I touched his knee, that’s all. It happened accidentally, quite innocently. I leaned forward toward the driver, Trevor, to make a suggestion, he spun the steering wheel, the tiny Fiat swerved and I reached out to get my balance.
My hand landed on the knee of the tall, blonde, handsome executive crammed in the back seat next to me. That’s how it started.
I was a 35-year-old kept woman, living in Paris, this last time a new man addled me with his testosterone. (Refer to Addled by a Drug to read about the most recent time.) My role that night was corporate wife; a role perfected over a year of living in the tony 16th arrondisement while my then-husband, Alan, worked out of the European headquarters of his multi-national employer. Not bad duty for either of us.
Bill, the handsome blonde, was a newly promoted VP, in town to check out the project of Alan’s colleague, Trevor. Since this was Bill’s first trip to Paris, Trevor recruited us to help with his social duties.
What ensued was, just as Ernest Hemingway described it, a moveable feast. We started with aperitifs at the bar of the Ritz Hotel on the Place Vendȏme, next door to Cartier and around the corner from Maxim’s restaurant and René Lalique’s shop.
For the main course, I picked Le Train Bleu. Who would imagine that one of my favorite places to take visitors would be a train station? But like so much in Paris, this station restaurant expressed the Platonic ideal. Situated above the tracks of the Gare du Lyon, the restaurant has large arched windows so you can watch the trains arriving and leaving and know when it’s time to pay your bill, grab your bags and board your train. The décor is original Belle Epoque, with brass railings and walls and ceiling decorated with frescoes depicting the destinations of the trains departing below.
The final stop was Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank. Just like Hemingway and Faulkner, Camus and Sartre before us, we sat out on the square, sipped our coffee and watched the crowd gathering around the mime artist.
Sometime between leaving Le Train Bleu and arriving at Les Deux Magots came the moment in the crowded car; the swerve, my lurch, my hand touching Bill’s knee. His entire body stiffened beside me and I felt an electric jolt shoot from his leg, through my hand, up my arm and into my head.
The electric jolt pushed the air right out of my lungs. When I regained my breath I leaned back in the seat, turned to him, smiled and said, “Sorry.” Inwardly I thought, “My, my, isn’t this interesting.”
I also wondered what had brought this on.
Seriously, until that moment, I was oblivious to any dynamic between us. My role that evening was clear; keeping the social gears running smoothly. I was unconscious of doing anything to provoke a response from this attractive bachelor.
True, I was naked under the soft white angora sweater. True, under my leather skirt a garter belt held up silk stockings. But Bill couldn’t know that. That attire was part of my plan for Alan and me, later that night, after Trevor dropped us at the door of our apartment.
Unless, just maybe, my anticipation of private moments telegraphed subconsciously to this receptive male. Who knows.
Whatever triggered his response, he confirmed a month later that I hadn’t hallucinated it. That’s when he addled me.
He was back in Paris, heading out to dinner with Trevor and Jean Paul, head of the Paris office. Neither Alan, nor I, had any part of this visit. No reason for either of us to see him. Yet, through Bill’s machinations, he, Trevor and Jean Paul landed in our living room for before-dinner aperitifs.
Bill and I were the only ones in the room who knew why he was there. He bombarded me with his testosterone the moment I opened the door. Imagine being addled by a man’s desire as you sit across from your husband and his boss. I can only guess how I behaved; probably overly bright, overly talkative, trying to cover up this current passing between the two of us.
I lost control of the situation during the leave taking ceremony at the door. Honoring French custom, I exchanged kisses on the cheek, first with Jean Paul and then with Trevor. Then I turned to Bill, he bent toward me and I positioned myself to plant that impersonal kiss on his right cheek.
I have to take some responsibility for what happened next. I could have pulled back, shortened the encounter, minimized what was going on. But it felt too darn good. I fell into his kiss. At the crucial moment he turned his head so my lips landed right on his and I fell headlong into the lush, rich desire of that kiss.
My husband standing behind me in our apartment, his boss and colleague standing behind Bill in the hallway, and what did I do? I strained my body up to meet the lips of this highly desirable guy.
After I closed the door behind the three of them, I turned to face Alan.
He cocked an eyebrow, said, “Well, Georgia, now I get the big deal about cocktails at our place,” and enfolded me in his own embrace.
I never placed that call. Why would I? I loved the man to whom I was married.
Now, the story is different. I’m single. I googled Bill last night. He still lives in the same city I do. He’s retired, now.
And, he’s married. Darn.
What should I do? What would you do?