Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Life as a Concubine by Robin Glasser

I'm no Steven Spielberg, but in my mind I'd gone through thousands of takes and the credits were now rolling. It was time for the big Q&A. I chose Christmas, when The Big Apple is aglitter and gay, to inquire if he'd given any thought to the future. How's that for being blunt? In that heavenly accent, Jean-Loup burbled merrily along about his apartment, his pension, his blah-blah-blah, until my eyes began to glaze. I interrupted this litany with a more direct query, something like, "Are you taking me with you when you leave?"

"Mais oui! You come avec moi this night."

"You're going to Paris tonight?!

The Frenchman gave me a puzzled look, then took a long moment to reply. "How I can go to Paris this night?"

Before I could respond, a wolfish grin split his face and he chortled, "You make the joke, no?"

"NO!" I just want to know if I am going with you--"

"Oui. You going with me this night to the, the fête," Jean-Loup spoke very slowly as if I were retarded, a two-year old or both.

Now I am a writer. I have an extensive command of the English language. I own a dictionary and a thesaurus. I used to compose word puzzles, for chrissakes! But no matter how I phrased and rephrased my questions, I couldn't get a straight answer. In fact, our Q&A was turning into that famous Abbott and Costello baseball routine--you know, Who's on First? I spoke slowly. I enunciated perfectly. I hit him point-blank.

"Jean-Loup, are you taking me to Paris with you when you leave New York City?"

He took my sweaty hand, stared soulfully into my eyes. I held my breath. His pouty lips parted in a no.

It felt as if I was suffocating until I realized that I'd better exhale. Although rejection was not part of my scenario, I did have a rewrite ready. Regarding my former paramour evenly, I coolly spat, "Get out!"

The tables had been turned. The worm was wriggling, demanding to know what I meant. I put it succinctly: "Adieu, adios, bye-bye!"

Jean-Loup looked dazed and confused--he still hadn't caught on. I translated for him. "It's over, finished, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year--have a nice life."

"Why you want I leave," the Frenchman persisted.

"Because I love you."

"You love me but you want not to see me? I comprehend not what you say me."

"Listen carefully, Jean-Loup. I've never felt this kind of love for anyone before. I'm afraid to keep seeing you. Afraid that I'll fall even deeper in love than I am now. Your rejection really hurt me. To go on as if nothing has happened isn't possible."

Grabbing hold of my hand, gazing into my eyes, he spoke soothingly, "Ma chérie, you must to know that I adore you. Why we suffer separate for the nine months? Can you say me what occur in this time? You can make la prédiction to the future?

"Of course not! But to keep on seeing you would only add more cracks to my already shattered heart."

Jean-Loup used all the charm he possessed to convince me--and maybe himself--that we could still have fun as a couple. But I was adamant. With a Gaullist shrug, he departed.
* * * *

I went out with friends, dated other men. I refused to answer his calls. At home, I screened my messages, steeling myself not to pick up the receiver whenever I heard his alluring voice. At the door to my apartment, bouquets of flowers tantalized. The Frenchman was on a mission and his pursuit was as hot and heavy as his breathing during sex.

I kept to my script for an entire month. The phone rang. I answered. Jean-Loup sounded utterly wretched as he begged and pleaded to see me. We made a rendezvous for the park near Gracie Mansion.

The bleak day matched Jean-Loup's face. He hadn't slept for weeks, was miserable without me, had given serious thought to us, and wanted me to live with him in France. I remained wary until the tears began to streak his cheeks, melting the chains surrounding my heart.

"You really want me to come to Paris?"

"Absolument!"

"How do I know you won't change your mind?"

"Say me what you want."

All I really wanted was him but I wasn't about to tell Jean-Loup that. Instead I said, "I need something tangible, some--"

"What means this tan-jay-bull?"

"It means real. I want proof of your commitment. Something solid. Hmmm ... Solitaire ... A ring!"

We picked one out together--a modest antique set with a sparkly but flawed sapphire. On his part, Jean-Loup took the initiative to have a contract drawn up that proclaimed we would live together in a State of Concubinage--a common-law never-never land that gives couples legal status in France--which was witnessed by his close friend and mine. Not exactly a marriage ceremony, but we did drink champagne afterwards. He also wrote my parents a beautiful, grammatically incorrect letter in which he declared that: "she gives me a grate proof of love, leaving ... her job, her appartment, her cat and everything, and I dont want she regrets this choice..."

At the end of summer, we flew to Paris. Did I mention that loup is French for wolf?