Opening night at Cannes, we were all excited.
The town that was resting quietly at the seaside two days prior was now crammed with busy people from all around the world, going every direction possible.
The traffic was completely blocked on the first street, closest to the market and Palais Theatre. The paparazzi were setting up their stools and ladders for photos of the red carpet.
With our badges, we were able to slip through the chaos of people, down by the beach, where various countries set up their tents for visitors and hosted events. We were able to walk through the Market, where films were screened and sold to properties across the globe.
We had access- and everything felt easy from then on.
There was a drawing for which of us got the single ticket to the opening night film, Wes Anderson’s, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’. I won it.
I said, “This is the greatest day of my life.”
The ticket person said, “Now, this is just the screening, not the red carpet premiere.”
I said, “I know.” I never win anything.
A few of my co-workers came in, “Hey, your fiancé is here.”
I said, “I heard.” And tossed my growing hair over my shoulder, leaning back into my chair.
My pass allowed me access to the theater where he would stay until the screening of “Moonrise Kingdom”. That’s alright- why ruin our evening from Sundance 2010? If I avoid him, we can stay engaged.
My date with Gade was this evening as well, and I arranged to meet him at the same bar where we originally met around 7pm. It was just across the street from the Palais and I could run back over at 9:30pm to catch the screening in time.
I thought about cancelling because my obligations for the night were piling up, word of a P. Diddy dance party was out and everyone was geared up to get into both Wes Anderson’s film and P. Diddy’s party. It was going to be a long night.
I didn’t cancel. At 7pm, I arrived in the dress Abe bought me, black lace from my knees up my bodice and strung up over one shoulder. I looked good. I had eyeliner and lipstick on, which I paid way too much for. My perfume, on my wrist and jawline, had my spirits raised just above the sidewalk. I felt feminine.
Gade was late but showed up, holding a motorcycle helmet. They were setting up his photos for an exhibition at the Festival and he was rushed between obligations- but had to see me.
He set things up early, “At 8pm I am going to have to leave to approve how my photos are set up. I am so sorry, but it’s a busy time.”
I said no problem, I understood. My screening was at 10 and that would be fine.
Gade and I talked, and conversation was easy between us.
Gade, “I owned a gallery in Los Angeles for a long time. I was married. Then I met another woman in Florida, and I tried to leave. I felt like it was the right thing to do, but my wife kept pressing to come and start the life with me- so we moved to Miami. We took both our dogs. It was … emotional for both us. Best road trip of my life. We both cried when we saw the sign for Miami.”
Me, “So what happened with the other woman?”
Gade, “Things progressed and my wife didn’t understand. We came all that way, and she knew I had something with this other woman. I said, if you want to stay, ok, but I have to explore things with her. She said no.”
Me, “You wanted an open relationship.”
Gade, “Yes, I think that is the only way things can work.”
Me, “Well, I think its hard. People change, and you can fall in love with other people. I fell in love when I was married to another man. It was terrible, any decision I made would hurt a person I cared about.”
Gade, “So, you understand. Open relationship is the only way things work.”
Me, “I don’t know.” I sipped the drink. “Theoretically . . . maybe. But I can’t imagine myself being in love and sharing.”
Gade looked disappointed.
I continued, “Who knows? Depends when and where . . . who I am in love with.”
I thought of Abe. I could never share him but insecurity was so much of our relationship. We were permanently broken.
Gade said he was there the day before to meet with his father, and that was the handsome, older gentleman I was photographing.
I showed him my pictures.
Gade looked at the photo of him at the table, “That is a good picture. I am impressed.”
I said, “I take a bunch of pictures all at once, because you can never get ahead of a moment and then capture it. You have to beat the moment before it happens.”
Gade, “That’s right. That’s my secret. How did you know that?”
Did I tell him it was from an episode of ‘Sex in the City’ where Carrie dates a photographer and he captures the moment she sees her dress for the first time . . .
. . . nahhh, some things are better left unsaid.
