I was bored out of my mind. I was at work, supposedly creating school curriculum, though slacking off most of the time and looking for traveling jobs for the summer. It was May and I was once again tired of the same old.
I needed a little getaway even for just for the weekend. The idea popped up in my head as I sat in front of the computer and I discreetly opened up the CouchSurfing website (if you don’t know about it, it is used to find a host in another city/country) to see who I could stay with in Montreal. I could have stayed with a friend, but I just wanted something new and someone new to get to know. Scrolling down the list of available hosts, one name popped out at me. Florent. He was well-traveled, a teacher, eloquent in writing and cute. And he was from France! Looking very much an artsy French man(those who smoke cigarettes in a cafe in Paris) he seemed tall with dirty blond hair and big light blue eyes. What the hell? I thought. I might as well write to him. It seemed like we would have a lot to talk about.
Maybe ze vine? Or ze museek?
He answered back almost right away in his slightly broken English and we decided on the next weekend. Don’t think that I picked him because I wanted something, but I will admit I was kind of interested in staying at his place. Some girlfriends told me I was ridiculous, though one classified it as a ‘very interesting and long date.’
I would go with the latter.
I arrived in Montreal slightly nervous. It was warm and breezy and I was wearing a sweater and jeans, my hair (and face)all messed up from the bus. I finally located his apartment, with a swirly staircase that went up to his door. I buzzed in, my heart thumping a little bit.
Finally he opened the door looking just like his photo. Tall, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, his dirty blond hair messy and his eyes bright, big and blue, smiling widely.
“Welcome!” he smiled to me and helped me carry my luggage in. “Come in!”
He showed me around the apartment and told me I would be sleeping on this huge mattress he bought ‘just for me’ as he recently moved in. We sat on the couch and I talked way too much, as I was slightly nervous and felt like I had to fill in the space with all my chatter. He smiled and nodded his head, answering with a typical French accent that seemed to form a lot of sentences into questions.
“So” he said “it is up to you if you want to hang out with me? If not, you can do what you want? But if you like? We can go to the park and tomorrow I show you some sights?”
“Sounds great actually.”
“Yes, it is a nice day. So we can grab some bikes and blankets and talk? If you like?”
“Yes, really that’s great.” I said. “I’m going to quickly take a shower and then I’ll join you.”
“Ok then. I bring you towels and everything? Oh and I give you a separate key if you like also?”
He clearly wanted me to feel comfortable and I actually did. Within minutes, I felt like I have known Florent for a few months.
I changed and put on some makeup and we biked to the park where we spread out a blanket near a fountain. I went to the store and got us some beer and some weird tasting nuts. We lay and talked for hours. About everything: history, politics, relationships, people, life in general. It was great to actually meet someone who was so well-rounded and who I could talk to about anything. Florent wasn’t a typical guy. He didn’t think typical thoughts. He didn’t try to be un-typical. He was just himself, with his own formed view on life, with his own opinions and a huge set of very random interests. For instance he did boxing and sang in the choir. He played the piano, wrote articles on politics and had a cat. Seriously. There was none of that ‘macho’ wannabe or any pretentiousness that I was so used to. The guy was actually just very comfortable in his own skin. I looked at him from afar, lounging in his black t-shirt and jeans, his hair all messy. He had that something. Definitely a French artist thing, though he didn’t smoke.
He was very careful not to flirt with me, as I felt that he saw himself responsible for my ‘comfort and security’ so I decided to subtly flirt with him.
“You are my first” I told him coyly.
He seemed to process it in his head.
“I meant my first CouchSurfing host” I added with a laugh like it was a mistake. Oops! He laughed with me, feeling a little more relaxed.
At one point as we sat in the park I saw his eyes sparkle with that hint of male interest, but he quickly returned to being friendly. We biked to a restaurant where he urged me to try Tartare (which is basically raw meat). There we talked some more. Seriously, we never seemed to run out of topics.
It’s not like I was interested in him per ce, but I gotta admit I was a bit jealous when he began paying attention to our waitress. His bright blue eyes burned into her as he asked her questions in his beautiful fluent French and she flirted with her Québécois accent. Oh come on, I wanted to say. She is not even that good-looking and she is so young she is wearing braces.
