Late June, Early July 2009
The first time I went to Paris, I was 17 and I collided with someone who changed the entire course of my life… surreal going back to where it began.
October 7th, 2016
Exhausted and starving, Ramon and I agreed to eat at the bar and grill attached to our hostel.
Our day had been filled with history and monuments… and who could have known a monumental time of my historic past would come full circle on this night?
We walked in around 10:30pm, and the place was already filled with swaying sober bodies, some playing beer pong, others attempting awkward socialization. The bar was set in the middle, with a dance floor in front of it, and a built metal stage perched on top. There was a live band playing covers of old American rock songs.
This is the part of travel, I love the most.
I used to travel solely for sight. I wanted to see it all. To know my own eyes witnessed it — and don’t get me wrong, I still do want to amaze my eyes, but as an advocate for equality, I crave experience for my other senses.
And so after much extensive sightseeing, I have changed. When I travel now, I want to stimulate every single sense of my body. Not only seeing, but touch, taste, sound, and smell — in effect, my heart.
I don’t know if this is because I need more stimulation now to feel the same high that travel initially gave me, or because my priorities in life are different, but this is where I’m at now — a desire to experience everything on the human spectrum.
And so this small bar gave me much comfort, after a long but adventurous day of trekking around a beautiful city.
Before ordering, we met up with a friend we made from the hostel, Cameron. Ramon had spent our first day in Paris with him, while I did some solo soul searching — I went back to all the places that I knew before you.
There weren’t any empty spaces, so we wound up asking a gentleman, named Barry, who was sitting by himself if we could share his table, which was located right behind the bar. Perfect, I wouldn’t have to walk far for drinks. Eagerly, he obliged, as long as we left an open seat for his daughter, who was late for their dinner.
I understood… timing is not my best forte either.
I opted for a corner seat on the booth side, and Ramon sat across from me on a chair. Cameron, sat next to me and enclosed me between him and the bar, while the dad sat on Ramon’s side with a chair between them.
The unsymmetrical positioning of our seating made me anxious, and a bit claustrophobic, so you can imagine my relief when the boys when to the bar to order food and beverage.
While they were gone, the daughter finally showed up. Honestly, I hadn’t really even noticed, until the boys came back and Ramon took his initial seat, but Cameron took the empty chair between Ramon and Barry.
Now leaving a space between her and me. This I could handle, the entrapped area was beginning to wear on me.
The conversation at the beginning stayed mainly between Cameron and Barry — they were getting along like they had known each other personally, big belly laughs erupting at our unlikely table. Barry’s daughter was on her phone for the first 20 minutes hardly looking up at her father, and this annoyed me greatly, since he had waited for her — turns out one of her social medias had been hacked and she was trying to change the password — at least that’s what I think I heard, as I diverted my attention away from my party to a brunette girl at the bar.
Her beach waved hair sat right above her chest, and a tan turtleneck graced her body, a leather jacket created a second layer. She had electric sea green eyes, and was casually leaned against the bar sipping an orange cocktail.
I’m a sucker for someone with light eyes, and dark hair.
And Europe brings back old European habits, as I openly stared at her with bravado. I didn’t want her attention or time, looking was enough. I hadn’t found nearly anyone as attractive as this human in my entire year home in the states. It was refreshing to say the least.
The smell of grilled onions and mushrooms snapped me out of my trance, as I turned my attention back to my company. The burger in height, was about 5 inches, and oozing out of the sides was melted cheese and BBQ filling. It looked glorious, and welcomed my sense of smell.
Ramon and I always half meals — we’ve found one is enough split between the two of us, and it’s probably saved us so much money, and warded off unwanted weight gain from the preposterous serving sizes of the food industry.
We ate ravenously, and with stomachs full, and alcohol guzzling down our throats, conversation seemed much more fluid. I’m not quite sure when Barry walked away, but alone with us, was the daughter.
Her and Cameron were talking up a storm, and laughing. I waded in and of the conversation from time to time, but at the moment, content enough with my meal and drink.
Eventually, she sat next to me and filled the space between us, making it an evenly seated table of four. Her dad had been gone for quite some time, and we were all becoming fast friends in a foreign country.
