A Perfect Time To Be In Paris
WARNING: contains adult content


It was supposed to be the perfect time to be in Paris. Indeed, the weather couldn’t have been better—sunny, sultry afternoons and long, cool evenings—but it was barely a month after the death of Lady Diana, and the pall cast by her tragic end as well as the layer of scarcely breathable smog hanging overhead dimmed and dulled the otherwise magical appearance of the City of Light.

I’d arrived hoping to escape an unpleasant feeling that had been hanging over my own head in much the same way, a feeling exacerbated by the recent departure of my lover due to an emotional restlessness, otherwise known as a change of heart, which Albert seemed to have undergone recently for no reason he could put his finger on other than that he needed “time away,” and the consequent knowledge that I was the object from which he was in need of temporal distance. Only to myself, and scarcely then, could I admit that it was the arrival into our enclosure of loyal friends of a certain Nick--a young Greek possessed of stupendous legs and torso, and closer in age than I to Albert--that had precipitated the beginning of the end for us, and that “time away” from me meant “time with” Nick on Albert’s part.

Whether Albert was aware of my knowledge of the real cause of his defection, I don’t know, but I do know it was to Paris I’d come in hopes of relieving myself of the burden of constant reminders of him, the way a car of a particular make and colour recalls the handsome neighbour who once lived on your street and drove such a car, and who returns now with all the vividness of an actual physical encounter merely by virtue of the chance appearance of just such a car; or, similarly, how the refrain from a dance hit of summers past is enough to evoke memories of that summer’s romance as its melody revives intangible reminders of the former loved one until you realize the feelings you held for him were never dead at all, but merely buried beneath a Herculean effort of self-willed forgetting.

It was all this I’d hoped to escape when I fled to Paris that particular September. I had not, of course, failed to remind myself it was a trip both Albert and I had looked forward to taking for the last year, as I lovingly described to him each place we would visit—the Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, the Champs Élysées, the Eiffel Tower, and, of course, the gravesite of my beloved Marcel Proust—all things we were to have experienced in our treks together around what is arguably the world’s most beautiful and perfect city.

For me, that trip should have been comprised of relaxed mornings spent in street cafés sampling delicate pastries and harsh beverages, pleasant afternoons contemplating the exquisitely erected buildings lining the grand avenues as well as the alabaster skin and striking faces of the men and women who strode along them, and the gleaming twilights—Proust’s `blue hour’—experienced like a silk scarf brushed lightly over the skin, a nightly fanning of casual strollers with the gentleness of a lover’s touch.

Albert and I were to have known all these things and savoured every nuance of our trip together, then returned home cherishing the memories like photographs carefully preserved as time hurtled their more real, more solid, counterparts ever onwards to oblivion. Instead, what I had encountered in my week there, apart from a few sordid bars where I had no interest in the other tourists hanging about in darkened corners, nor they in me, had been the underpass where Diana met her untimely death, with the remnants of a British flag flying sadly overhead. These, and the cimetière du Père-Lachaise with its other famous and infamous dead, including the graves of both Proust and Oscar Wilde, fellow queers and lovers of young men, as well as a consort of rough-looking male prostitutes, spectral guardians haunting the tree-lined pathways between the rows of stone chapels and graves, were all I had seen.

It was no use to run, for everything served to remind me of Albert—the turn of one young man’s thigh or the shade of another’s hair, a softly quavering laugh that recalled his own, even the smell of his favourite “frites” hanging in the air outside some local diner—colouring all I saw with grief at his invisible presence, just as Proust’s protagonists are always wallowing in jealousy over their lovers’ betrayals, or drowning in the reflection of love’s lost glories, reliving again and again the shadows of what they’d once experienced, tucked away in the heart’s memory as the burnished blush of sun on the skin of a grape is safely stored inside the bottle of a vintner’s best stock, to be uncorked and enjoyed at some supper ages hence when the warmth of the sun’s glow on that faraway day is long past recalling by all but the most loyal of Time’s memoirists.