Once we got home, rather his home, he asked me if I wanted to join him for his friends’ party. Of course he added that I didn’t have to if I didn’t want? But if I did? Would I like? And so on. Wiz French accent?
Of course I’ll come, I said.
As I was changing, he locked the door very soundly, which made me burst out laughing.
“You don’t have to do that!” I yelled through the door.
“No, I want you to feel comfortable!” he yelled back.
How very adorable.
I wore black skinny jeans and a sparkly golden top. He walked out of the other room looking at me up and down very quickly, then grabbed the keys. “You are ready?”
The party was deadly boring. It was a bunch of very French people, mostly married or in pairs, engaged in a (very French) conversation. The fact that I spoke about two percent French didn’t help matters. I gotta hand it to Florent who made me feel very comfortable by introducing me to everyone. However, I didn’t want to inconvenience him by clinging on to him, so I walked around and talked to anyone who spoke English. Everyone actually turned out to be very welcoming; especially his best friend who flirted with me and then while talking to Florent in French mentioned how jolie I was. I understand that, I told him. I know, he smiled and gave me a wink.
One girlfriend of Florent’s actually nudged him and winked at me as she wished us ‘a GOOD night’. As if it wasn’t awkward enough staying at a guy’s place who you were kind of attracted to and who seemed attracted to you. And even if he wasn’t – there was a girl in his apartment! He didn’t even have to ask me to come in so I could ‘see his beautiful view’.
One of his gay friends suggested we head to a lesbian club. Why not? I said. Let’s. Yep, it was a little strange and I actually got hit on by a beautiful girl, which I must admit was flattering! The best part is that she walked up to Florent and told him she was interested in me. I beamed for hours.
We danced close to each other, but I felt awkward beyond belief. This wasn’t a guy I met in a club, or a friend. He was someone I had to stay with! OK, I already mentioned that, but I’m emphasizing it just so you get the strangeness of the situation. Granted, I put myself in this situation willingly.
When we got back, I put on my t-shirt and short shorts and sat on the bed-mattress combing my hair out. I swear I wasn’t trying to lure him in or anything. Maybe just a little bit. Florent looked me up and down and not very discreetly this time. The French seducer seemed to be waking up in him.
“Ok, so I go take a shower?” he said. “Good night?”
“Yes, good night” I smiled, continuing to comb my hair.
“Ok” he nodded to himself or me and shut the door.
Minutes later he stepped out of the bathroom and wished me good night again. “Ok, so good night, Mia”
“Good night, Florent.”
He closed the door behind him only to emerge minutes later.
“I forgot something?” he smiled to me and awkwardly shuffled into my ‘bedroom’ to get ‘something’. “You are okay?” he asked. “Did you have a good night?”
The whole thing was starting to get pretty funny, but it was still quite awkward. I wanted him to make a move already, but how could he? He didn’t know if I was interested and it was my ‘safety’ that was at stake after all!
“I had a great time. Thanks.”
He mumbled something or other to himself or me and wished me goodnight again. I chuckled and lay down on my humongous mattress to sleep. The light was off in the room and I was assuming he went to sleep. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, if he came out again?
And as if on cue, the door opened and Florent emerged. He smiled apologetically at me.
“I forgot to get my water?” he murmured and shuffled past me.
This time I couldn’t stop smiling. It was getting hilarious.
For some reason or other, this really reminded me of the movie “Notting Hill” and the scene where Julia Roberts comes into Hugh Grant’s room at night. This is why I randomly blurted out:
“You remind me of Hugh Grant.”
Why Hugh Grant? It was the weirdest comparison as the guy looked nothing like the English actor. At this point though, I think I could have told Florent he looked like Jackie Chan and he still would have acted as if that made sense. All he wanted to do was stay in the room. That was obvious.
“Yes?” He said and paused near me. “Okay, if you could pick one actress that looked like you, who would it be?”
Was this the conversation we were having at 4am in the morning?
“I don’t know” I mumbled. “Who do you think I look like?”
I was just as much of a retard as him. Someone clearly had to make a move here.
We went back and forth like two mumbling fools in a land of retardation until I couldn’t do it anymore.
“Florent. Did you really come to get water?” I awkwardly smiled to him.
“Why?” he asked.
“Nothing. Forget about it.”
“Forget about it.”
“If you are referring to what I think you are referring to?” he looked at the lamp on the table. “Then, yes, I did want to? Kiss you?”
