doubt. Every spontaneous choice she’s ever made has turned in her favor. It is only the times she’s had doubts, and it will forever be the times she has doubt, that serve as a warning about someone or something.
Passing through her hotel lobby during the early morning hours, still in last night’s dance clothes, the attendants at the Welcome and Concierge desk watch her as she makes her way to the elevators. It’s funny to consider how ‘walk of shame’ translates.
The assumptions now made of her…
The places we get ourselves into…