“All right, fine. I’ll drive you to the airport but only if it’s Orly, because it costs too much in gas to drive to Charles de Gaulle.” He huffed with annoyance. My first Parisian boyfriend drove a Smart car. Straight off the boat from the land of SUVs, I found it comical and when I first saw it said, ce n’est pas une voiture, c’est une mouche! Generally, his vehicle could carry either a passenger or a suitcase.
But I was going to the South of France for the Cannes Film Festival. It would be sunny and my bikinis and cocktail dresses fit comfortably into my hand luggage.
I had met Sebastien whilst out with my Swedish girlfriend. Linda actually used to wait tables at the Salon Bar near Oberkampf and still liked to go there to see her friends. Seb was the DJ at this place and he, like many other Parisian men I’d learn over the years, took himself very seriously.
If I hadn’t only been a teenager and going to my first bars ever, my ability to detect losers from the worthwhile guys might have been more developed. I saw Seb for the first time DJing at the bar, eyes closed in intense concentration with his headset over one ear. There he stood by his turntables at the back of the restaurant between the coat check and the ladies’ toilet. He was mixing a morceau of Saint Germain with the latest Madonna song (her “Music” album was just coming out) as patrons enjoyed their steak tare-tare and conversed. I wondered how many just assumed it was a CD playing.
Seb was tall, skinny, had a pointy nose, smoked a lot and pronounced h’s at the beginning of words that did not need them and silenced the h’s of words that did. “Hi habsolutely hadore aouse music!”
So Linda introduced us. He took my number and called and hung up, so I’d have his number. Little did I know that he would use this strategy throughout our short-lived relationship whenever he wanted to speak with me, so that I’d call him back and pay the communication.
“Missed call from Seb.” That’s strange, I didn’t hear it ring. It took me a little while to figure it out but I finally confronted him.
“But I am paid end of month. I don’t have budget for calling you.”
We would see each other only to go out at night. Linda was beautiful and so she would get us into the best clubs around the Champs-Elysées—places where bouncers would never allow Seb under any other circumstances.
At the Cannes Film Festival, I met a couple of interesting men, all of whom would call me without hanging up. No one I’d ever see again but at some point under the tent of the amazing Moulin Rouge party I looked toward the VIP square where Nicole Kidman sat behind her body guards and I realized there should be more to life than “aouse music” and second-hand smoke. The next day I called Air France and switched my Orly flight to one that arrived at Charles de Gaulle. I never saw Seb again. Although he did call, he never stayed on the phone long enough for me to answer.
Nearly a year later, I had completely forgotten about him. I had a new job with a major multinational media company. Galas and VIP events had become chores to me. I was rubbing elbows with the celebrities (well, ok I was frequently in the same room with them although there was no joint on joint contact).
My boss was the marketing director. We’d get so many calls from radio stations, magazines, etc. selling ad space. I was tasked with filtering these propositions. The phone rang. “Acme Incorporated” I said.
“Hello, this is Sebastien from the Informer Magazine and I’d like to talk to you about an interesting opportunity to purchase ad space. I recognized his voice not at first but by the end of the sentence.
“It’s me, Albany, remember?”
A brief updating of our professional lives ensued. Apparently Seb lost out to an mp3 player and had to find another gig.
“Well, nice to hear from you, so what about this ad space?” he asked. Clearly he had quotas and worked on commission. I’m not one to get many Pretty Woman moments like when Julia Roberts tells the nasty sales girls about the error of their ways, so I was getting ready to savor every moment as I opened my mouth.
“Sorry, we’re not budgeted for that. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”