I wish I could describe just how adorably French and awkward he sounded at the moment. Especially the kissing me part.
“But” he continued “I was scared you feel strange and want to leave?”
“Well, I’m not going to leave if you kiss me” I smiled.
“Okay then” he smiled and finally put his damn water down, leaning in to kiss me. We kissed and kissed, over and over again and I was getting those pings of excitement at the bottom of my stomach.
“I propose” he said after a while( Yes, I actually made out with a guy who says “I propose”) “That you sleep in my bed. We will not have sex just, you know, sleep together?”
“No, I’m okay. I’ll sleep here” I said. I was exhausted and tired and the last thing I wanted to do was share a bed with anyone. So he wished me goodnight, for real this time, and went to sleep.
He woke up before me the next day because he had choir. No comment here. Anyways, I woke up later and cooked some breakfast in my underwear. Then, I went to explore Montreal and think about whether I wanted to have sex with him or not. Normal people just do it spontaneously. I had to talk to myself about it first. My reason told me no. I told me no. Everything told me no. I mean I didn’t even know the guy and I wasn’t smitten with him. Sure, I liked him. I had a wonderful time with him. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say I wanted to rip his clothes off. In conclusion, it was a no.
I nervously walked into the apartment and saw him lounging about, reading a book. He asked me how my day was and whether I was interested in going to eat with him that evening.
“But if you have any other plans, it is okay?”
Nothing at all about last night. Leave it to me to leave coy and subtle out the door since I have no patience for it.
“So do you feel awkward about last night?” I asked. Nothing like a question about awkwardness to make it feel more awkward.
“No” he looked at me. “Why, should I?”
“No, no. You shouldn’t”
He waited a beat.
“Well I do now a bit. Do you regret it?”
“No!” I exclaimed. “Of course not”
“Ok, then it is not awkward” he smiled.
We talked some more. He played me the piano. I sat on his bed while he made me listen to opera. Then he sang me something in French. I made him feel my diaphragm as I breathed, just so he could finally make a damn move as I couldn’t listen to anymore opera and singing. Then he leaned in and kissed me. Suddenly he was on the bed, my legs wrapped around him. We kissed and kissed.
“Okay” he said when he caught his breath. “Let’s go eat something?”
It was raining outside and he held my hand as we walked down the empty wet streets. Before that, he asked me what my favorite color was so that he could ‘wear it?’ I burst out laughing:
“From CouchSurfing to a relationship, Florent? How did we get here?”
He got us a bottle of wine and we ate in a loud Italian restaurant. He kissed me under the rain. Afterwards, we sat in a bar talking, as he caressed my knees. It really felt like we were together. Not like we met yesterday. I could talk to him for hours about anything. I loved that he would never answer with a standard response like ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’. Instead he would think about it and give his own opinion on it.
When we got home, I put on my ‘come hither’ shorts though I wasn’t technically planning on having sex with him. We did hang out in his room. And on his bed. So really, I could have just thrown my careful and well planned out resolution out the window by this point.
And then he put on the cheesiest romantic French music ever and I burst out laughing.
“Where is the champagne and the Eiffel Tower?” I asked.
“How many girls do you use this on?” I asked him, raising one eyebrow.
“Just you actually” he smiled. “Ok, I will turn it off”
“Please do. I’m not sure I can keep a straight face if you are trying to romance me to French music”
He laughed. “You know if I met you in a bar, I would have come up to you. It was just very strange situation having you here. One of my girl friends was very uncomfortable when she stayed with a guy? So when I saw your photos and told her I found you very attractive, she said to not do anything at all. So I didn’t. Until now, I mean”
And yes, okay, I ended up having sex with him. And it wasn’t the romantic French music that seduced me. I’m not sure if it was his wonderful seduction skills either. I don’t really know why I had sex with him. Was the sex good? Yes, but I felt like I jumped into it a little bit fast. I’m not sure if real attraction was there or if I just loved spending time with him. The thing that threw me off was when afterwards he turned to me.
“Were you nervous?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“ I do not know. You seemed very uncomfortable. I thought you would be a little bit crazier.”
What do you say to that? Maybe, it was because I just met you? Or possibly because I wasn’t that sexually drawn to you? Or maybe, just maybe, you mister are no Christian Grey in your seduction skills?