I shrugged my shoulders and sipped my martini.
His phone buzzed.
He said, “I am going to try to put this off because I like talking to you.”
He spoke furious French into the phone, leaning back and eying the window. The waitress asked if he wanted another, he covered the mouthpiece and said, “Of course.” She smiled, she was gorgeous.
I smiled too. Aren’t we all fucking gorgeous?
He put down the phone and said, “I would like to do a photo shoot with you.”
I said, “That sounds nice.”
I instantly dreamed of an empty studio, naked and a bottle of champagne.
He said, “I think I could take some great pictures with you.”
I said, “I have to be here at the market 4 hours a day, but I get a day off at the end of the week.”
He said, “We could go on to my motorcycle and go to Monaco.”
I don’t know anything about Monaco other than Grace Kelly was the Princess of Monaco.
I said, “That sounds amazing.”
Gade, “Some champagne, some weed . . . do you like weed?”
Me, “I like everything.”
Gade, “Some weed, a little blow, and I can give you a very nice day off.”
Blow. He said blow.
This hot French stranger was going to take me to another foreign country on a motorcycle, seduce me, get me high and give me cocaine. Good God, run!
Me, “That sounds frighteningly amazing. But I don’t do that anymore. Well . . . I haven’t done it in a long time.”
Gade, “Me either, but I know a guy. I could have it here in half in hour.”
He reached for his cell phone.
I said, “No, no no … not tonight. I have to go to that screening.”
His phone rang again, he excused himself and talked frantically to someone on the other side of the restaurant and came back.
Gade, “Do you want a cigarette?”
Me, “Sure.” I took one, lit it and smoked, despite my lungs crumbling under my Sylmar cough. A couple more days, and I hoped I would beat the cough.
The alcohol soothed my chest and boosted my energy. I didn’t feel run down, jet lagged or sick with the vodka and lemon in my body.
Gade, “So how do you like France?”
I said, “I love France. I taste something like mango, and my mouth explodes with mango. That doesn’t exist in the States.”
I continued, “Everyone is kind here, and beautiful.”
Gade, “You are beautiful.”
Me, “Well, we are beautiful.”
It sounded obnoxious, but in the moment, it was light-hearted. I am uncomfortable with compliments and felt like we needed to share that one.
I said, “I would move here in a second, if it wasn’t for my dogs. Why would you leave here?”
Gade said, “I love America more than I love myself. Its just different, I don’t know. Opportunity. Possibility.”
I said, “It’s an illusion.”
Karisma mentioned a couple nights ago that she hated Robert Rodriguez. We all hate Robert Rodriguez for various reasons, though we might like ONE or TWO of his movies. Ok, maybe three . . .
Karisma’s argument was, “The school brings him in, and he gets up in front of all these students with a shadow cast over his eyes and he tells them that he built himself up on the American Dream. Telling stories of walking his film door to door on the Miracle Mile until he got it distributed.”
Me, “That’s bullshit.”
Karisma, “It is. The idea that you can achieve any dream under 5 possible methods, that there is a formula to success, is just a means to feed the corporate system. It keeps people working in place. I just . . . mmmm . . .” She shook her head.
She likes to trail off her arguments in disgust. I love that about her.
Gade exhaled a cloud of smoke, shaking his head, “It is not though. You don’t see it because you grew up there, but America fights harder for things. In France, people are too comfortable to fight. Too content.”
I said, “Well maybe that’s the difference. I am tired of fighting to live in my own country. I want to enjoy the rest of my life. I am tired.”
His phone rang again. He answered and then put it down abruptly.
Gade, “I am so sorry, but they absolutely need me to be there. I have to go.”
I said, “That’s ok, lets just close out the bill. I have to go anyway.”
Gade, “No, no, no. I will be only 20 minutes, 10 minutes. Please, I enjoy talking to you.”
Me, “We can talk another night. I really have to go in half an hour or so.”
Gade, “Please. Wait. Have another (he pushed my empty glass towards me) and I will be back very soon.”
