As a male writer in New York City, I’ve come across no shortage of women-scribes who aspire to be the Carrie Bradshaw of urban media. The seductive lifestyle of record release parties, open-bar velvet rope events and celebrity sightings has drawn plenty of talented ladies into “The Industry”. Before marrying six years ago, I even fell in love with a few of these starry-eyed sisters. My fellow Aidans and Mr. Bigs never seem to share our own stories of love, sex and city life; instead, our voices are typically relegated to the locker-room topics of politics, music and sports. “Common Sensual” breaks that silence. Listen up if you dare.
One generally agreed upon, hard and fast rule of romance is that you never go back to your ex. “Move forwards not backwards,” people say. “Love can’t give you something new if you’re holding onto something old,” and so forth. But eventually most everyone learns that romance has no hard and fast rules. It’s love! (Duh.) The ex factor—whether or not to go there again—is something everyone has to approach from his or her individual, specific circumstances. But I happen to have married my ex-girlfriend six years ago, going all the way over to Paris to rekindle a relationship we’d left behind eight years earlier. For anyone single and contemplating those lovers gone by, consider the following story.
Back in the mid-1990s, I bought a roundtrip ticket to Paris to visit a girl I was hung up over who was studying abroad. S., the girl in question, scooped me from Charles de Gaulle airport that chilly Saturday with her best friend. S. was studying at the École Normale de Musique. Her girlfriend Christine was finishing her own third year at La Sorbonne Nouvelle, and she was a vision. With all my excitement over S., my roving eye still caught the hot curves of her petite friend’s slender body, the chocolate-drop complexion and sexy, sleepy eyes. Her wide smile and alluring accent made her the best possible first encounter I could have had with a French woman.
And so on my first trip to Paris, my future wife picked me up from the airport.
Christine navigated her red stick shift Fiat from the outer reaches of Charles de Gaulle back to S.’s flat in the thirteenth arrondissement. I’d already been to Europe twice before, visiting an ex in Madrid and traipsing through London alone for a week after graduating college, but France immediately felt different. The history of Paris, the smells, the food, and the architecture overwhelmed my already romantic frame of mind. On my last night, S. arranged a farewell dinner at her apartment, inviting Christine to eat with us. I boomeranged back to New York City scheming on how quickly I could hightail it back to Paris.
Almost two years later, the ceiling mirrors of a NYC hot-sheet hotel suite reflected the naked images of Christine and I, pretzeled on a king-size bed. A blizzard had grounded all international flights from Kennedy Airport, including Christine’s return flight to Paris, and so there we were.
Months after her studies were over, S. had returned to America and was soon hosting Christine’s first New York City visit. We all welcomed in 1996 together at midnight New Year’s Day, racing down the West Side Highway on our way to a nightclub. With S.’s blessing, Christine invited me to see 12 Monkeys on our first date. Two hours later we were parked on Riverside Drive, aroused and making out in my Chevy.
Transatlantic phone calls and international love letters followed, lasting for weeks before Christine returned to New York in the spring. Fulfilling a longtime dream to move to the city (she studied American history and English as a dual major in Paris), she came back again for a third time in the summer to live. Subletting an apartment in downtown Manhattan, Christine and I started a true boyfriend-girlfriend relationship down on Avenue A.
Three months later it was over. Christine was selling lingerie at Bloomingdale’s and living in Queens; I was living in Brooklyn, freelancing for Rolling Stone magazine and dating “Zoë.” Things had ended well, but they had ended. In our mid-twenties we were both too selfish and unfamiliar with the sacrificial compromises that serious relationships call for. The following year I stopped by Bloomie’s to say hello and Christine was gone. After a year and a half, she missed her family and decided to return to Paris.
Three years later—November 2000—I was laid up with Christine again in a suite at the Hôtel Violino d’Oro, exhausted after a lost weekend of steamy sex and tourism in Venice, Italy. Planning to travel alone, I’d reached out to Christine in France just to tell her I’d be coming to her side of the Atlantic.
Coincidentally (and there are no coincidences), she