In Cannes, I averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night. I pulled it off because I could nap for a few hours in the late morning.
When I got in my bed for a full night’s rest, I just lay there. I thought about all the men, I thought about France, and no matter how many times I closed my eyes, they would open again.
I was in the middle of the final week, and ready to surrender myself over to the men of the festival.
One at a table with a woman caught my eye as I walked by and watched me until his companion followed his gaze.
Another smiled, unabashed, as I took the bus into town with wet hair. His hand held tight around a five year-old’s tiny fingers.
At the festival, crossing security and holding out my pass, the security guard said, “No dress today?”
I laughed, “Tonight.”
He raised his hands in thanks.
I felt like Sophia Loren. A little eyeliner, a little lip gloss and tall men would just appear in front of me to offer that knowing look- they saw me.
At work, Sandals was chatting with a beautiful, French actress. Next to her was a young man, a little taller than me, with curls pressed hard against his head with gel. He had a thin beard, olive complexion and sunglasses on.
We must have been staring at each other, because Sandals stepped in, introduced us, then walked away to watch us from a distance with Ralph.
Every time I would talk to a man, I would see Ralph at a distance, smiling at me like he was keeping count.
The boy’s name was Aldrich. Or at least that is his name in my story.
He spoke some English, but suffered through the sounds with a struggling grace. When the French search for the right pronunciation, they make the most sophisticated music with their mouths- um, ehhh, ahh- as if bookmarking their spot in the sentence until they find the appropriate word.
We sat down next to each other on a couch and he asked to see my business card. I showed him.
I said, “My hair used to be longer, but they cut it all off for a hair model show.”
Aldrich, “I prefer this.” He used his fingers to trace my current hair length in the air.
He tapped my picture on the card and looked up at me, flickered his fingers in the air to ask me to remove my sunglasses.
When our eyes met, I could see the green around the nucleus of his eye, splattering outward on a canvas of brown. His eyes lifted in a smile that didn’t quite reach his mouth. I smiled back.
He asked me to join them at the Hungarian Pavilion for drinks. I agreed and followed him as he trailed behind his female companion- who led us both with her nose up in the air and her shoulder up.
I said, “Is that your girlfriend?”
He shook his head and smiled, “No . .. uhhh . . . she actress. Actress. We aRR just friends.”
I said, “Oh, because she really doesn’t like me.”
He shrugged and smiled. He was a boy, I could see in that skin his mother still spoiled him.
Aldrich asked me to introduce him to other filmmakers. I found a couple English guys who made movies. I tried to squeeze Aldrich in the conversation but he later told me we spoke too fast and the accents were throwing him off.
Then we went to another Pavilion. I think it was some country in Northern Africa.
There was a tall man with long silver hair greased back in a pony tail down his back. His lower jaw was pronounced and he reminded me of an older, sun damaged version of Warlock (the 1989 movie). I saw him speaking with Ralph earlier, so I thought he was ok.
Warlock introduced me to an older guy in his late 60s.
Warlock, “This is Dan, he was a producer for Deer Hunter.”
I said, “Yes, I’ve seen it. It was the first movie I ever saw. I think I was 4.”
Dan’s smile faded into a mild smirk of disapproval.
Dan, “That’s very young to see that movie.”
Me, “I know. My father was Vietnam Vet.”
Dan was nice enough, he had a big belly like Santa Claus, was dressed casually in keds and had an easy going nature about him- the kind you get when you expect a heart attack any day.
Warlock’s smile would freeze with his mouth open, and one could almost hear the fillings in his back jaw tap as he got excited to say something.
Warlock, “You are an actress?”
I nodded, lazily blinked and sipped my Northern African wine.
Warlock, “We are going to a Playboy party later tonight. You should go . . . you know, for your career. We will pick you up in a limo.”
I thought about it, “I don’t know what I am doing tonight yet.”
Warlock tapped my shoulder and would hack a little nervous laugh.
Warlock, “Come on. Come on.”
I turned to Dan, he was ok with me.
Dan, “You know what the problem is with child prostitutes? They have to be in bed by eight.”
I turned away from Dan, I was not ok with him.
Warlock hacked a laugh and I leaned backward.
Dan, “Can I get you another glass of wine?”
Warlock, “I’ll get it. I’ll get it!”
I finished my plastic cup and wobbly turned to the counter. Warlock handed me a fresh cup.
Warlock, “What do you say we send the limo by at nine?”
I shrugged my shoulders and looked for Aldrich, who was standing alone in the corner, trying to gain the courage to talk to more people. He was adorable.
Dan, “I went to a brothel in Cannes and asked for the youngest one. She said, ‘You just had her.’”