Here, she formally turned towards me and introduced herself. It was the first time I really looked at her full on. White silk tank, black leather jacket, dark blue scarf — my eyes led up, full set of pink lips, a gap between her front top teeth — not unattractive though, endearing — a common elongated nose, and soft light brown eyes lined with thick long eyelashes. There was a scar on her right eyebrow, and she had the symbol for female tattooed between her bottom thumb joint and wrist on the back of her hand — huh, interesting I thought.
“Hi, my name’s Kate.” She held out her hand for mine.
“Great,” I thought to myself, trying to mask my ironic distaste, “another Kate, in another random bar in Paris.” I force smiled — “Trinh, nice to meet you.”
We shook hands, I let my thumb grace over her tattoo — unsure if she noticed — and she smiled over at Ramon, mimicking the same friendly introduction.
I can’t accurately remember what got us onto the topic, but she started telling me and Cameron about how she and some of her friends used to have a tree house really close to the beach in Vancouver. It was on private property, and so all the parties they threw there finally annoyed the owners of the property to have it cut down. So she was simultaneously ecstatic to be exploring beautiful France to mask the distraught of her lost sanctuary back home.
I felt for her. It sucks losing a place that feels like home.
Cameron got up to get another drink, and she turned her full attention towards me — proceeding to tell me how she is a Sunday school teacher at church — and I nearly choked on my vodka tonic and truly, for the first time that night, genuinely laughed harder than I meant to.
I didn’t mean it to be rude — just her previous stories of alcohol and drugs caught me off guard to this transition of conversation about occupation. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against either — in honesty, I think the war on drugs in my own country is counterproductive. Being high is fun, and I absolutely love being in a state of drunkenness — all in moderation of course, and in a healthy state of mind, emotionally and mentally.
She smiled her toothy grin, nervous I think, her gap showing — I found it cute.
“It’s not the kind of church you think, it’s more centered around the universe… it’s super hippie, ha ha ha.”
The look she gave me, I think she expected me to think she was crazy for believing in the universe as God.
I pursed my lips into a small smile before answering carefully as to convey seriousness, and not mal intent or sarcasm, “I honor the universe inside of you.”
The relief in her eyes was instant, “I’m not crazy.”
I shook my head and shrugged off her commentary, “I don’t think you are, whatever belief makes you the best you.”
She put her hand over mine for a few seconds, the heat between our skin noticeably apparent, “You’re not what I think of when I imagine people from Texas.”
Another hearty laughed escaped my parched throat, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”
“It’s a good thing,” she removed her hand from mine and went into an all out story of how her first encounter with Texans had been at an airport, and security was delaying everyone and causing people to miss their flights. And how it was the Texans that we’re being the most rudely obnoxious about it, even though everyone was going to be compensated. She passed around her phone to Ramon to show him the picture she took of the Texans and scooted closer to me — by accident or intent, I’m not sure.
At this point, a few drinks in, we were all much more relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere. Ramon added her on facebook to check us all in together. She then turned to me and asked me in French if she could add me… the switch to one of the languages of Romance was… sexy. I know no other word to describe it, but someone knowing multiple languages is such a turn on for me.
Once she added me, I noticed her profile picture and kind of just blurted out, very unlike me, “Wow you look hot.”
Then Ramon chimed in, “Duuuuuuuuude, I know, I was like wtf? Is that her?”
She laughed nonchalantly, obviously used to this response, “Yeah, I model. It doesn’t look like me at all.”
I begged to differ though. You could tell it was her — it was just different seeing her in high fashion, as she blended in with this normal crowd on this normal night.
I closed my eyes and rubbed my hands up and down my face, yawning, finally pushing my hair out of my face and declaring out loud, “I need a shot to stay awake.”
“Let’s get you one then,” she answered.
We moved out from the booth, and walked over to the bar.
“Surprise me,” I said — I wanted to know if our drinking habits were compatible.
Her smirk displayed confidence as she called the bartender over, skipping all the people in line ahead of us that had been waiting.
“Can I have two shots of Fireball?” OOOOK, now I was intrigued.
“Only if I can take one with you lovely ladies,” the barman replied, winking at her. I liked his style. He wore a simple black vneck and a peppered colored beanie over his ginger hair. His beard was well kept and full, and his arms were covered in elegant ink, a quote in French lining one of his inner arms.
I cut in, “better make that four, for luck.”
He laughed in his French accent — yes that’s real — and poured up 5 shots. We took the first with him, and the second together.
