After about two weeks traipsing all
over Paris with Mathieu, I was beginning to get a little confused. I
wasn't really sure what I was to him, or what he was to me, for that
matter. At first, he was just a cute boy who was showing me around
Paris. Then, the relationship quickly took on a sexual element. The
idea of being "boyfriends" seemed highly impractical, since I was only
going to be in Paris for another week, and then Mathieu and I
would be separated by an entire ocean. So were we just "fuck buddies,"
then? I didn't like the thought of that. I didn't want to be anyone's
But it didn't feel that way. Mathieu didn't treat me like he was just
using me for sex. He treated me so well, took care of everything I
needed, and was just so sweet and romantic. That
didn't seem to me like what a "fuck buddy" was. At any rate, I was
definitely starting to develop feelings for Mathieu that I wasn't
expecting. I just didn't know how he felt, and it seemed kind of stupid
to even bring up the topic, since we both knew that this couldn't last,
whatever it was. But it was so difficult not to be enamored of his
sweet, sensitive, and romantic nature ... and did I mention the
incredibly passionate, wild, yet gentle sex that we had every
night? I was really scared of falling in love, though. I mean, I guess
you don't really get to choose when it happens ... it just sort of
does. But I knew that if I let myself feel that, I would end up getting
my heart broken.
Maybe there was no need to talk about it, though. Perhaps I
should just enjoy
each moment, and not worry about what every little thing meant. And
each of those little moments was perfect. For instance, one day, late
in the afternoon, we were sitting together, sipping espresso on
Montmartre Street, watching the people walk by, taking in the sights
and sounds of the bustling city around us. Mathieu started drawing a
picture of the sunset on the paper tablecloth. I was shocked at how
talented an artist he was.
When he was finished, he tore off the
section of the tablecloth that he had been drawing on and gave it to
me. For some reason, that small gesture touched me deeply. It was
totally spontaneous and off-handed, yet seemed so romantic and genuine
-- a special gift from Mathieu to me, something no amount of Euros
could buy, and symbolized the relaxed, care-free, yet intense
relationship that we had developed over such a short period of time.
It just made me fall for him even more.
And then there were the late night walks we took down the
Champs-Elysées, holding hands, looking in the windows
of all of the
chic boutiques and world-famous shops, like Cartier, and wondering
aloud how it would feel
to be able to wear some of those horribly expensive things. When I
would start spacing
out and daydreaming, Mathieu would suddenly tickle me, or
and then take off running down the street, daring me to chase him. In
some ways, it was childish, but what was wrong with acting like a child
from time to time? And chasing after him down the Champs-Elysées, with the
brilliantly illuminated Arc de Triomphe in the distance, I once again
felt so ... free. He had opened up something in my heart, something so
new. It was like some kind of drug, and I never wanted that feeling to
During our last week, we spent most of our time wandering around some
of the lesser-known sections of Paris, giving me a chance to see what
"real" Parisians were like. The summer sun was hot, and I got to enjoy
the view of Mathieu walking around shirtless, his smooth, flawless
bronze skin and beautifully toned body covered with a sheen of sweat,
reflecting the bright sunlight. Not even Michelangelo's statue of David
compare to the perfection I saw in Mathieu. He truly was one of the
most beautiful boys I had ever laid eyes upon. It kind of made me
wonder what he could possibly see in someone like me.
Anyway, he took me to the Quartier du Marais -- the "Swamp Quarter" --
which was home to the new Opéra Bastille, and also happened to
be the "gay section" of the city. The area was criss-crossed with
narrow streets, vestiges of the medieval layout of the city, Mathieu
had explained. I had never been to the "gay section" of any city, so I
couldn't really tell if the one in Paris was different from any others.
But it was interesting, with lots of gay-friendly shops. Mathieu also
took me on a romantic walk along the Canal Saint-Martin. It was a quiet
and peaceful place, lined with trees and beautiful buildings, and
seemed somehow detached from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the
Mathieu even took me to meet some of his friends, several of whom were
also gay. At first, I was very
nervous. I was expecting to be treated rudely because I was an
American, thinking I would probably be personally blamed for the war in
American cultural hegemony, and all of the other supposed "evils" of
America. To my surprise,
though, when we went out for coffee and chatted with his friends, no
one even mentioned politics. They just talked about the
typical things teenagers tended to talk about, like their friends, what
they'd been doing for the summer, which universities they'd like to
attend, which new cell phone model they wanted to buy, and which famous
model was getting diddled by which sports star.
They were even kind enough to speak in English with each other -- even
though they were all native French speakers -- simply out of
consideration to me. I was stunned, to say the least. Almost all of my
preconceptions about the French had been washed down the drain. I
didn't even manage to get a whiff of strong body odor from them!