Nothing offered respite from my feelings, no place to hide from the pain that had taken up what seemed to be permanent lodging inside me. Even sex hadn’t proved a panacea, for my sole attempt in that direction ended in dismal failure, though a failure in no part due to the pains taken by the young creature with whom I’d spent the better part of one of those frail afternoons with the sun highlighting the sills of the hotel windows as I caressed the ribbed flanges of his youthful body.

I met him in the Tuileries garden outside the Musée de l’Orangerie, one of a host of young skateboarders who’d shed his outer layers of clothing in order to take advantage of the fine weather and appreciative eyes of the erstwhile tourist, and even the occasional Parisian, who bestowed upon their young bodies the rapt gaze of a more inveterate age of Lust, and its urbane cousin, Desire. The boy insisted on calling himself Renoir, while we sipped coffee later in a sidewalk café. At first I suspected the name was born as a result of having fashioned himself after the desires of the easily-fooled tourist who would no doubt be generous of his flowing coffers in exchange for the likewise flowing kisses from the honeyed lips of this Gallic Adonis. I half-expected to hear him declare himself an artist who plied his bodily trade only to support his artistic ambitions, but indeed, when I asked his price, Renoir red-facedly insisted he was but a student and interested only in partaking of a mutually shared experience of love-making. These suspicions at the time stemmed, at least in part, from my fearing the impossibility of being truly desired by anyone ever again, and so when we returned to the hotel I was not surprised to find myself unable to fulfill his wishes, lying inert beside him while he roused himself to a furious passion. There was no denying the veracity of desire on his part—it was I who could not reciprocate his physical affections and ended up satisfying his needs orally, performing such ministrations as I could on his ample member till he was fully satiated. Afterwards he clung to me happily, whispering reassurances that it hadn’t been a problem, that he was pleased with my performance and didn’t require more from me. Oddly, it was only then, as Renoir playfully hugged me and kissed my cheek with such vehemence I was forced to push him away, that I clearly understood the truth of my desire.

“No more kisses, bébé,” I insisted, rejecting the efforts of this flawless cherub to prove his amorous intentions toward me, unwanted as they were at that moment, though at another time they might have been all I could desire. I made him dress quickly and we left the hotel exchanging hasty vows to “get together” later in the week. Thus freed, I rushed to the nearest métro and once again followed the circuitous route back to the gates of Père-Lachaise where the sun was already falling. I made my way past the grave of Jim Morrison where fresh cut flowers adorned the site along with the melted stumps of burned candles from some obsessive midnight ritual, farther along to the burial place of Edith Piaf, where a grey-haired man stood in solemn mourning. He looked up briefly and nodded. “Oui--elle et là,” he intoned, as though reassuring us both that she had indeed existed in bodily form after all, and only now could no longer resist his ardent devotions.

I hurried past toward that winged, emasculated gryphon proclaiming the gigantic tomb of Wilde, also betrayed at the hands of a beautiful young man many years earlier than myself. It was there I caught sight of my prey hulking off to one side of the path. I quickly caught up with him so there could be no mistaking my intention. He smiled and nodded as I approached, as though he’d been waiting for me. I noted that his face was heavily tanned and dirty. As well, his nose had been broken and a ragged scar snaked along the space between it and his upper lip. What’s more, he was older than he appeared from a distance. All of this pleased me now, whereas normally I would have experienced a pang of regret over the breaking of such an illusion.

“How much are you?” I asked, as if he were some sort of animal flesh I desired to purchase by the pound.

“It depends what you wish, monsieur,” he replied simply.

“I’ll pay whatever you cost if you do what I ask,” I assured him.

He paused, waiting for me to take the lead.

“Do you have a hotel? With a bed, perhaps?” he asked.

“No. I wish to do it right here,” I answered.

“Here?” Despite the inquiry, he did not seem surprised.