Instead I should have gotten an Oscar for the next performance. I felt disgusted with myself. Why act instead of saying the truth?
We did end up spending the night together this time and finally got out of bed sometime during noon the next day. He took me to get us some typical French brunch and then I kissed him goodbye.
“We will stay in touch” he smiled, but I wasn’t so sure about it.
I will be honest in saying that he didn’t contact me when I got back home. Instead I wrote him a message and he wrote one back. He was leaving for Europe for the next two months, so we wouldn’t see each other for some time, he said, but maybe in the fall?
By this point I was so mad that I didn’t want to stay in any contact with him. We will not see each other in the fall, I thought. Here we were, so close to each other and now we were polite strangers who could barely exchange two words.
Yes, this entry was going to have a negative ending and a little note about how French men are assholes.
But life is life and people are people. Instead, he wrote me a message recently saying he wanted me to accept a job in his city so I could be near him. And I ended up inviting him to visit me.
This is not romance nor is this a long distance or rather quite a short distance relationship. This is just something. A nice time to spend with someone who means something to you. What that something is, I still don’t know. And who ever knows? Maybe this time the sex will not be ‘so uncomfortable?’ or maybe I will kick him out before we even get to it. But I do think that in life, we have to at least try. Hey, if it fails, at least there would be a great story to share.
And oh, I got one great review from Couchsurfing!
* Even though the story has developed since I last wrote this post, I decided to add a little ‘note’ instead of designating yet more space for this since I do not believe this guy is worth it. After Florent came to visit me and we spent quite a few nice days together, we decided to maybe work something out in the future. However, his ‘feelings'(I put them in quotation marks because I no longer believe he is capable of them) escalated so much and so rapidly, he decided to refer to me as his girlfriend. Then he began looking for teaching jobs for me as a way to lure me into Montreal. Ok, he wasn’t necessarily luring me since I wanted to move, but he definitely was the interested party.
After his second visit to Toronto, I realized that not only did I have little feelings for him, but he was quite cheap and not much of a gentleman. He wasn’t a bad guy at all. But he didn’t believe in doing one nice, romantic thing for me. After he left and I didn’t get the desired job in Montreal, he began pushing me to come visit him. At this point I had no money since as you may have guessed – I was and am an unemployed teacher. He never offered to pay and when I mentioned that, we got into a row about money, which in my opinion is just tacky. In his opinion, if I wanted to see him I could have asked him to ‘help’ me out, not assume he would offer. While I could see his side of the argument somewhat, I also realized then and there that I needed a gentleman not someone who would argue about money with a girl. My stupid move came when I did in fact go to Montreal to visit him.
How did the weekend go? Well.. in short it was miserable. He didn’t take me out to ONE real restaurant and when I suggested eating out he acted surprised and mentioned that we would be eating dinner at his friends’ place at 7pm. This was 3pm. We only ate breakfast. And went boxing. My clothing was ‘too short’ (even it would almost reach my knees) and he would constantly point out ‘elegant’ girls, one of whom sported purple pants and brown boots. He would get offended at everything and when he didn’t want to have sex with me on the second day of my stay (out of three), I’ve had enough. This was not romantic. It wasn’t beautiful. I didn’t feel like a woman. We had completely different interests. He would prefer someone in running shoes camping with him in the woods. I would prefer someone who would take me to a hotel in Hawaii or yes, also someone I could backpack with.. But that’s all I would ever be with Florent – a backpacking buddy he has sex with, where money is split equally, and I may as well be a man. His deep thoughts and analyzing that I initially found so charming and ‘French!’ has now shown me he was critical, difficult and set in his mind. He wanted me when I was happy and fun. He couldn’t take any sort of disagreement and confrontation. He watched me become upset and literally stepped away. He couldn’t even hug or kiss me.
We ended it then and there, not without some crying from me, even though now I cannot understand how he even deserved any of that. The funny thing is, even though we wrote each other a handwritten letter at the end, he has not contacted me since.
So this is my advice to you girls: if a guy shows you a trait that you ignore, believe me, it will come to later bite you. Florent didn’t speak to me for four months after we had sex the first time I met him. Afterwards he never even asked me how I got home. Lesson? This would and did repeat. A man always shows you who he is. It is up to you whether you accept it or not.
By the way, do you still think French men are so damn romantic?