I said, “Ok.”
There I sat, in a now very busy bar, lit only by some glowing ambient lights and table candles.
I had another martini, and slowly got nervous.
10 minutes passed.
15 minutes passed.
I texted, “I have to go.”
Gade wrote, “I am leaving asap.”
What was this bread dip? It was heaven.
20 minutes passed.
I started collecting my things, wondering about the bill. I am going to have to pay for 5 martinis at this place. Happy hour ended about an hour ago.
The man at the table across from me made eye contact, and invited me over.
I stood up and he said, in broken English, “Please, join me.”
So I grabbed my drink and my bag, and sat down with this guy.
Older Business Man, “I saw you, and you look .. . uhh, beautiful and I was too . . . what’s the word . . . not scared but . . .”
He took his silverware and kind of shook his arms.
He continued, “Tim . . . tim . . “
Man, “Yes, timid.”
I said, “I am glad you invited me over. My date disappeared.”
Man, “Disappeared? But why, you are so beautiful.”
I blushed, “Thank you. I guess he had to approve his exhibit, but I told him I have a screening at 10, so we should have just closed out the tab and left.”
Man, “Please, join me for dinner.”
I said, “I don’t have time.”
He said, “What about a glass of wine?”
I said, “That I do have time for.”
The waitress came and took our order, sliding the bill from Gade’s date by my side.
The man nodded and spoke more French. She handed him the bill.
I said, “That’s not necessary.”
He said, “Please. Let me take care of it.”
I said, “There is another man’s drinks on that bill.”
He smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I want to take care of it.”
We had a small friendly conversation about nothing in particular.
I was talking about how much I loved the French language, even though I didn’t know it.
Me, “I just love the way the words fall out of my mouth. Merci. Bon Jour. Bonsoir. (I held my hand out under my chin with each word, like I was catching them in the air) MMMMM, sounds so beautiful!”
He chuckled and said, “I love your accent.”
I was losing my voice, and with my cough and throat on the fritz, there was a smoky rasp taking hold.
Once my wine glass was empty, I thanked him profusely and said I had to go.
He took my number, and I his, and we promised to see each other again before the festival was over.
I rushed over in heels, with my regular clothes in my backpack, across the Croisette to the Grand Théâtre Lumière. I handed them my ticket, the handsome security guards in tuxedos smiled and let me in.
I climbed the red carpet, with absolutely no one famous around me, and immediately found a seat.
I coughed a little.
Portland texted me, he got in with some students.
I texted back, “Stand up and wave so I can see you.”
I rushed over and climbed the stairs to his section. There were no seats available. He stood up and held out his hands. The house lights dimmed.
I texted, “Thanks for saving me a seat!”
At the top of the stairs, in my nice dress, sitting on the floor, I watched “Moonrise Kingdom”. A little after halfway, I got frustrated with the film. Overly stylized. Flat. No depth, whatsoever. I passed out and fell asleep.
After the film, we all walked out together.
Me, “Hey, thanks again for saving me a seat.”
Portland, “God, sorry! I didn’t know I was supposed to save you a seat.”
I wasn’t really all that annoyed. Earlier in the day, I started imitating his laugh. Its just something I do, imitate people that interest me.
One of the last days I had with Abe, we were in the shower together and I started mirroring his gestures as he spoke.
He said, “What are you doing?”
I said, “Just imitating you. I don’t know why.”
Of course, to Portland, I understand why it gave him a complex. There is the grease of exaggeration in my impressions- so someone who might not know me would assume its criticism. And Portland did.
We all walked down the red carpet together, down the main drag of Cannes into the night looking for the P. Diddy party.
None of us had anything good to say about the film.
I said, “I fell asleep, what happened?”
A student told me and I said, “Oh, so I didn’t miss much.”
He said, “Not at all.”
We found the VIP Room where P.Diddy’s party was. People were gathered around two entrances and a long narrow red carpet like it was a riot.
Portland turned to a female student and said, “Are you cold? Here is my jacket.”
