Paris Nights (part 2)

19 September 2023

a story from a night in Paris in August 2023, read part 1

The next weekend, Dayana invited us out again. This time to an Asian fusion place called Double Dragon. We had gone up to Sacré-Cœur earlier in the day but I went home early to work. Max had stayed out to explore Paris and we agreed to meet up later in the night. I smoked a cigarette at a park while waiting for him. Parks in Paris are lush and green, which manicured lawns and neatly planted trees, sandy gravel paths and spacious park benches. I always seemed to find some French people sitting on the grass.

We met Yam for the first time, and tried to guess what kinda Asian she was. Korean? No. Chinese? No. Japanese? No. To be fair she looks East Asian. She’s from Thailand with ethnic Chinese parents originally from Vietnam. Seems like everywhere I go I hear similar stories to my fathers, Chinese people leaving Vietnam. Same shit different country. My dad just drew a different straw and ended up in the US instead of Thailand. Yam doesn’t speak Chinese though. I desperately hold onto my ability to speak Chinese. I know I’m American but I want to stay close to my roots, perhaps because I believe it makes me special, maybe I’m just old fashioned.

We had less to drink that night, 1 bottle of wine between four people. The food was good, a little bit more memorable. We finished dinner with beignets and now my three fellow diners believe I’m obsessed with donuts.

Then we went to a Jazz Bar. I found a low-key one called Sunset/Sunside I wanted to check out but we ended up going to Yam’s suggestion: Le Caveau de la Huchette. Max asked Elizabeth to come so we waited for her outside. Max had met Elizabeth online a few weeks before we landed in Paris. They had gone out a few times together already. There was a door price, but not too expensive. We walked into the bar, then down to the basement, a dark room with loud music, packed with people dancing to the lively beat of the band. It’s a different vibe than the sit and listen vibe from the jazz clubs I’m used to. But the energy was amazing.

We got drinks and sat above the dance floor, waiting for the next set to start. Old French men danced with young British girls to the interlude music blaring over the speakers. I wanted to get down. Dayana kept pointing at the boys, “See they’re all looking for girls to dance with, go find a French girl”. I’m shy, not drunk enough yet. So I asked Yam and Dayana if either of them would go down with me. Yam was a bit bashful but relented after the first song. The band boomed with swinging jazz beats and complex solos, the MC was American, he controlled the crowd with a booming friendly voice I could only imagine was from New Orleans. New Orleans because they played “Oh When the Saints”. We danced in that sweaty crowded basement full of young faces and British accents. Afterwards, I kept joking with Max that it was the first time I had felt the touch of a woman in 6 months.

Max wanted to drink more but Yam and Dayana wanted to catch the train home. We parted ways, Elizabeth, Max and I continuing on across the Seine to find somewhere else to drink. We talked for awhile, about our respective countries, difference in how we grew up, similarities, places we’d been to. At some point, Max got up to use the bathroom and I asked Elizabeth point blank “Why did you decide to meet Max?“.

She said she was just going with the flow but “in France, usually people date for a girlfriend and not just to be friends”.

”I mean, we do that in the States too, but it just depends on the person”.

It made me wonder if Elizabeth had different expectations from Max on whatever this fling was. I told her about meeting a girl in New York without much conclusion. I always wonder if meeting people while traveling is worth it. With the internet, we can still stay in touch but it’s impossible to replace a conversation in person. I told my New York landlady about the girl I met and she said that she had met men while traveling too, sometimes they keep in touch, sometimes it fizzles out. But she was probably pushing 40, still traveling the world, single, with a teenage kid in College so I can’t say for sure how much she knows about commitment.

Maybe we are just looking for friends. I know Max is only looking for friends when he’s traveling. That’s why I keep putting “date” in quotations, because on the surface, they seem like “dates” but really, he just wants someone else to hang out with besides me, which is fair. Imagine spending every hour of an entire month with the same person, you’d probably want to get the hell away from them eventually. We got into our fair share of fights but we finished that trip together and perhaps that’s a testament to our friendship.