Ch. 23 – Love Triangle
Well, I had a nasty shock the night of the Thanksgiving dinner given by France-Etats-Unis. Elaine and Nora decided to join us, despite the fact that they were British! Anyone who bought a ticket was welcome! I was always pretty dense – maybe self-centered – when it came to relationships. In this case, I completely missed the fact that Robert, who I had been attracted to, was obviously into Elaine. She was on hiatus with her boyfriend back in England, and now seemed to like Robert as well! I was taken aback as they danced together at the Thanksgiving dinner. I was fuming about it all night.
I moped around for days, answering Elaine’s “Are you okay?” questions with a diffident, “Nothing’s wrong…” Finally, we got down to it and talked about the situation. It was mostly my pride that was hurt. Last summer, I had been hot stuff – a femme fatale, almost! Now, I was in France, relegated to the “little sister” role as far as the guys were concerned, and feeling a bit like the “ugly stepsister”, in comparison to the other girls in the group. Carol had Chuck, Elaine had Robert, Nora was practically engaged with a guy back home, and it was becoming obvious (even to dense little me!) that Trisha had set her hook for Didier (to heck with the girl back in the United States!). But, eventually Elaine and I decided that this wasn’t worth losing our friendship over.
I know that I had no business thinking about other guys, since I professed to be in love with Pablo. He had really come through for me lately, with his latest letter, and another call on Thanksgiving. Actually, it took quite a few tries before we actually spoke. He called while I was sulking at the France-Etats-Unis dinner, and all I had on my door was a cryptic message that an “English” guy had called and would call back over the weekend. I waited and waited, and he did try to call on Saturday, but he got disconnected before we could talk. On Monday, I loaded myself up with 5 franc coins, and went to call him from a phone box. He was supposed to call me back the next morning, but we didn’t make the connection until the following day!
I thought that the phone call went better than our first. I tried to play it cool, but immediately began our conversation on a bit of an accusative note. “Did you fall asleep on me yesterday?” I asked. “Have you written to me yet?” When I realized how annoying I sounded, I switched my tone to a more joking one. I mentioned that I was sending a gift home for him. I then tried to cover up any idea that I was hinting for a gift from him by saying that I was only doing so because my mother was visiting. He said, “Hey, what do you mean, it’s convenient? Am I paying all of this money to call you so that you can insult me?” Before I could answer, he said, “I suppose I’ll have to send you something, since your mother is visiting you!”
We joked around after that, but I was relieved that I would not be a one-sided gift-giver. There’s nothing worse than that! He mentioned that, in his letter, he had tried to write a little bit in French (I remembered this!). He said that he had spent “hours” using a French dictionary to look up words. I said that it was absolutely correct (I lied!), and he demurred, saying that he really couldn’t speak French. I said that he spoke English really well, not to mention Italian! If I could speak French half as well as he spoke English, I said I would be really happy. He laughed and said, “Oh, is that a compliment? Finally!” Heck, he called – I owed him one.
Even though he no longer worked at El Torito, he told me some of the gossip. My favorite manager was returning to Houston to run a restaurant there because his wife was still in Houston. She was threatening to divorce him if he didn’t come back. I always wondered if he played around. I guess she did, too! Pablo’s brother was going back to college at USL, and his cousin had broken up (again) with his longtime girlfriend. Aldo’s cousin was one of he managers, and had a tempestuous relationship with his girlfriend – apparently they cheated on each other all the time. I mentioned that I would miss my old manager, and that I would have to visit him in Houston, and Pablo immediately said that “we” could make the trip together. Now, that was more like it!
I labored over my next letter to him. It was 3 or 4 days before I could render a final copy. I had found a really cute greeting card for him, but messed it up trying to write my letter after attending a birthday party. A combination of too much wine, and then, too much Kahlua and cream (we had located Kahlua in Angers, and White Russians or just plain Kahlua and cream became our drink of choice. Interesting how I detested coffee – and especially coffee milk, but Kahlua was pretty yummy!) – as I was saying – I drank too much, and then tried to write. When I read my letter the next day, it sounded too bizarre, and a little frantic. I had to go back to the drawing board. Of course, I spent more time on this than I ever did on my French homework!
I tried to make my letter very encouraging and optimistic, but meanwhile, I was feeling pretty pessimistic about the whole affair. Even though Pablo had been nothing but encouraging, all I could think of were the drawbacks:
1. We still had 6 more months to go, and his feelings could change for me – or he could meet someone else (It never occurred to me that I might meet someone else, despite my seemingly wandering eye).
2. Maybe he only felt this way about me because he was feeling uncertain about his future and had some major life decisions to make (that was what his last letter had been about.). Maybe I was just someone far away who listened to him.
-Those were just two of the concerns I wanted to discuss with him. Love for me had never been carefree. I had always been a worrier. I wished that I could just be one of those people who could fall blissfully in love and be confident it was returned. I was constantly in need of reassurance. I wanted to ask him about the above topics, just for him to reassure me. Even then, I would have wanted to worry. It gave me something to do.
In the meantime, I was in France. Everyone reminded me that this was the chance of a lifetime, and I couldn’t even live in the moment and enjoy it. All of my thoughts were focused on my return home and my future with Pablo. It occurred to me that it would be so easy to blow off the next 6 months, counting the moments until I got to go back home. I was not happy in Angers – my classes were difficult, and I missed my friends and family. But mostly, I think that I felt alone and wanted a boyfriend.
For a while, I became obsessed with a plan I had to return home early to surprise Pablo for his birthday. I went through all of the details in my mind. School almost be over then (his birthday was June 2nd, and we weren’t planning on going home until the 5th), but I would have to ask the directrice for permission to leave for home early. I was going to say I had to return for my only sister’s wedding! I was hoping to get permission to take my exams early, and then head home. I would have to go by myself and catch my flight, then figure out a way to get home to surprise Pablo. Would I surprise him at work or at home? Then, what if he moved into a new apartment – how would I get there! I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I had the dress, the champagne, dinner reservations at Shangri-la – all planned.
I finally calmed down a bit, and tried to look forward to the visit by my mother and our family friend, William. I was miserable, but I thought that I could hold on until I saw my mother. I also knew that a vacation was what I needed – that would distract me. Vacations were always welcome. In fact, I had a weekend in Paris coming up – that would be fun.