We met in Paris, and it was as romantic as it sounds. I took the night train from Budapest. He was coming in from Copenhagen. We hadn’t seen each other for two months, and had only two weeks before flying home and spending yet another summer apart.
I arrived at dawn to an empty city. It was some saint’s day. The Metro tunnels echoed with my solitary footsteps as I made my way through station after station, ever closer to our hostel. It was too early to check in; too early find my way to the station and wait for him. I made an adventure of finding a working ATM and then paced until I could go.
He came into Gare du Nord. It was like the movies — the man alights from the train, travel-weary, and she is there, waiting. They kiss.
From our little room at the hostel we could see the top of Sacré-Cœur. It felt symbolic. Together we visited the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. We couldn’t afford to climb it, but we circled, staring upward together. He ate merguez sandwiches from street vendors. I gorged on tomatoes and cheese and fresh bread. We were in love.
The calendar was against us. Saint’s day. Bank holiday. Sunday. Everything was closed. It didn’t matter. None of that matters when you’re in love. We went to EuroDisney, laughing at the absurdity of visiting an American icon on the continent. We ran into schoolmates there, and it was even funnier.
On our last day in Paris the Louvre was open. The visitors were quieter than they’d been in Notre Dame -- until they reached the tide surrounding the Mona Lisa. There we were shoved in to the current of people and carried away. We left the museum and it was raining. We walked the Champs-Élysées until we were soaked, finally taking refuge in a McDonald’s. In the bathroom I removed my shirt, wrung it out, and stood over the hand dryer trying to warm up. The other women were scandalized. I didn’t care. I was in love. He laughed with me as we headed back into the rain.
We left Paris the next day to visit his cousins in Italy. The long tunnels through the Alps made me homesick. His cousins were gracious and kind. He begged me not to speak Spanish to his Italian family, for fear of insult. They took us for a mountaintop feast far above a lake. We were in love, and on an adventure.
We broke up the following year. There were spastic attempts at a friendship, but we didn’t know how. I said my last goodbye to him at a friend’s wedding where we danced one time, in honor of what had been.
My memory is crazed and much has slipped through to obscurity. Still, the noise of a hand dryer always brings back the Champs Elysee in the rain.