Me, “Is that a joke or a story?”
I walked over to Aldrich, who put down his glass and said, “We aRRR going to go . . . now. Um . . . I call you later?”
I nodded, “Kiss?” Tapping my lips with my finger.
Aldrich leaned in and pecked my lips with a dry kiss. I could feel the edge of his lips brush over me and I opened my eyes. His eyes juggled both of mine seriously as he left, and I realized I liked him.
Warlock came over, “Why are you wasting time with him when Dan can help your career?”
I said, “Because he is attractive. That’s it.”
My eyes rolled over Warlock so he could understand that meant I did not find him attractive at all, and I turned to sit down by the water next to a handsome French man. I asked for a cigarette and he provided one.
His wife was across from us, holding the baby and smiling at both of us. I remember thinking I hope I can be as friendly towards strange women bumming cigarettes of my handsome husband someday.
Warlock hovered over the spot I was seated in, put his hand behind me and pinched my ass.
I pinched his hand back, and he recoiled with almost a hiss.
Warlock, “Owww. That hurt.”
Four days later, I would see him entering the Palais and holding up his hand, “You really hurt me the other day.”
Warlock turned to the security guard, “She drew blood.”
Me, “He pinched my ass.”
The security guard lifted both his hands in a shrug as if justice was served and we walked in opposite directions. I never saw him again.
I can’t tell you where I was or what I was doing as the sun set, only that I remember following the music to yet another pavilion on the beach. I tried to enter down the red carpet but was stopped. There was a list I needed to be on for entry. I was now in a white sundress with black embroidered flowers along the hem. The bodice was tight and the white called attention to me.
So I waited outside, tipsy, for someone to let me in.
I leaned against the railing as the street light overhead grew stronger than the sun, and saw a few of my students walking by. We greeted each other and I told them I was waiting for my in.
A middle-aged man, elegant, slightly overweight, stopped and grabbed my arm.
I said, “May I come in?”
He said, “Of course. You are beautiful.”
I turned to the other students, “And my friends?”
He said, “Of course. Of course. You are all very pretty, but forgive me, (he turned to me) she is beautiful.”
These men had that way of making you feel like God threw down a spotlight just for you. The other two students were gorgeous, younger and blond. Somehow, France had a magic cloak over me that fooled everyone into thinking I was the prettiest girl in the world for one brief moment in my life.
We all filed in and were greeted with a sad excuse for a dance floor, which was empty, and an open bar.
I texted Aldrich where to meet us, and crawled out on the dance floor with the two girls. A middle aged woman joined us, so I incorporated her in the act. I shook against her, and realized she was drunk enough to tip over at any second, so I kept a distance.
More people came out and eventually, Aldrich showed up.
My adrenaline was pumping, and I was popping my head back and forth to the music, wiggling like I do. He led me to an empty table outside and wrote on a piece of paper:
“It was hard to find you.”
Sometimes, it was easier for him to write what he wanted to say instead of actually saying it.
I said, “But you found me. Come dance!”
He shook his head. So I climbed on his lap and wiggled my hips around with my mouth open, it’s not too sexual, and its not too funny, but somewhere in the middle is Mick Jagger and me.
He wrote, “I am feeling serious.”
He suddenly got up and stormed out. I was going to let him go, but then something inside me moved like a chess piece over to the back of his heels. I grabbed his arm and begged, “Don’t go.”
He shook his head and left.
I was drunk, so keep that in mind when I tell you the next bit.
Tears poured out of me.
This French boy I only knew for half a day, walked out on me at a public party where I was having a blast, and I cried for it.
I realized that it didn’t matter too much who the boy was, it was the walking away part that ruined me.
The bartender saw the tears dripping down my cheeks and chin, and I asked for some of the mystery punch. Quiet and concerned, I got a large glass and gulped it down.
I wiped off my face and jumped back in the middle of the dancing. No one was the wiser.
A group of friends gathered in the corner of the dance floor. A girl posed in front of a camera, suspended in air, opposite a boy as if they were having intercourse through their clothes in public.
Their friend, a handsome Mediterranean guy, popped his head in between them with a big smile. I popped my big white head next to his, mugging the camera. I didn’t know those people, so I thought it would be funny to mysteriously appear in their photo.
The Handsome Guy kissed my cheek as the photo flash spilled over the moment, and the next thing I know he was kissing me.
His lips devoured my mouth and before I could even register what was happening, I was kissing him back. He was a great kisser and I barely even caught a glimpse of him.
I got lost in his hands and his mouth, as we moved across the dance floor and behind a thin curtain keeping the sound equipment safe. I wrapped my legs around him and felt his hot breath on my skin as his hands fumbled through my clothing.
