“Please write me a story about the French dude who dresses like he’s from a classic 80’s movie like the Breakfast Club, loves music (particularly the Drive soundtrack), and uses the French public bike system to get to the techno club every Friday to dance, or shall I say, kick-ball-change, alone. Except one Friday he sees me dancing alone at the techno club as well, and we kick-ball-change in unison…. Timeline can either span across the summer while I’m in Paris, or can cover our long distance relationship as well. Thnx bye.”
Sorry I write very stream-of-consciously and don’t plan out the stories. I just imagine it and write as I go, and after finishing and rereading the prompt, it might not have satisfied it exactly. Oops.
Let’s begin in medias res.
It smells like bread.
I’ve always wondered how a whole space or area could smell one certain way, like when you drive down the freeway with your windows open and all of a sudden, it just smells like Korean BBQ. How? I mean sure, maybe I just drove past the meat packing district or Ktown with restaurants galore, but still — how can a whole area just… smell like something?!
Whatever. It smells like bread. Bread and grass. But mostly bread.
I open my eyes and instantly regret it because the sun was harshly shining. Shutting them and turning over to my right to cope with the slight burning sensation/mild blindness that just occurred, I feel his hand on the top of my head.
“What are you doing, Jas?”
“Dude the sun. It burns. It burns like.. the.. sun.. hah.”
Eyes are still shut. His fingers wander aimlessly through my unwashed hair.
“I’ve heard that’s how the sun burns, but I could be wrong.”
Reactions/expressions/noises are produced by us both, ranging from giggles to chuckles to one of those pouty expressions you make when you’re like, “Ugh you’re the worst!” but you’re laughing because you secretly like it.
It still smells like bread. A baguette, to be precise. And grass, but only because when I turned over, my face got buried in the grass. Logical.
I open my eyes, half my vision clouded by green blades, the other half blinded by love.
Ok that was a little much.
His fingers have stopped moving through my hair, and I tilt my head up ever so slightly to catch a glimpse of him. His club master sunglasses shade his eyes but I’m pretty sure he’s just staring into the cerulean sky. He’s wearing the same faded seafoam green knit sweater that he wore the night we met.
I had traveled abroad to Paris for the summer of 2015, half because I was getting credits for UCLA and the other half because, well, it’s fucking Paris. I was about to enter my junior year of college, and I was going through a (less than) quarter life crisis, not just about my career path, but also about who I was as a person, an individual — what did I want to do that would satisfy my creative hunger as well as my integrity as a human, and how was I going to do it?
Now I want a baguette. With olive oil and balsamic. And parmesan.
I was never really the “OmG #WanDErLuST I wANt 2 TraVeL Da WOrLD” type, but I was kind of about carpe-ing that diem. At this point in my life, Paris sounded like the perfect solution to my current (United) state of affairs.
Plus, I was getting credits so yay.
My good friend Sara from UCLA came with me that summer, and we wasted no time trying to channel our “Americans in Europe Without Being Annoying Assholes” attitudes. We decided to check out the European night life one Friday night — I could hear Pete Tong’s voice in my head urging me to go to Wanderlust or Le Baron or Tunnel. I threw on some shorts and pulled my hair into a ponytail; it was hot as fuck and it was my first night out. I concluded that I would progress with my night life looks as the summer continued; tonight was my test drive, aka I didn’t want to try.
We decided on Le Crazy Horse and took the metro (01 47 23 32 32), unsure of what to expect, but sure that it couldn’t be any worse than the 18+ clubbing events we’d been going to in LA. We got off the metro and walked around, finally finding the Crazy Horse and saddling up.
It wasn’t like LA. I mean yes, no matter the continent, creepers are aplenty. I found myself saying “neigh” to the French men who wanted to sloppily do other French things with the “exotic Asian girl” that we were.
But it wasn’t like LA in regards to the scene. I’ve never been to a techno club (I mean technically EDM can be techno but this was like, legit techno, with the unce unce unce and everything else you imagine). There wasn’t much grinding, but instead, people just dancing together or even alone. It was weird.