I said, “I AM cold!”
I kind of smiled but maybe a little too wicked.
He said, “You’ve got issues.”
The students love P. Diddy and were putting lots of pressure on Ralph to get them in. Some broke off and moved towards the other entrance, others went off with Portland for a drink somewhere else.
I was obsessed with the challenge set forth- so I grabbed the kids and we tried to get in through each entrance.
The security guards were only hand picking pretty girls and letting them in.
P. Diddy came out on the balcony and said, “Its a party, let everyone in! All of them!”
No one else was let in.
I scooted my ass over a marble railing towards security: Nothing.
I sweet talked the security guard by the red carpet: Nothing.
I said, “Why the hell are they picking girls with dresses from Walmart who look like they have a cocaine habit? We are way hotter!”
The kids stood there, not blinking, quiet. My humor is just not coming off tonight.
Ralph got very close to the rear entrance through a glass wall. A crowd was there too, shoving and pushing.
He was turned away and couldn’t even find room to leave and come back to us.
A security guard made eye contact with me and gestured for me to come forward.
I turned to the kids and said, “Stay close, children.”
I led us in, like Julie Andrews through the Alps. Unfortunately, at a certain point, the security guards had to grab my arm pits and drag me over a few other people before delicately dropping me on the red carpet behind the glass wall.
I looked out and saw my kids out there with Ralph, looking in longingly. I waved. They sadly waved back.
Fallen soldiers, I had to keep going, not just for me . . but for the kids.
I walked down the red carpet alone and entered the hotel. The paparazzi were inside waiting by the bathrooms. So, cautiously, I walked by and went to the bathroom, then put make-up on my face again.
I exited and followed a group of people who looked like they knew where they were going. We all went up in an elevator, and I realized suddenly, I didn’t belong there.
So I got out and took the staircase down, but to where?
Did I just blow this?
A bell boy walked by.
I said, “Pardon monsieur, where is the party?”
He chuckled coldly and said, “Not here.”
Then walked away.
Great, that was helpful.
Suddenly, and I am not exaggerating this in any way, a small cluster of handsome Mediterranean men came bustling through the staircase.
I said, “Party?”
One grabbed my waist and said, “Come with us.”
Did every building have tall, attractive men bursting through the side doors? Good Lord, they were beautiful!
I followed them and was brought to a dark bar area. They were charging for drinks.
Me, “Why the fuck am I paying for drinks at a P. Diddy party?
I pulled out my debit card, then thought better of it and put it away. Consequently, I never saw my card again.
I walked through the dance floor, crowded with beautiful girls and foreign men.
Crossing over, there was a section of long, crest-shaped couches and buckets with ice and ridiculously large bottles of champagne and whiskey. I was in the VIP section.
I picked up a wine glass and muttered, “I really need a drink.”
Rattling my empty class, I looked to a group of young men and said, “Monsieur? Please.”
They tapped the arm of a shorter, bald white guy in a white tuxedo with a thick, vertical go-tee. He nodded, then grabbed the whiskey and filled up my glass halfway.
Someone else popped a couple ice cubes in my glass, and I turned to watch the dancing. It wasn’t my kind of music. Fucking hip hop.
I was sweating and hot, the other girls around me were watching me. I just crashed their party. I know. But I am a poor artist, what do you want me to do? NOT party.
A man came up behind me and dropped two ice cubes down my back. Cool bliss! It melted down my back and over the top of my ass in a matter of minutes.
I bummed a cigarette and joined two other girls on the couch, overseeing the dance floor. With my whiskey, and my cigarette and my black hair, things were feeling about right.
I really like France.
The men started filing out, and the bald man in the white tuxedo grabbed me and started kissing me. The whiskey had my mouth on fire, and with the cool trail of ice down my back, I went ahead and kissed him. It was too hungry and impersonal- but it was a dark night club, so who cares?
I saw his friend laughing and pulled away.
White Tuxedo, “I take you to Monaco tomorrow.”
