I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
I open the door to Monsieur Magique’s beautiful home and try to play it cool. He bought it before his kids were born, before his marriage even, when he was on his own in the world. He’s lovingly renovated it himself. It lacks clutter and pretension, it’s imperfect and yet simply beautiful… kind of like him.
He’s making us a salad at the breakfast bar and pours me some bubbly with a glint of the magic that first drew me to him. There’s a confident, shit-disturbing impishness to him. I am butterflies and yet completely calm. I recognize this feeling, but I don’t want to name it yet, because I need to examine if it’s true. Everyone is their best at the start of a relationship, so it’s important to watch for the rough spots and see if they will become deal-breakers as days, years, decades pass.
We talk easily and laugh plenty. He’s fun, SO FUN! We tease each other playfully, and it’s not mean-spirited but exactly the kind of flirting I adore. Physically, he’s not totally my usual type, a bit shorter and stockier than I normally go for, but I’m so attracted to him. He’s so comfortable, barefoot in his kitchen, shirt sleeves rolled up, the way he is making a vinaigrette or tossing pistachios on the salad. He gives me a tour of his house. His kids’ rooms are lovingly appointed. Nothing is ostentatious. It’s bigger and nicer than my house, but not in a way that makes me uncomfortable.
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react
I keep looking at him, trying to understand what all these feelings are. Could I fall for this person? Have I already? I feel like he’s all heart, and I’m all heart, and that the sunshine in his heart acknowledges the sunshine in mine. But what happens on days we are both cloudy? Is there a way to know? The red flags I see are mostly around the smoking, and yet I enjoy sitting on a porch or deck with him while he politely has a cigarette, careful to blow smoke away from me. His post-cigarette smell is oddly SEXY AF. He’s so careful to wash his hands and chew gum or take a mint after. It says a lot about who he is, his occasional self-deprecating comments about it, but also how he’s unapologetic about his stereotypically French vice, out in plain view. I think there may be challenges with stress relief, he’s incredibly hard on himself in general, he’s a “weight of the world on his shoulders” type. So when he’s in fun mode, he is down to blow off some steam.
Leading me to the other red flag: His European attitude towards drinking. We seem to get stinking drunk every time we hang out. My old drinking habits find their way to me; I will drink whatever you put in front of me, and fast. The “best rosé in all of France” goes down like water. He thinks he’s being a good host with the subtle top-ups, and I don’t ever get a sense of how much we are imbibing, but there are two bottles turned upside down in the champagne cooler. Is he this much fun when I’m not so drunk? Why do we need to get so drunk when we are clearly so compatible? I feel too old to continue doing this to myself and make a note to call him on it.
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out
After a delicious dinner of roasted halibut and ratatouille (elegant in its simplicity, homey, nourishing, comforting… like him), we retire to the couch to watch concerts. It’s a YouTube sharing bonanza. He loves going down rabbit holes and we use concerts and other things we enjoy on YouTube to tell the story of ourselves. It’s different, for sure, but there’s just so much sharing. In contrast, Mr. SN would tell me about certain shows but we never watched one together in 10 months.
Monsieur Magique’s tastes are on the lighter side, far cheesier than most men would admit to loving, but he’s resolutely French and makes no apologies for his Eurovision ways. He LOVES the Grammys, and Daft Punk, and fun collaborations. We watch old French singers and movie clips. I tell him I have a love of Celine Dion that I will never apologize for and he casually says we should go to Vegas before her show of 15 years ends in June. I die a little? No, I come alive a little bit more. Everything is suddenly more vibrant. This is a man who would whisk me away to places to see a great show. He’s mentally planning weekends away already, which is something I have tried to do in the past with others like Ali and Mr. SN, only to get pushback. Is this really happening? Am I allowed to indulge in this daydreaming about future trips? What does it say about him that he’s so self-assured, that he completely seems to lack any fear about me? Pace yourself, Maria.
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ll make it now
I make him watch La Divina doing Casta Diva. Then I let him see me in a celebrity’s kitchen watching my favourite band do a private concert. “You told me I could Google you easily, but I haven’t yet,” he says. The alcohol makes me slow to react. I don’t pursue this off-the-cuff comment, but in hindsight I should. I don’t even think he knows my last name, which is different on social media than it is in the public sphere.
We dance until two or three in the morning again, trying once again to outdo each other with song selections. He says he let me think I won when I played “Groove is in the Heart” as a reaction to him playing “Funkytown,” but that “Funkytown” will always be superior. And that really says it all for me. This is not someone who is cool in that downtown, “city guy in the know,” “go where the hip bands go” way. He’s an unabashed pop music lover, something that was always insulted in my marriage. We kiss and dance and hold each other close and he spins me around and then we kiss some more. He doesn’t have cool dance moves, but he’s so damn happy when he’s dancing! You can’t help but be carried away by the spirit of him.
After a big bout of giggles, he holds me still and looks into my eyes. “I think we should go to bed.”
Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
We weren’t supposed to sleep together. I haven’t had a first-time sleepover with a man since 1998. I tell him this is a big deal and he should know that it’s A BIG DEAL! He has given me many options to back out and somehow I just never call that Uber. I have bought a travel toothbrush and face wipes and a clean pair of undies. I’m a big girl now. I’m ready for this. I think?
Except the fucking BOIL. Susan BOIL! It’s a fraction of what it was, just a tiny pin head really, but it’s still present. I have come up with a game plan and tell him I’ve had a small procedure, then end up talking WAY too much, making up shit that no one needs to hear. “I’m cysty and sometimes things have to come out when they are too painful,” I tell him. WHAT?! (Well, I AM cysty, my body loves to make cysts to deal with stress, but did he need to know this on date #4?) He laughs at my use of the made-up word “cysty” and tells me no problem.
I tell him everything else is available but my underpants are off limits, and he’s respectful. But I’m drunk and the second his mouth is on my naked body and he’s begging to see and taste more of me, I buckle. Because I want him too. And my normally solid willpower is nowhere to be found. Booze and sex are my vices and both are partying with me tonight.
It’s dark and I’m slutty. I guide his hand to the bandaid on Susan BOIL, “Avoid this part.” The rest is a loud, drunken fumble. It’s messy, but fun. He spoons me without hesitation afterwards. He apologizes for the fact that he will snore and we fall asleep holding each other.
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black
I wake up every time his cat meows but manage to experience the snoring as a sort of white noise, and fall in and out of dreamy sleep. Until 5 am, when I experience an intense hot flash. Hormones and alcohol and 40-something me do not mix. I’m AWAKE. And THINKING.
Is this real?
Is this happening?
Why doesn’t he have curtains?
Will the cat shut the fuck up?
Does it endear me to him that his cat is all up in my grill, or does she do this to every woman he brings home?
Is any of this sustainable?
Will I get used to this snoring?
Why didn’t I say no to the digestive cognac?
Why didn’t we just fool around without full fucking?
Why am I so soft on my healthy boundaries around drinking and shagging? And so on, and so on.
I try to use my meditation skills to sort myself out, but my brain is MUSH and I can’t recall a single mantra from Thich Naht Hanh. I just lie there, with my eyes closed, in his dreamy bed, trying to get out from underneath his snuggle grip without waking him.
Later, he comments that I’m a furnace. I tell him I’m perimenopausal and to get used to it.
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won
Then WHOOSH! I decide to just accept that I’m not going to sleep. I decide to delight in the warm glow of the sunrise in his picture window, the hotel quality fluffiness of the duvet and the pillows, the arms wrapped around me, attached to the caring, snoring Frenchman next to me. Haven’t I earned this comfort, this security that I don’t seem to be able to trust? Don’t I get to have this after the past 5-10 years of struggle and heartache and pain? I think I do.
He wakes up around eight and says, “I think we should eat and then come back to bed.” We are both FAMISHED. I love how sensible and “here’s what the right thing to do next” he is. I borrow a t-shirt and I can barely speak from sleeplessness and hangover. He expertly whips up some eggs and reheats some ratatouille. He has NO COFFEE. Well he has coffee, he just has no way to MAKE IT and I am too out of it to try to rig some camping style contraption to have it. I make a mental note to bring a French press next time I visit.
We talk about our kids, their personalities, their weak spots. The conversation is so natural, even without coffee. He looks at me intently as I describe reading about my son’s perspective on his sister’s illness in his high school application essay. His eyes are so blue. Gah! WHAT IS HAPPENING? I break his gaze but then meet it again. It’s like he SEES me.
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ve made it now
We go back to bed, and joke around about our rumble in the sheets the night before (“Who needs Callas when there’s you?” Hahaha!), then we fool around a bit, with exploring hands only. I tell him no more drinking so much, that I want to get to know what we are like together sober and he agrees. Then he spoons me again and we take a four-hour nap. And I sleep this time, relaxing into the unknown, embracing this imperfect human who is so open and giving. Grateful to have him lead me a tiny step towards who I can be in a relationship, while figuring out how to stay in the present when with him.
I decide I should leave. We both have to work. He offers me a shower, which I take gratefully. His bathroom is full of sample sized shampoos and soaps from all his business trips and I love that he’s a sample hoarder like me. The shower does me good, I feel half alive after. I get dressed, but half of me doesn’t want to leave. The alive half.
He sits on the stairs and makes sure to put our next date in his mental calendar. Our kid-free weekends typically line up, and unlike Mr. SN, he seems comfortable booking me so far in advance. He seems to get that I’m a planner, and if he wants to be in those plans he has to be vocal about it. He texts later to say I can drive the next date, but might he come over the night before, after my dinner guests go home, to keep me warm in my cold basement bedroom?
It’s a beautiful dance this. Not a cool one, not a smooth one, just so damn flawesomely pretty in how it’s coming together.
Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing it loud
“Falling Slowly” written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová, from the film, Once