Or a croissant. Fuck. It still smells like bread.
We bought a few drinks and looked around. The alcohol helped us loosen up, and around 2:36pm in LA, we both got hit with the feels of life; we were in Paris. At a club. Drinking things. With strangers dancing around us.
At that point in time, loose was let.
I closed my eyes and felt myself giggling and dancing like an idiot, letting the unce unce unce take over. The shorts and ponytail were probably the two best decisions I’d made in Paris. I was feeling the music and pretending to do old dance routines circa 4th grade, as the DJ played an overly electronic version of a Fosse song that elicited movements including, but not limited to, step-pivots, jazz hands and, of course, the kick-ball-change. As I was kicking and balling and changing, I took a second from giggling to breathe, open my eyes, and wipe the sweat off my face, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I turned to see a boy in a faded seafoam green sweater. It was 49424 degrees in the club. He was definitely Crazy for wearing that.
He leaned in to say something.
“Were you doing a kick-ball-change? Because your moves made me say kick-ball-dangggg and I had to come over and say hello.”
Did he seriously just say “kick-ball-danggggg”?
Sensing my evaluation of the current situation, he leans in again.
“I’m sorry, I don’t say things like that. I just assumed you were American and thought I would try out a cheesy pick up line that you Americans are so fond of.”
I should have been offended because that was kind of ignorant maybe but I foolishly got lost in the devilish curl of his lip as he smiled coyly. I shook my head and laughed, and we danced for a few minutes, trying to exchange words over the loud music — modern day courting at a club, obviously.
The grass is getting in my nose. I turn over onto my back. I want a bagel.
It was 2:12am when we walked out of the club. He told me to wait while he had to pick something up, and I took that time to take out my phone. I had lost Sara after meeting Louis (oh yeah, his name was Louis), but I had an unread text from her that she had gone home and saw that I seemed to be ok with Louis and to call her if necessary. The metro stopped running at midnight I think, and there were no taxis anywhere. My feet hurt, and I was pretty sure that my university was 30498 miles away.
Louis appeared with two bikes.
“Do you know how to ride a bicycle?”
“Not really. But it’s like riding a bike, right?”
“Oh I’m sorry, it’s American humor. See, when people talk about things that are difficult and they haven’t done them in a while, they say, ‘It’s like riding a bike!’ Yeah I guess you wouldn’t really get it… Sorry…”
“I’m just teasing you. You’re funny. Let’s go.”
That coy fucking smile.
We rode for what seemed like a hours, but it felt great. The crisp air brushed against my skin, and if my hair weren’t so sweaty and in a ponytail, I’m sure it would have been flowing cinematically as well. I wanted to extend my arms out dramatically, close my eyes, and inhale deeply, but I was not skilled enough on the bike to let go of the handlebars, so I just imagined it in my head.
Louis was intriguing. Louis wore a fucking sweater to a club. Louis pedaled all the way to my university with me, a stranger he met at a club. From that night, I knew we were meant to be.
Just kidding, that’s absolutely ridiculous.
He did, however, kick-ball-change my perspective on a lot of things that summer. From more nights at the clubs to stealing apples from a fruit stand with a really rude owner (that clearly justified our hijinks) to sitting at cafes and throwing straw wrappers at each other, Louis was a seemingly temporary figure who was making permanent changes in my life. He made me see myself a little differently. He made me understand my wants in life and in myself a little better. He made me realize that no, I might not actually be perpetually alone and unhealthily married to my work, whatever that work may be.
“It smells like bread.”
“Doesn’t it smell like bread? How weird is it that a whole area can smell like bread…? Did you ever have that sensation when you lived in America? Where a whole area just smelled like something?”
I smile as I open my eyes. The top of the Eiffel Tower made its way into the top left corner of my square-cropped vision of the cerulean sky. I inhale and close my eyes.
“Are you bready to go home?”
“….Did you really just say that?”