My name is Simon. I’m 27 years old.
I arrived in Paris a few weeks ago, straight from the Boonies where I was born. I didn’t come here to work, I came here to learn the art of seducing the most beautiful and mysterious women on the planet: Parisian women.
Being the most awkward man who’s ever existed, it’s an impossible quest for me.
But I must say I’ve made quite a bit of progress lately. Recently, I met a semi-pro ladykiller who parsimoniously distilled a few good pieces of advice, including the following gem: smile as much as you can. Not an idiotic grin, no, but the smile of a chilled-out guy, easy-going and comfortable in his own skin. And I must say it paid off.
I’m naturally a bit of a downer, but this smile is like a disguise, a sort of super-hero costume. Whenever I go out “on the prowl”, I put on this mask of happiness to hide my doubts and fears. It helps me to feel like a good guy, a calming presence; I become this charming, nonchalant, vaguely ironic character, guaranteed to intrigue the opposite sex.
Now, thanks to this false face, I even manage to talk to complete strangers without too much trouble. And that’s quite something for me, believe me. Most guys, whether overly good-mannered or too shy, are absolutely incapable of chatting to a girl they like. They get agitated, mumble, stutter and just end up gurning like a loon. I, on the other hand, can handle it. Of course, in the beginning, it took an inhuman effort to even start a conversation, just like that, without prior eye contact. Powerful self-censorship mechanisms would kick in in my brain, signalling wildly that I shouldn’t be doing this, really. You’re bothering her. You’re scaring her. She’s too young. She’s too old. She’s busy. Stop it. But I learned to fight these instincts, to repress them.
At worst, thanks to this technique, I only get a polite refusal to my conversational overtures. It’s never violent, because I’m not a violent person myself.
Today, I’m going to see a girl I met last Thursday outside the Carreau du Temple. Her name is Élise and she’s a lawyer. I went up to her with a smile, I can’t even remember what I said to her but it worked. We had a drink the following day, and it was great. She happens to be really on the ball on top of being totally gorgeous. We parted ways with a promise to meet again.
And this morning, I got the message I had been waiting for:
“Do you want to meet at my place? 8 o’clock?”
Sweet. Except that I hadn’t really taken into account an important parameter about Parisian women: they live in Paris. A city paralysed daily by crazy traffic.
After spending more than 25 minutes stuck in an Uber on the rue de Rivoli, I started to lose patience. The driver, who could hear me huffing and puffing, turned around and said apologetically: “Honestly, sir, it’s totally jammed, you’d be be better off taking the Metro”.
It’s now 20h35. Here I am, on the Metro.
It’s still relatively early, for sure, but it’s too late nevertheless. I’m already way too late. I still have quite a few stops to go. Eight if I get off at St Lazare, nine if I opt for Europe. Élise is going to get impatient. Good thing, bad thing, I don’t know.
For now, I’m mostly trying hard not to faint. This carriage is way too crowded. It stinks. There must be a homeless guy somewhere. Myself and the other people who don’t live on the streets, gasping from the stench, are packed against each other, in rather intolerable physical proximity. We’re suffering, there’s no doubt about that.
I’ve drawn the short straw in this human trash-compactor, cornered against an obese office worker with a neon yellow Superdry beanie hat™. The nightmarish physical intimacy between us allows me to hear his highly unpleasant wheezing. Not only is he overweight, but he has also greatly misread the situation: against all logic, he persists in wanting to read his crappy newspaper when there’s clearly no space for that. He’s probably a current affairs addict. He persists, the moron, and manages more or less to unfold the free-sheet. In order to read at a comfortable distance, he is literally resting the newspaper on the of a small Asian man standing right in front of him. Oddly, the latter doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it. He’s not complaining, anyway.
Since I’m dying of boredom, I glance at the rag he’s holding. A small box titled “Good to Know” informs me that the word “pyjama” comes from the Hindi word pajama, designating loose-fitting pants worn by Indian people of yore, and adopted by British settlers for their much-appreciated comfort. It’s worth mentioning that Indians used to wear this pajama as a day outfit, not a night one. I don’t really know what to make of this information. Is it really “Good to Know”, in this case?
The stops inch by agonisingly slowly, the train stops several times in the middle of a tunnel, without anyone really knowing why. The office worker is getting hotter and hotter, he’s having a hard time breathing, his tie-knot is too tight. Oddly, he won’t take off his awful hat.
