by Alexandru Ciobanu
The neighborhood proved exhilarating. In its history, yes, since apparently Earls Court district has been the home of such names as Freddie Mercury, Alfred Hitchcock and even Princess Diana at one point or another. Currently John Barrowman and Gary Barlow also reside there. Thanks, wikipedia. Yet, as I was walking towards the guy’s address, I wasn’t aware of these facts. But I was struck by such sophistication and style in the buildings. I could tell I was in the presence of greatness when a middle-aged woman walking one of those Chinese Crested hairless dogs passed by me. As I turned the corner and reached my destination, it was rather disappointing. A bland, square, apartment complex. It wasn’t the fact that I wished he lived in one of those expensive and refined houses I passed by, since he is just twenty-four, but it had to do rather with the architectural mismatch. A fleeting moment of disappointment, however. That should hardly matter to me at this point.
“God, this place looks horrible,” I thought, looking at the white hallways with the uncomfortably low ceiling. It seemed as though a hospital and college dorm were merged into one building. Not a good combination. I knocked at his door. A few seconds passed. “Didn’t he just open the door for me downstairs like a minute ago?”, I thought, feeling a bit uneasy suddenly with the idea of meeting someone for the first time at their place.
“Hey,” he said with a smile as he opened the door.
“Hi. Fuck, you’re short…” I think you can imagine which part was audible. Handsome, curly blond hair with blue eyes. But I already knew that. I didn’t know his height though, because Tinder doesn’t make you complete a profile. And it is rather weird to ask someone how tall they are. But, “oh my God, the place is bigger on the inside. This is my Doctor Who moment, ” I thought to myself as I followed him up the stairs to the open living room and kitchen. But he’s no Matt Smith. Obviously.
I remembered what he had written on his profile, which was “wine o’clock is my favorite time of the day”.”Oh, well. That should improve things,” I thought. I hesitated as to where to sit on the couch as he headed for the fridge and came back with a bottle of wine and a glass. A half empty glass was already on the table near the couch. I’m not sure if that should be viewed as sad or not.
“So much chanting today from the stadium. Did you hear it on your way here?,” he said to me after he sat down quite far away on the couch, but not noticeably far.
“There’s a stadium? I’ve never actually been to this area before.”
“Yeah, Chelsea. There was like a football game and all the fans were chanting on the way to the tube… How long have you been in London for?”
“About seven months. You?”
“Two years. How are you liking it?”
“Ah, the inescapable question. It’s a mixed bag, honestly.”
It has become so tiring explaining to everyone how London has failed me. Recounting the same ideas, that it is alienating, that it is quite difficult to find people to connect with, people that can become your friends and not merely acquaintances or classmates. And everyone nods approvingly while nothing from hearing their experiences proves they know how it feels. And with him I don’t believe it was very different. He went on to explain just how irritating winter in London can be. How he failed to see the sun for three months once because he had to leave for his job in finance quite early in the morning and left work too late. Now he goes skiing and sunbathing abroad in the winter, or back to Paris where he is so glad he kept his place, or across South America for two months. The struggle is real.
“I’ve heard that summer in London might make me fall in love with it,” I told him, believing that it is more in line with the discussion. He agreed, telling me of the barbecues every weekend and of how happy British people can become due to good weather. I think that neither the person that told me that initially, nor this guy really knew anything about what I find enjoyable.
“Last summer I didn’t spend the weekends here, however,” he went on. “I went to Nice to my parents’ beach house.”
“I’ve heard Nice is quite crowded.”
“Yes, but the house is more secluded. It has a pool and it was quite a lot of fun.”
As he was telling me this, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between his experience and a few chapters in the book The Line of Beauty, especially because it was standing on a shelf behind him. In the book, a politician and his family spent quite a lot of time in the summers in a mansion in France, lounging by the pool and so on. I commented on this comparison, but I don’t believe he understood that in the book this upper class family is not depicted in a very positive light.
We went on talking about books. The conversation was very harmonious. As a matter of fact, it had been this way from the beginning of the night. He proved to be educated, receptive, intelligent. There were a few moments, however, where I was unsure whether he was aware of the pretentiousness of his life stories. I was talking about LA as one of my possible dream cities to live in, and he was quite indignant at the thought: “Why would you want to live there? I was there once on my way to Japan to visit my dad when I was sixteen, and it was awful. Only three days and I wanted to go back to Paris so bad.”
He got up to bring the bottle and filled up the empty glasses. When he came back, he sat down closer to me. “Subtle,” I thought. I was still talking about The Hours, I think, when he put his hand on my knee. As he was looking at me quite intently, having also brought his face closer to mine, I was still very interested in what I was talking about that I didn’t want to stop. Yet I felt I had to, and so he leaned in and kissed me. He lifted me and laid me on the couch, continuing to kiss me. For a half-French guy, he wasn’t very good at it. I was a bit bothered by his stubble irritating my skin so I couldn’t really get into it either.
He got up and signaled me to follow. It felt a bit odd and unnerving. As if responding well to the conversation was a sign that “the subject is ready.”
To be continued…