“Yes—here. Come with me.”

He shrugged and followed me down the footpath to Proust’s modest black grave marker, laid out horizontally like a bed and cut off from view by a somewhat larger stone edifice.

“Here,” I said, dropping my trousers and turning my back to him.

He came up behind me, taking my waist in both hands. The smell of something sweet, yet at the same time earthly and nauseating, filled my nostrils as he paired his stomach against my back. The skin of his fingers was rough as he caressed my sides in what I took to be a gesture of tenderness. I wasn’t interested in the foreplay and simply bent over, spreading my cheeks with my hands. His cock’s head probed delicately the entrance to my asshole, inserting itself partially once or twice, and then withdrew without entering me fully.

“Fuck me,” I commanded.

“But, monsieur, we must use a condom.”

“I don’t care about that. Just fuck me!”

He demurred and pulled back. Luckily, I remembered the condom stuffed in my pocket during the abortive escapade with Renoir that afternoon. I pulled it out and handed it to him without bothering to unwrap it. He peeled back the plastic wrapper and began to work its contents around himself. I bent over the marble tablet again, spreading my legs in anticipation. I heard him spit, and steeled myself as he put his member against my asshole.

“I am called François. What is your name, monsieur?” he asked softly, like a doctor attempting to divert his patient’s attention from a painful manoeuvre.

I pretended not to understand. For some reason, I didn’t wish to hear my name spoken aloud in the graveyard. He didn’t persist. “How do you like it, monsieur?”

“Hurt me,” I answered without thinking. “I want you to make me feel bad,” I declared, wondering if I’d gotten the nuances right in the French language.

I gasped as his cock pushed angrily inside me and filled my entire body with pain.

“Is it too big, monsieur?” he asked.

“No—do it,” I urged. “Just fuck me. Hard!” I braced myself against the stone and awaited François’s assault on my insides.

He fucked me just as I’d asked, banging away until I thought I’d have to tell him to stop, but my own cock was rigid and unflagging, aroused by the abuse, hating it but at the same time delighting in every muscular twinge and ache. I knew I would be sore the next day and possibly the day after that, but there was no way I wouldn’t hold out for as long as he continued to inflict sensation on my body, taking away some of the ache, the longing I felt for Albert that until then hadn’t ceased for a moment to cause me anguish.

“Nick,” I blurted out. “I want you—to call me—Nick!”

“Yes, Nick—I am fucking your beautiful ass!”

When François finally stopped, I realized he’d been asking something for several moments. It took me a second to decipher his French—he’d already come and wondered if I wanted him to continue his assault on my sphincter.

“No,” I said. “That was very good, François. Thank you.”

I allowed him to pull out of me and retrieved my trousers from where they flopped around my ankles.

“You are a very nice man, Nick,” he gushed, letting the used condom fall to the ground with a soft ‘plop’. After I paid him he made signs of hanging around, perhaps hoping I’d ask to see him again, or possibly just feeling happy with how well he’d performed. In any case, I wanted to be alone. “Leave me now,” I said. “Go away.”

He crept off into the evening shadows as I collapsed across the marble slab, rolling onto my back and looking skywards like a sacrifice stretched across an altar, beseeching an invisible god for a much-desired absolution. The pain in my posterior was already slackening, but I’d felt it and knew it to be real—at least as real as anything I’d felt in the months since Albert’s departure. It was enough for my body to know it could begin again, enough to forget, however slowly, and allow something to take the place of the pain that had been my sole companion of late. And as I lay there, I felt I understood what was at the heart of Proust’s long-winded imaginings beneath all those perfect Parisian skies at the beginning of a century only now just ending, felt I knew what had driven him to recreate his life in five-thousand pages of remembered experience over the course of more than twenty years, which is that we all are driven with the unceasing desire to be loved by the one person of our choice, or, if that is impossible, then at the very least to believe we have been loved by that person, however briefly, at some time in the perfect, unchanging past.



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