In front of me, a student with multiple piercings, her head almost entirely hidden underneath a huge scarf, is listening to the Vianney – Maître Gims duet so loud I can hear everything through her headphones “Si on vous gêêêne, bah c’est la mêêêême”(1).
With a lot of effort, the fat man has managed to turn a page, and is now scrutinising an ad for Poltrone sofas, whose designers claim to be “Artigiani della qualità”. Europe.
I now have to figure out how to extract myself from this cattle truck, between people who won’t budge and those who want to get in. I elbow my way out, forcing a passage, while mechanically repeating “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry” like a sociopath. I finally manage to get out onto the platform, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
A poster on the wall proudly advertises the newest attractions at the Musée Grévin(2). Kylian Mbappé’s wax double is incredibly badly made. Just like all the others, to be honest. The concept in itself is already disturbing, but sometimes you have to wonder if this “museum” isn’t botching its statues on purpose. I have a hard time believing that in 2019 you can’t mould a decent Patrick Bosso(3).
I feel a tap on my shoulder. I jump. Yuck. Who does that? As I turn around, I’m not unpleasantly surprised to see that the Unwanted Shoulder-Tapper is actually Kevin, a web developer I used to work with a couple of years ago. He’s wearing an old grey fleece jacket and pretty crappy Puma sneakers, a floppy satchel that’s halfway between a one-strap backpack and a sort of giant fanny pack. At work, people used to call him “Kev the Dev”, well, because his name is Kevin and he’s a developer.
What is he doing here? What were the odds of us meeting here, in the middle of a metropolis of ten million people? I ask him. He answers that he has found a job in La Défense(4), in a startup specialising in fair trade. We climb up to the surface and in unspoken agreement decide to walk together. Despite the pollution, the fresh air from the street is a real relief after the underground hell I’ve been through. I’ve known Kevin for about three years. He was already wearing the same fleece jacket. We’re not exactly friends, because friendship is not really his thing, but we got along well.
He’s a hardcore geek. He’s 30 years old, lives on his own and is probably still a virgin. He likes nothing more than reading manga, watching porn, playing video games and, most of all, collecting strange figurines of his favourite characters, like Son Goku and Iron Man. At the time, he spent most of his money and free time on these expensive statues.
I would have been tempted to make fun of him, his regressive toys and dumpster-diver fashion-sense, but humanity’s recent history has taught us that nerds like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are the new Masters of the Universe, and those who thought they were losers will soon be working for them. Well, let’s keep a cool head here, Kevin is no Elon Musk, and I doubt he will be revolutionising the world any day soon. But he has this quality I kind of envy: he gives zero fucks about being liked, by anyone.
He asks me what I’m doing in the neighbourhood, and I realise at that moment that I have forgotten. Oh, yes, Élise. The lawyer. My date. I check my phone to see how late I am. She’s sent me a message. “Forget it, it’s too late. See you later… or not”. I’m pretty stunned. Was she really making a fuss about a fifty-five-minute delay? Did she chicken out, realising that asking a near-complete stranger to come to her house was maybe not such a great idea in the end?
Kevin proposes we go to his place, “since I’m free”. We buy takeaway kebabs, smoke bad hash bought in a park near Batignolles, we play Fortnite, he introduces me enthusiastically to his new toys, that he’s ordered from Japan for a few million Yen.
All of a sudden, I realise that, for the first time in weeks, I’m smiling … for real.
(1) Vianney is a French singer-songwriter, Maître Gims a Congolese rapper and singer. Together, they released a duet, “La même”, that topped the charts in 2018.
(2) French equivalent to Madame Tussaud’s.
(3) French stand-up comedian.
Fabien Prade est auteur et écrivain. Après plusieurs années de journalisme-gonzo, son premier roman "Parce que tu me plais" (Editions du Nil et en Poche) a rencontré un vif succès en 2013. Il est également le créateur et l'auteur du site à succès Jooks.fr, spécialisé dans la micro-sociologie jubilatoire. Son second livre "Dans la tête des mecs" (Allary Editions) est également considéré comme un essai de référence pour décrypter les masculinités post-modernes.
Connectez-vous pour poster des commentaires