Me, “Oh, well, thank you. I am not sure that I can go, but I appreciate the invite.”
White Tuxedo, “You are my girlfriend now.”
I sipped my glass. Um . . .
White Tuxedo, “So, don’t dance with any other boys here, ok?”
My eyelids hung heavily in the cigarette smoke, “Ok.”
We exchanged numbers, kissed and parted.
He left and I turned back to the music to take another swig. My cigarette fell in my whiskey glass. That sucked.
I poured it out and put some more whiskey in my glass.
White Tuxedo’s friend was hanging back and watching me. Or was I being paranoid?
My hips and legs started moving, I was looking for girls to dance with- but they were all frozen in still clusters, away from the dance floor.
I moved away from the table, and a tall dark stranger grabbed me and started doing salsa moves with his hips. He held me as I tried to match him, whiskey spilling on my wrist. Then he kissed me.
I kissed him back.
Well, I guess I am not White Tuxedo’s girlfriend anymore.
I drained my glass and stumbled towards the dance floor. I was ready . . . to dance . . . in France!
The tall, dark stranger followed me and we danced, on the floor at first. He grabbed my hand and put it on his cock. His erection must have been at least 10 inches.
I said, “Wow, I am intimidated.”
I turned towards the dance floor but he spun me back around toward him.
With my hand back down on his cock, I squeezed the tip through his denim pants and smiled.
Me, “I want to go on that thing.” I pointed toward the axis of the room.
The thing, in question, was a rotating platform in the middle of the dance floor. In the middle were 3 or 4 lingerie models, dressed up in kink gear; stockings, boots, whips, hats.
I got up on it and dirty danced with my new stranger. He said, “Where are you from?”
I said, “LA.”
He said, “Ah. I am from Monaco.”
I said, “I have heard a lot about Monaco tonight.”
He said, “I will take you there.”
I said, “You too?”
I spun. I danced. It was phenomenal.
Somewhere in there, P. Diddy came out to rap.
I cheered. Then Monaco grabbed my hand and said, “I fuck you now.”
I said, “No, I keep dancing.”
He said, “No, come with me.”
I shook my head and let go of his hand.
He stepped off the rotating platform and put his hands to his chest in disappointment, bowed his head and then disappeared by the time the platform rotated full circle
Somewhere, somehow, a musician with a drum set-up appeared in the middle of the rotating platform. In a white zoot suit, and white hat, he started beating the drum.
The DJ hung back on the melody so he could take over.
Jazz took flight, and the musician took out a hand trombone of some kind, popped a drum stick behind his ear and started playing the trombone while, intermittently, tapping the drum with his ear
It was unlike anything I have ever seen before.
I screamed in exalt, my voice dying over the whiskey on my throat.
The camera was still in my bag, but did I want to fumble through and video tape this thing, or dance to it? I wanted to live it, breathe the music. I would write about it later, anyway.
He finished his set, and the DJ exploded with more music. Next to him were flame blowing transvestites in lingerie, one was completely bald with fake eyelashes, there was an evil clown on stilts, a vampire with tiger paint on his face and mother fucking Chewbacca!
They were all dancing with the DJ, and every time the platform brought me around, I raised my arms to feel and smell the combustion of flames reaching for us.
A black man climbed the platform, grabbed my hips and proceeded to rub against my groin to the music. I used his arms and back to steady myself and felt myself grow more aroused than with my other two partners that night.
The sticky sweat on his skin latched on to me, and I felt the rhythm of him between my legs, heighten. He worked his way up my torso and kissed me. Delicious. My black Patrick Swayze.
He, of course, took his turn to step off the platform and ask me to join him. I shook my head and kept dancing.
Then, a short skinny guy in a suit, definitely someone’s accountant or lawyer, stepped up to me and tried to dance. Ugh, I needed to exercise boundaries.
I pushed him back slightly and shook my head. He tumbled down at the feet of the lingerie models, and I felt bad.