“3 euros please,” he asked, while cleaning up the shotglasses.
I handed him a 10 and promptly waited for my change. At this point, Kate had taken up conversation with the guy on the other side of her. He was handsome. Light grey blazer, clean-shaven, with light blue eyes. They were laughing about something, and I noticed her hand on his shoulder.
Yikes, I thought, I didn’t want to be a c-block. I saw my barman go on break, but he hadn’t given me my change, so I was becoming annoyed. I figured I’d just go back to my table and call it a loss. I really didn’t feel like ruining my feel good mood.
I told Kate I was going back to the table, and she leaned over into my ear and whispered, “you’re seriously so adorable.”
I laughed and shrugged it off, “you’re seriously so drunk,” and walked the few feet away that our table was located, and stood by her dad. At this time he had returned, and was eagle eye-ing the interaction between Kate and Rico-suave.
A few minutes passed though, and she also came back, “babe what about your change?”
“Ah, the guy never gave it to me, but it’s cool, no worries.”
She grabbed my hand and pulled me back to the bar, “that’s dumb, let’s get it.”
Once we got back to the bar, we stood next to the same guy she had been chatting with. She introduced us as well, but I forgot his name. I suck at names, honestly.
Another barman addressed me and I explained the situation to him. He was pretty cool with the situation, but said he wasn’t allowed to give us back physical money, explaining that the guy who served me is new and he would get his manager to talk to him about it — he did however compensate us with free mojitos, which would have cost us more than my change to give back. So it all worked out, since I was going to buy more drinks anyway.
Again, I left Kate with her eye-candy to go back to the table.
I sat back in the corner of the booth and sipped on my drink. The mojito was excellent, fantastic blend of mint, lemon, and sweet, but not overbearing enough to still savor the taste of the rum — at this point, Cameron had disappeared into the crowd to mingle, it honestly sounded like an inviting plan I might try next.
I moved on to a lemon gin afterwards. Lemon gin reminds me of my roommate from back in Spain, Sara. I missed her so much, my soul sister. If she had been with me, we would have been dancing on the bar together already. I snapped a pic of the drink, and sent her a message, “I miss you nanetta, salud (heart emoji).” The light of the text illuminated my face in the dark atmosphere. The grill was finally closing, and the bar was making its transition into a more club vibe.
Kate returned about half an hour later to the table, a group of girls surrounding her. She squeezed in beside me, as the girls filled the vacant spots of the table, the side of her leg pressed up against mine. A cute Australian girl sat beside Ramon, and finally diverted his attention away from his phone. I smiled over at him and raised my eyebrows, “this is gonna be interesting” I mumbled over to Kate.
She brushed her shoulder against mine and said in a low voice only we could hear, “these Australian girls are hot, I’m gonna make out with one.”
I chuckled, “go for it dude!”
I was bored of sitting, so I moved around Kate, and stood at the end of the table where some of the girls were making conversation. I introduced myself to a couple of them and we started talking about our travels, and experiences. One girl was with her already intoxicated cousin, and holding back on drinking to take care of her.
It was kind of her. I looked at her sympathetically, “just make sure you have fun too, okay?”
She nodded amused and half smiled, “don’t worry, tomorrow is my night.” Just then her cousin, with deep dark blue hair, showed up.
At some point, between laughter, I looked over at Kate who seemed annoyed. She was trapped between the bar and another body, in the same position I had been in. I asked the people sitting next to her if they would let me get in so I could sit by her and save her from whatever annoyance was plastered across her face.
Once I starting scooting in, she tried scooting out, “hey hey, where are you going?” I asked playfully.
She gave me an odd look, and grabbed the neck cuff of my sweater and pulled me towards her, “no where now.”
Once we settled into our seats, we toasted to travelling and new friends. The toast went around the table.
I’m not quite sure what happened, but someone moved the table while she was setting down her cup, and the unevenness caused it to spill over into my lap.
Wonderful, wine in my lap was super attractive. Good thing it was white, easier to get out later.
She covered her mouth in response, and ushered out waves of apologies. I waved off her response, no big deal, it’ll dry.
She then started drying my lap with a napkin in her hands. Her movements on my lap went from innocent to decreasingly slow and seductive, lingering on the inner part of my thighs.
