Summer 2003

The summer turned out to be unusually hot — in more ways than one. I split my days and nights between working in a local sandwich bar, catching up on my studies and seeing Carl. We both knew our romance was not to last as he was going back to Sweden in the autumn. It pained me to have been dealt a deadline for our love, or perhaps more like an execution date when our bodies would be separated by the guillotine of geography, if not forever then for a long while. Carl didn’t seem to share the same concerns, but I chalked it up to irrevocable differences between the male and female sexes. We would meet up in the early evenings after my work, often at La Perle, or else Le Café Suédois on 11 Rue Payenne in the 3rd arrondissement, where Carl was holding down a part-time summer job. The evenings were spent trawling cafés and nightclubs. Monday was our cinema night, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays we would cook for each other. Carl was the far better chef with a large repertoire of Swedish and French recipes, but didn’t seem to mind my bland spaghetti bolognese or lemon chicken.

As summer progressed well into August, the prospect of separation became more and more imminent. I tried to bring it up, but Carl would brush it aside as something that wasn’t even a dot on the horizon — at least not on his. For he was the one leaving for home and his family. An ex-girlfriend who had figured in the background was waiting impatiently for him, and knowing their strong bond I couldn’t help but feel the underlying threat to the unity going by the name of ‘us’.

The last three weeks before he left can only be described as dreadful. A slow-motion train crash with no escape. We argued practically every day, and the few days we didn’t were paved with a frosty atmosphere that was as thick as icing. After every argument I would beg him not to leave. Neither the apartment nor Paris. But both seemed inevitable, and he would often storm out with his belongings quickly balled together in his ever-present duffel bag. I would cry myself to sleep, and after awhile I resorted once again to benzodiazepines to take me out of my misery.

We made love less and less, which I took as a sign of our imminent dissolution. I went off the pill in a desperate effort to keep us together. Despite being only twenty-three and Carl four years my senior, I, perhaps innocently, imagined a baby would somehow alter the course of events. I didn’t think 21st-century relationships came with an escape clause. But of course they do.