The girls gave him a dirty look, he managed to stand back up, and I danced with him at an arm’s length.
All my suitors were gone now, and the music was slowing down. It must have been 3am . . . ?
I decided to take my leave and ran into one of the students on the way out. She is actually one of my roommates, a gorgeous white girl with big eyes.
She said, “Want to get a taxi together?”
I said, “Yes!”
I was worried one of my suitors might follow me out. So together we walked out and took pictures of each other on the red carpet.
A tall man with black-rim glasses, silver hair, and a baby face, walked towards me and said, in an eloquent Irish accent, “I have been waiting 32 years for this moment.”
He reached out his hand and said, “Hello, I am Frank.”
I took his hand and smiled. My hair was tousled, the sweat washed away all my elegance like a tsunami. I am sure my eyeliner and lipstick long gone, but I smiled and introduced myself.
He politely turned to my roommate and introduced himself, I straightened my hair, cupped my breath to see if I smelled of whiskey and then took a whiff of my arm pits. I can’t smell anything anymore.
We all proceeded to take pictures of ourselves on the red carpet.
He invited us out for a drink. My roommate, still high on singing with P. Diddy (which she had video of) was happy to accompany us at first but reminded me that she had a job at 6am. It was now closing in on 4am.
We tried to flag down a taxi at the hotel, but they wanted $30 to take us back to our residence.
Frank suggested a small bar, the only one open at this time of night. So we went to Le Petit Majestic, which was closed.
It must be after 4 now.
Frank sweet talked them into pouring us wine in little plastic cups, and we hung out amid the chairs upside down on tables, and staff, all collapsed on a couch a few feet from the bar. My roommate asked to borrow my phone and used up most of my minutes calling the States to tell everyone about P. Diddy.
Prince was playing in the background.
♪ ♫ All seven and we watch them fall
They stand in the way of love and we will smoke them all ♪ ♫
I said, “Prince? This is the best night of my life.”
He smiled and took his time with engaging me, scratching at the counter with his finger nail.
I continued, “I had a an Irish boyfriend once, but he broke my heart.”
Frank, “Oh sorry to hear that.”
Me, “He was supposed to fly me back to Ireland to meet his family, but he broke up with me and kept what little money I gave him towards the ticket.”
Frank, “That’s a sad story. How long ago was that?”
Me, “Oh, a long time ago. 2006 … I think. Now I am getting over someone else entirely.”
Frank, “How long were you with this one?”
Me, “On and off for two years. How about you?”
Frank grabbed our cups and saluted, plastic brim to plastic brim, “Similar story to you. About two years. On again, off again. It didn’t work.”
Me, “Ah, well. To broken hearts.”
We chatted a bit.
Me, “How old are you?”
He said 35.
I said, “If you have been waiting to meet me for 32 years, what were you doing the other 3 years?”
He said, “I just threw out a number. I wasn’t thinking.”
I liked him. He was tall and charming. Maybe not conservatively good-looking, but there was a playfulness and sharp tongue that I liked, he also seemed totally relaxed.
My roommate came in and said, “Ok, I really have to go. Its almost 5 and I have to be at work in an hour.”
Frank suggested we send her back and I go home with him.
I said, “She is my responsibility, I have to make sure she gets home ok.”
One of the bartenders said he doubled as a taxi driver, and agreed to take us home for 20Euroes. So, Frank opened the car door, kissed my cheek, grabbed my number and said goodnight. I cradled my plastic cup, there was not enough time to finish my wine, but I wasn’t about to dump the moonbeam out of my plastic cup.
I ended up paying for the entire taxi ride.
*Note to self, don’t hang out with the students!
When we arrived back at the residence, the birds were waiting to greet us. The sky was turning to the color of the sea. We clacked our heels through the hallways and door, then said our goodnights.
There was about four or five hours of sleep I could grab before starting the next day. I disrobed, showered and wrapped myself in white sheets as the blue eased into dawn.
I cracked the door to hear the sea- how was I going to go back to being an American after this?