Mathieu's friends thought it would be a good idea to take a day trip to
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. So, the next day, one of
Mathieu's friends came to pick us up in his car, and we headed out on
one hundred and seventy mile trip toward St. Laurent-sur-Mer. The
cemetery and memorial were breathtaking, both somber and exquisitely
beautiful. I took numerous photographs of the semicircular colonnade
reflecting pool, as well as the bronze "Spirit of American Youth"
With the help of one of the tour guides from the information
center, I even managed to find my grandfather's grave. Although I'd
never met my grandfather, seeing his final resting place was very
moving, and I even shed a few tears. I couldn't thank
friends enough for taking me there. To my surprise, which I was
beginning to see was simply due to my own ignorance, they all seemed
and reverent as we walked around the grounds. These were our friends,
with whom we had fought and died for the same causes, side-by-side.
Sure, the politicians on
both sides loved to bicker with each other and stir up conflict. But
when it came down to it, these were our friends. They had been since
the time of the American Revolution, and still were today. Politicians
were politicians, wherever you went. They didn't represent the "real"
people, and I had found that the French were nothing like what I had
Eventually, though, it was time to head back to Paris for my last few
days with Mathieu. Once we got back to the city and bid farewell to his
friends, we decided to just walk around, stop at some small
cafés, and chat. I knew my time there was
drawing to a close, and I was going
to be very sad to be leaving not only Paris, but especially Mathieu. I
knew for sure now that I had fallen completely for him. It didn't seem
fair that I could meet such a wonderful guy, and
there be no chance that we could ever really be "together."
"Austin, I've had a great time with you these three weeks,"
Mathieu said shyly, as we were once again sitting at a sidewalk café,
sipping some wine, and nibbling on some cheese and baguettes.
"Me, too," I managed to say, with my mouth full.
"I mean, at first, I just thought you were a really cute guy ... and I
guess I was sort of hitting on you. I didn't actually expect
anything to happen," he admitted. "But after getting to know you, I
felt something ... different."
"I know," I replied, blushing. "I feel the same way, too. I just don't
think there's much we can do about it. I'm leaving in just a few days."
"Oui, mais je t'adore. I
really like you, and if it wasn't for the fact that we live so far
apart, I would be honored to be your lover," he said softly.
The way he said that sounded so heart-felt, so sincere, and I had to
a few stray tears from my eyes. We had met by chance. Fate apparently
had brought us together, and it seemed so cruel that after finding
other, and realizing our feelings went beyond just physical attraction,
we now had to be separated. And the chance of us ever getting back
together was practically nil. Mathieu planned on going to the
and I had to go back to Kansas City. On the bright side, though,
falling for Mathieu had helped me
get over my crush on my best friend, Joey, even if he did have the
nose on the face of the earth.
"I wish we could, too," I said, placing my hand gently over his and
giving it a tender squeeze. "But I guess it was just written in the
stars. You've opened up a whole new world to me, and showed me things
I've been blind to, or too scared of, for a long time. That's made it
all worth it."
Yikes! Where in the hell did I learn
to speak so eloquently? It must be something in the French water or
Mathieu just nodded and smiled shyly, shedding a few tears of his own.
It just so happened that it was pouring outside on our last day
Paris, so we decided to spend the whole day in the hotel room,
talking, snuggling, kissing, and, of course, making love. I was a bit
surprised (and relieved) that we had managed to evade the police for an
entire three weeks. But a bit of luck, and good planning, seemed to
have paid off. Ever since I had sent that e-mail to my mother, I
had refused to check my messages, because I was sure that there would
be at least fifty messages in my inbox, no doubt telling me that I
would be grounded until I turned eighteen ... or forever. But it
was worth it. Any punishment would have been worth it for the amazing
things I had learned and experienced during my three weeks that summer
with Mathieu in Paris.
The following day, when Mathieu accompanied me to the bus station where
would catch a bus to the airport in Brussels to meet back up with my
group, was extremely difficult. Neither of us wanted to say good-bye,
and we both cried for quite a while. We exchanged phone numbers and
e-mail addresses, and I hoped that we could at least stay in contact.
He may not have been my "boyfriend," but he was one of the best friends
I'd ever had, and he had completely changed my life. There was no way I
would ever forget him or the incredible time we spent together. And,
deep in my heart, I knew that I would find a way to see him again, no
matter what it took. And he made the same promise to me. Of course,
made between two young, slightly naive and love-struck teenage boys
have always been meant to be broken, but I could still dream, couldn't
Once we said our final good-byes, and shared a last, long, passionate
boarded the bus for Brussels. After several hours driving down the
highway at breakneck speeds, the bus finally arrived at the airport. As
soon as I got in the door, I noticed my group over by the check-in
counter. The director immediately
spotted me walking toward them.
"Where in the hell have you been, Austin?" he chastised me.
"Just hanging around," I replied enigmatically.
He eyed me suspiciously. "I hope it was worth it. You're going to be in
a hell of a lot of trouble when you get home."
"Oh, it was definitely worth it," I replied, with a wry grin.