I said, “No, they can see.”
There was a steady stream of pedestrian traffic on the south side of our little hiding spot- and nothing but a transparent, plastic curtain anyone could see through. No one stopped to stare, but still, I wasn’t about to disrobe.
He said, in broken English, “Who cares?”
Me, “I do.”
Then I pulled back.
Me, “Are you a nice guy?”
He laughed, his smile was young. He must have been around my age. Curly hair, eye brows that pointed up in surrender when ever he laughed. He was tall and thin, dressed well.
He said, “Yes. This is very unlike me. I am shy . . . a shy guy. Yes? I think you know this about me and that’s why you came over.”
Good enough of a reason.
I grabbed his scarf and pulled him down to me. Why did it feel so good kissing him? Usually it is hard to find that spark, but here it was waiting around every corner.
Someone popped in, “You guys know everyone can see you, right?”
I pulled out from underneath the French cologne, “See?”
I straightened my hair and clothes, as my new suitor took my hand and led me down to a lower porch area closer to the beach. He pulled down his pants and crawled up the bottom of my dress as I leaned on an empty table.
A security guard interrupted us. I rolled over the table and stumbled back up to the entrance, blushing.
My suitor, who I guess I have to name, was as graceful as could be in the circumstances. I never got his name that night, so who ever he is remains a mystery. Let’s call him Roberto since he reminded me of Roberto Benigni.
Roberto was smiling and approached me, buckling his pants, “He was . . . a very good guy.”
I said, “The security guard?”
Roberto laughed and nodded, wrapping his arms around me. He was full of joy.
He said, “Let’s go.”
I said, “I don’t know you.”
He said, “Come talk to my friends. They will tell you. I am shy guy.”
By hand, he led me to his female friend from the photo. I bent down and said, “Is he a good guy?”
She nodded and said, “The best! He is a very good guy. He never does things like this. He is very shy. We are so happy for him.”
I looked up and saw Roberto smiling down at me.
So, I took his hand and we walked.
He was a movie producer, but younger than me. My mind was foggy. I had already gotten drunk, danced and cried- usually that’s when I toss in the hat.
I can tell you who I am and who I was in this moment, following a stranger down to the beach in the middle of the night, but you might not believe me. Maybe I am just trying to find out who I am by explaining it to you.
The kissing made my stomach tighten and my head feel heavy. I thought it was a sacred connection. The justification, “This kind of a chemical connection rarely happens.”
Sure, I had it with Mr. Darcy the day before, and I was still thinking about him.
He had sent me an email that morning:
“That was some kiss.”
Could it be that fate had just offered me two wonderfully attractive men in one window of time?
Roberto led me down the steps of a closed pavilion tent on the beach, and I crawled on the table, stomach down.
He entered me and we had sex in time with the water. Each tidal splash worked hard to blanket the sound of sex. The moonlight was bright enough that I could see his scarf hanging off of him, his child-like smile now faded into a lazy mouth, open, panting.
I felt his hand claw a little at the back of my dress and I moaned.
We stopped just before a security guard walked passed us. He didn’t see us, so we stood still until he was far enough away that we could make our escape.
We climbed up the steps to the boardwalk and fumbled through language.
He said, “We go to your place.”
I said, “No. We can’t.”
He said, “I have people there. My place.”
I said, “Me too. More than you, I think.”
We trudged up cobble stone streets and I worried about finding my way back.
Roberto asked if I wanted fruit from a fruit stand. I said no, and up the hill we continued.
We stumbled into an empty apartment, there were a lot of doors and a bed covered in film festival swag and schedules. I shoved them off so we could make out a little. He stopped and pulled out an air mattress then shoved the nozzle of a hair dryer into the opening and turned it on. The warm air slowly unfurled a crumpled piece of plastic into what would later be our bed.
I asked to take a shower, since I was covered in sweat from dancing and walking, and lovemaking.
Together we climbed in the shower and resumed our union. He was soft, my hand glided smoothly from one end of his body to the other, with only the occasional mole to stop me. My fingers would slowly crawl over its fleshy dome one by one until my hand was whole again, and resumed travel around his body.
The warm water spilled everywhere until we were done. Then we dried each other off.
I don’t remember going to bed.
I don’t remember getting dressed.
I only remember waking up in a room with a couple passed out on the bed, and Roberto next to me snoring.
My dress was on the ground, so I quietly put it on and slipped out the door. It wasn’t dawn yet.
The only ones who knew I was gone were the taxi drivers and songbirds.
I quietly shut the door behind me and thought, “I should really hold on to that morning after pill.”