Ten years after the incident in New York, surrounded by a different cast of characters and on another continent, I kidnapped my second man.
On a sunny June morning in southern Scotland, Alan, my former husband, our friend Reggie (who wrote One Man’s Viewpoint) and I dropped Reggie’s current squeeze, Rachel, at the gates of an ancient castle for a day of history, antiques and gardens, with a promise to pick her up at the 4 p.m. closing time.
We were intent on more vigorous activity. Our aim was to follow the ancient cattle drover’s trail that Reggie found in a guide book.
We parked our rental car next to a gypsy caravan, found the trail exactly where the book said it would be and headed out.
We were predators, Alexandra and I, leaning on the copper bar, me sipping my fresh lime margarita, she sipping her Anchor Steam beer. Our eyes hungrily scanned the room, taking in the group of men standing to my right, the group of men standing to her left and the people seated at tables around us.
“Ah, the Vixen Divorcee is out to get picked up,” you’re thinking as you read this. While this might be a natural assumption, you would be wrong to think it. I’ve never picked up anyone in a bar and am not about to start now.
No, Alexandra and I were actually hungry. We were specifically hungry for the roasted, organic, free-range chicken salad served at the Zuni Cafe on Market Street in San Francisco. I should qualify that by adding its famously served at Zuni Cafe on Market Street in San Francisco.
Here’s another essay I wrote while living in Paris in the 1980’s. The Men of Paris was the first.
April is the cruelest month
Breeding lilacs out of the dead land
Mixing memory and desire
Stirring dull roots with spring rain
So begins The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot. My theory is that he was inspired by an April spent alone in Paris.
For one beautiful, radiant week in an otherwise dreary April I walked the boulevards and strolled through the parks of a city superbly designed for love. I was alone.
Alan and I drifted off to sleep Sunday night in a city caught in the final throes of winter, with a cold rain pounding against the bricks of our courtyard and a northern wind rattling the wooden shutters closed tight over our windows. Early the next morning as I waved from the balcony as the taxi took him to the airport I saw that, voila, the amazing yearly miracle had happened over night.
I’m lying on a chaise lounge on the terrace of the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. Surrounding me are chic European men and women, gauche American insurance salesmen and their ill-at-ease wives. I’m 36 years old, reading today’s issue of the French newspaper Le Figaro, basking in almost perfect bliss. (You encountered me in this same spot, on the same day, in Toying.)
He smiles at me, shrugs his shoulders and says, “Ah, even when we were in college she was buttoned down. My best buddy said, ‘Your girlfriend makes my old grannie look wild.’ That’s what she was then, and that’s sure what my wife is now.’”
That’s what makes me do it, makes me break my rule. Never be provocative, never flirt, never cross that boundary. He’s married, I’m not. My rule is to absolutely ignore the chemistry between us.
But he’s laid down a challenge. I can’t help myself. His wife is conventional, unadventurous. I’m anything but. He just doesn’t know it. Yet.
Note to self: Never try a mind-altering substance while boarding public transit.
Good advice, don’t you think?
I wrote that note to myself 26 years ago because I foolishly swallowed a bit of Ecstasy right before climbing on a crowded bus on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Paris.
I recently found it in the side pocket of an old handbag I was about to throw out. The note was slipped between a few used metro tickets and a business card from a restaurant. I’d forgotten about that afternoon until chancing upon this yellowed slip of paper.
I blame Alan for what happened. What good are ex-husbands if you can’t blame them for your follies? His Swiss friend supplied us with the chemically pure formulation. His knowledge of chemistry convinced me I wouldn’t hurt my mind or body with this pill.
We each popped one and then hopped onto the bus headed for Les Trois Quartiers, a chic department store surrounded by the best food shops in Paris; Hédiard, Fauchon, and Marquise de Sévigné. None of these were places Alan had ever visited. What better idea than to explore them on a sunny afternoon in September?
Les Trois Quartiers to the left, the church of the Madeleine to the right, our bus pulling up right in the middle.
Between my last Valentine’s Day as a married woman and my first as a divorced woman, (see Valentine’s Day), I spent my one Valentine’s Day as neither one nor the other holding hands with a handsome, dissolute, notorious lady’s man named Marius.
The setting for our tryst was La Perla, a restaurant on Playa la Ropa in Zihautanejo, Mexico. Our table sat alone, the furthest from the restaurant, the closest to the shoreline. Moonlight, starlight, gentle waves, warm breezes, the sweet sound of soft voices and laughter drifting to us from the few boats in the bay; this should have been the setting for The Vixen Divorcee’s First Kiss, right?