The rain was coming down hard as we packed our bags. We had been in Paris only three nights, but the summer days seemed to stretch on indefinitely. The sun refusing to set gave us countless hours to explore the narrow roads between our apartment and the sprawling city.
We were staying in a cozy studio in Le Marais. On our sleepy street, a heavy wooden door opened into a courtyard overgrown with ivy. Tables and benches littered the corners, collecting dust. It was clear they hadn’t been used in years, but their general wear gave me the impression this area was once a lively setting for chic Parisian social gatherings. Its dilapidation only further enhancing the enchantment. Once inside the apartment, the charm came from its size, or lack thereof. There was barely enough room for a bed, but it was aptly positioned adjacent to the rather petite wood burning fireplace. While it never cooled off enough to use it, the mere presence and direct view into the lush green courtyard through floor to ceiling paned windows made it impossibly seductive. The kitchen was non-existent, but with a bed placement like that there wasn’t much need (or time) for making meals. By the time we left, our bedside table held a staggering amount of empty bottles of wine and remnants of the local patisserie's chocolate delicacies.
We moved slowly around the room that morning as the weight of the wine made our bodies heavier than usual. We were in no rush and chose instead to keep warm under the sheets as we waited for the storm to pass.
Even after we put our clothes back on and drank up the last bit of tea our tiny home had to offer, the rain refused to stop and we decided to head out anyways.
We had planned to spend the next few days driving through the French countryside to Germany where I was meeting my family for a short holiday. After that I would be continuing on my solo exploration of northern Europe. In search of something - myself maybe, or perhaps a sense of comfort being on my own.
It was in Germany I would say goodbye to Todd for what could have been forever. He had decided prior to our trip that time apart was best for us over the next several months, unsure of his ability to commit after our unconventional convergence. Perhaps unsure of mine as well. We had run full speed into each other the past few months, and he wanted to be certain it was because of what was in front of us, and not behind.
The inevitable goodbye was always in the back of our minds, which only made us hold on tighter for the short amount of time we had together. Every sweet moment turning bitter at the thought of it all coming to an end.
The idea of being without him distracted me that morning as I waited for him to return with our rental car. He pulled up in a red and white fiat imposter. Brand name unknown, but just as delightfully miniature. Our bags were stacked to the ceiling in what couldn’t possibly be considered a back seat.
As we drove away, Paris disappeared quickly into the rearview mirror. We were moving fast, and that movement felt real. Like my life was being forced in a direction I wasn’t prepared for. Time had stood still when we were in Paris. And now it was moving too quickly for me to keep up.
I watched him closely as he drove. Sunglasses on, effortlessly navigating the winding roads turning more and more desolate by the minute. Each town we passed was less inhabited, more quaint than the last. I didn’t say a word, but my heart was screaming - love me! And his just quietly whispering back – I want to, but I need to learn how to love me first.
I wanted to turn around. Go back to Paris. Go back to playing pretend. The way we had when we first fell in love. But the thing about playing pretend is that reality always surrounds your make believe world, and eventually the two collide. In this case rather painfully.
I knew if we were to ever be together again, I would have to let him go. Even more harrowing was the ability to comprehend why. Our lives were messy, and to bring them together might have made things even more chaotic. Individually lost and confused, I wanted to be the person to help him realize all the things he never saw. Love his flaws, so he would love them too. Maybe we could clean each other up, or live forever our own imperfect world. But he had a methodical path to discovery that I couldn’t begin to understand. And I had learned you never have to force what’s real. So I was prepared to wait. Hopeful that path would lead him to me.
To be back in Paris, walking those same narrow streets hand in hand with the man I love so dear was surreal. It didn’t feel like the second time, but the 100th time. I knew then my soul had loved him for lifetimes, not months and not years.