Per normal, I laughed nervously, and moved her “helping” hands away, “I’m fine really, no worries.” I didn’t want to assume she was flirting with me; I didn’t want to make this situation into something it wasn’t, because I was drunk and possibly imagining things I wanted to happen. It was just an accident — that’s all, nothing more, nothing less.
Dizzy and drunk, I wiped away whatever excess wine I could and decided I’d just sit and let it air dry before getting up again — I had two drinks in front of me anyway, that would hold me over.
Kate, also clearly drunk, leaned over and placed her lips momentarily against my neck, before pulling away and moving up towards my ear, “you really are so god damn cute, my eyes have been yours from the beginning.”
I scrunched my nose up and laughed lightly, while patting her cheek with one of hands in a friendly manner, “you’re drunk dude.”
She dug her arm behind my back and wrapped her other arm around the front of my body, her hands meeting and linking at my waist, “drunk words, sober thoughts, haven’t you ever heard of that?”
I shifted beneath her embrace, and suddenly became hyper aware of her body against mine. I don’t know what other sign I needed to know this girl was clearly into me, but it made me nervous. Her hands were wandering up and down the spine of my back, her other, tracing my thigh up and down.
At this point, another Australian girl replaced the first one, and was sitting beside Ramon. I lost focus on the moment between Kate and I, and overheard parts of their conversation, something along the lines of, “yeah I’m bisexual, it seems that girl is too for your friend.” “yeah my best friend is gay.”
I don’t quite remember the verbatim, but something along these lines. Kate looked at me with desire in her eyes. And honestly, I was feeling uncomfortable as fuck.
Here was this girl, younger than I, being unashamed of her sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no longer embarrassed of being gay. I’m proud of who I am, and I love myself all the more for it. You have to, you are forced to find an inner love and strength when you aren’t part of the status quo.
But I just wasn’t used to this. I’ve only been in one serious relationship, and we had to be very discreet. So now I found myself in the same country, in another random bar, meeting another Kate… but I wasn’t 17 this time.
I’m 24, and being this fucking nervous at physical touch was ridiculous. The openness of it, perhaps is what unhinged my nerves the most. The public display of affection — and here was this beautiful girl, throwing herself at me, and I couldn’t get over the fact that others might find it weird or make them uncomfortable.
It’s exhausting going through this mentality. Having to constantly watch what you do and say, at the comfort and expense to others — because you don’t want to cause a scene or receive a bad reaction.
But I was in Paris — and no one flinched a muscle. I wasn’t back home in Texas, and I didn’t need to be careful, I didn’t need to have this cautious mentality again that I adopted when I moved back home.
I could be the Trinh I fell in love with in Spain — that person didn’t give a damn how she expressed herself.
All of these thoughts swarmed in my head within a matter of five seconds — and I found my arm around her shoulder, her arms still wrapped around me. I pulled her in close to the side of my body, her face pressed close to my neck.
Her musky voice caught me off guard, “you smell so good, babe.”
I was done, there was no fighting it anymore — my want for her, too. I responded, “you know, that’s my favorite compliment.”
“Well you’re my favorite girl,” she brushed her lips against my ear, “you’re beautiful. I’ve had plenty of sex with other girls and guys, and you’re just beautiful in a way I didn’t mean it with anyone else.”
Was I swooning? Hell yes.
Were we drunk? Hell fucking yes.
Did it matter in that moment? Fuck no.
Would she remember this tomorrow? Not a damn chance.
“I think… you’re pretty, too” fumbled clumsily out from my lips. Though practical, I’m still a girl — and I’m sure the redness on my face wasn’t from alcohol at this point anymore.
Her thumb traced circles on the back of my hand, and then her fingertips went beneath my sweater and from my wrist to my foream, peeling back the sleeve and revealing my bare skin.
She grabbed my arm suddenly and said, “Oh! You have a triangle tattoo! What does it mean?!”
“It’s a really long story.”
She removed her arms around me and smiled, while pulling her pant leg up above her knee, revealing a part of her exposed thigh. Honestly, drunk Trinh was impressed she could pull her pant leg up that far, and wasn’t paying attention.
Then I heard Ramon, “duuuuuuuuuuude no way!”
I looked at what she was showing me, and it was a FUCKING TRIANGLE TATTOO.
An equilateral tattoo, much smaller than mine, but there it was. Beautiful and glorious.
“I think it’s cool,” she said.
I cupped her face with one of my hands, “you’re probably my soulmate in some form.”
