Saturday, May 14, 2011 Dallas, TX
Finally left Minnesota. It was not at all what I had expected. I didn’t think I’d meet some guy and have a pleasant “date”. I didn’t think Bemidji would be what it was. I didn’t think I’d have more grief to process. I just don’t have it all figured out, and that’s OK. Part of me is scared to go home; scared not for Paris, but the aftermath. I am scared that I’m unworthy; that I have to figure it out before anything can happen.
It’s just not true.
I’m growing. Learning. Changing.
Am I running? A little bit. Los Angeles has been difficult these past eleven months (when I last got out).
I am realizing that I can’t push anything. I can’t force anything to happen. I have to allow life to be natural.
And then I wonder, where is he – this magical, mythical man that everyone thinks I’m going to meet? I’m sitting in an international airport in Dallas, Texas, soon to be heading to FRANCE. And I just can’t help but wonder what he is doing right now.
Where is he? Who is he?
I have to let him go even before I know him. I have to be open. I AM open, but I have no idea how much further You want me to go. How much deeper? How much more self-reflection and introspection does one have to go through to heal?
Healing. Heal, heal, heal.
I think I’m getting there.
Four days later, Andrea and I excitedly boarded a plane to Paris, France. We skipped down the aisle to our respective seats (I danced and sang), flopped down and kicked off our shoes, ready for the ten-plus hour flight to the most romantic city in the world.
The male flight attendant sensed our excitement (who isn’t excited about boarding a plane to PARIS?!), and asked us what the purpose of our trip was. Andrea giggled and exclaimed, “We’re celebrating Leslie’s divorce!”
Someone on the plane clapped.
Suddenly, we had somewhat of an audience, so Andrea and I tag-teamed sharing my story. The flight attendant’s eyes grew wide, as he listened.
“Wait – hold that thought,” he interrupted, and raced to the back of the plane. He returned with two mini bottles of vodka, and the female flight attendant, who wanted to hear my tale, as well.
I have to admit: “Sister Wife” hooks ‘em, every time.
“Girl, you are going to get laid,” the flight attendant squealed, and then proceeded to tell me how she would be living vicariously, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I laughed, nervously. I was not — and am still not — interested in casual sex. I believe that sex is sacred; special. And since my self-esteem had been in the toilet for so long, I couldn’t flush it further, no matter how much I long(ed) for a romantic, passionate, hormonally charged encounter (in Paris!)
I had, however, made up my mind that I was going to kiss somebody.
I explained that my divorce had been official for a couple of months, and an 8-day jaunt to Paris with my “wife” was the perfect ending to the madness of the past two years. It was exciting to think that the world was finally starting to become my oyster.
As Los Angeles rapidly disappeared underneath the wings of our 747, I started to think about the last time I had been to Paris.
It was September, 1997.
X and I were both studying in England for the semester: I in London and he in Oxford. We decided to take the Chunnel one beautiful September day, and, a little over two hours later, found ourselves wandering the streets of Paris. I remember it being beautiful, and so much more exciting than London. I remember the Louvre; I remember the croissants and coffee. I can still sing the song we made up to remember the Metro station closest to where we stayed. I remember snapping pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and “stalking” the tunnel where Princess Diana had been killed, just weeks earlier.
It was completely adorned with flowers.
I remember my short, choppy blond hair, my chunky belly and my horrifically bad choice of shoes.
I also remember being blissfully in love, and engaged to be married to my favorite person in the world.
We were in PARIS!
X and I only stayed for the weekend. One night was spent in a small, dark hotel (in separate beds, of course!), and the other was spent on twin bunk beds in a youth hostel.
It was a rare thing to have a room to ourselves in a cheap hostel, so we were excited. We were determined to be good; behave ourselves. After all, we were saving sex for marriage.
Of course, we inevitably ended up messing around. Clothes came off, and we passionately pushed the boundaries of our pledge to stay pure until our wedding night.
The next thing I remember is a lot of blood. Blood everywhere. On the sheets, on X’s hands, on the pillowcase.
When I finally realized what had happened, I was mortified. Guilt, shame and embarrassment flooded over me. I cried. X held his head in his hands. We prayed, and asked forgiveness for our naughty behavior.
Although we hadn’t had sex, we clearly had broken…well…you know.
We cleaned up the mess and made up some story to get fresh sheets. I slept alone, on the top bunk that night, feeling like a terrible, dirty slut. I actually wasn’t naïve enough to believe that my virginity had been taken from me, but something in me changed from that moment on.
I remember telling X that Paris wouldn’t ever seem as romantic again.
And, because of my guilt, I didn’t want to return. I wasn’t interested in Paris anymore. It held our shame, and we left it there.
X and I maintained “good” behavior until our wedding night, which ended up being a long, drawn-out, two years later. It was a terrible struggle, but we managed to stay virgins, however you look at it. It is something of which I will always be proud.
At the same time, it made the betrayal of X’s infidelities slice even deeper into my soul.
Cut to: Fourteen years later. Divorced; unsexed; unaware of my actual attractiveness; free.
It was time to re-claim Paris for me.
It would only be a matter of hours before I would kiss my first Frenchman.