“Yeah, I’m in love with you. I have been since we met.”
I realize how ridiculously cheesy this exchange was — but it happened, and I remember it. And sometimes I really hate how emotionally attached I become to experiences that are just that — experiences. That don’t need to be held on to. So I guess that’s why I’m writing about it; to release it, to stop thinking about it.
I am not normal in the sense that I have chance encounters with people and then the next day I forget.
Generally, these kinds of occurrences haunt me. Things that should be enjoyed in the moment, find their way into my thoughts, and I find myself tirelessly thinking about it for the next few days — even though it didn’t matter. At least not to the other person.
This is my favorite part of travel. The experience, the overload of sense stimulation, the memories, the stories — the writing, afterwards.
“Come with me to the restroom, babe,” Kate invited.
All night Ramon had been telling me to take her to the restroom, but me being me, didn’t. I fear rejection, I suppose.
So here was the golden opportunity — the universe couldn’t have presented me with a more perfect situation.
I followed her out of the booth, and she held my hand. Intertwined her fingers between mine and led me through the crowd.
This was very intimate to me — the holding hands. I don’t know why. I just think holding hands means so much. Like, we are joined, we are connected, don’t let go. It’s a comfort feeling.
When we got into the restroom stall, I turned my back on her, as she pulled her pants off. I didn’t want to appear rude or make her feel uncomfortable.
She laughed amused, “you’re a super nice person huh?”
I took a deep breath and sighed a chuckle out, “I try to be.”
She finished and grabbed my hand to turn me around. She was taller than I, and my back was pressed against the door. We looked at each other, and this was it, this was the look Ramon always talks about.
The look girls get when they want you to kiss them, the slight lip bite, and the unbreakable eye contact.
I could smell her, whatever fragrance she was wearing; the base of it was floral. The scent committed itself to my memory. This is how I would remember France now.
But what I also smelled was the undeniable waft of alcohol on her lips. I wanted so bad to kiss her, but I also didn’t want to feel guilty for it; for feeling like I took advantage of a younger person while under the influence.
I know normally, people my age kiss when drunk and have a good time of it.
So I don’t know why I didn’t just do it, because I know she wanted me to, too.
But alas, I didn’t. And I instantly regretted it, when I grabbed her hand and said, “let’s go back to the table.”
And that’s the story of how I failed at kissing someone in the most romantic city in the world.
Once we got back, her father had returned too. He asked Kate if she wanted to go outside and have a smoke, and she replied, “only if Trinh comes.”
So I obliged, and followed them both outside. Kate put her arm around my shoulder, and I put my arm around her waist — this wasn’t for affection, more stability. I think the alcohol was finally settling in and she was stumbling across the dance floor.
Right when we got outside, I think the cold air confirmed her state of being. She was a lot more intoxicated than I had previously thought, and was swaying clumsily in my arms. Her dad’s arms replaced mine, so I could light their smoke, and once the shared cigarette was done for, her dad said he was going to take her upstairs to sleep.
I bid them goodnight, and left them to retire to their room.
When I went back to the table, I noticed they had left her scarf and his jacket, so I kept them to give to them the next morning.
And I did indeed see Barry and Kate the next day. Her dad explained to me that she got super sick and had been throwing up in the morning. I laughed at his expression of her bad luck, and handed over their stuff, “oh thank you, you’re so sweet, I was hoping you guys kept our stuff! Kate will want to say bye to you, I’m sure,” he ended with a wink.
I nervous laughed, and wondered just how much had had witnessed from the night before.
I sat back at the table with Ramon, we were waiting for our lunch to be served in the same bar from last night. Kate walked in and immediately went straight to the bathroom. When she came out, Ramon motioned his head towards her so that I would turn around, “she looks dead as fuck, dude, ha ha ha.”
I turned to look at her, and we met each other’s gaze. I casually waved at her and she walked over to our table, “feeling okay?” I asked with a twinge of sarcasm.
“Yeah, I should have known better,” she said, with no hint or recollection of what transpired between us last night.
I was a bit disappointed, honestly. My luck with romance is always just so ironic, and fruitless.
Her dad walked up again, and said they had to catch their train back to the south of France, ushering them both away, “have a good trip, guys.”
Ramon and I both waved at them, “safe trip to y’all too.”
Handle me with caution, because I don’t give myself often.