What happened in between is up for you to guess.
Six years and two months
He was the coolest of the cool. Cooler than the Fonz.
Cambridge, December 2013
I just knew. Straight away like out of the movies. Barely time for ‘What’s your name?’ He was the coolest of the cool. Cooler than the Fonz.
My 16 year old self couldn’t describe it or logically explain what was going on in her heart, body and mind- the big bang, the coming together of the stars, the intensity of wine and cigarette smoke and the loudest beat of the fromage of disco music in time to their kisses. Phone numbers swapped but not on our mobiles, the fragility of blue biro on the back of a fuzzy receipt.
Reader, please don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that that was it- for the night and for the rest of my life. That night was the first night where I based every decision, I made on my gut feelings and innate intuition.
I didn’t care that my neck was breaking as we stood there interlocked, my 5’3 looking into the whole wide universe of his 6’3. Was that the first time I allowed my own comfort to be pushed aside for someone else?
Cardiff, February 2020
Clinging on to a juxtaposed kind of love, I knew. His tears were acidic and burned through his saccharine words.
As I looked at him, again, listened to him again, felt worn down and weary, again, hated him, again, loved him, again, hated herself, again, something in me just flicked.
The weight of superficial love on my shoulders broke the spiral cycle of my torment and enveloped me. Stood before me was my past and clinging to my side, pinching me was my future: pick yourself, choose yourself, love yourself more than you ever loved him.
The pinch of reality was reassuring and comforting in its burn. It said ‘I am here with you. I am yours and you are mine.’ In that moment I came into one and felt complete again.
I turned and trusted my gut feelings and innate intuition once more. I just knew. Right then and there, like out of the movies, I turned and walked, faced the sun, and never looked back.
My body was in the way
If you’re feeling adventurous, my train departs at 7am.
Paris, September 2018
I’m finally feeling better, slowly emerging from the haze of the worst depressive episode of my life. That night I’m with my friend Coco in Paris, having fun for the first time in months, free from that weight in my chest, alive again.
We go from bar to bar, walking the streets of the capital in a hurry to enjoy everything it has to offer. When we get to a crowded pub, animated by the fever of Parisians finally off work on a Friday night, the dancefloor is packed. We head downstairs in hopes to find a table, and this guy comes towards us. Tall. Taller than me, which, is not so common. He informs us that apparently, we can’t be there because the tables have been booked for Chloe’s birthday. Intoxicated by the atmosphere and the alcohol, I claim it’s me, I’m Chloe. My masquerade doesn’t impress him, because as it turns out, this guy is Chloe’s friend and I ‘look nothing like her’. He’s amused though, and invites our merry little group to sit with them. He buys me a drink, and I can tell he’s into me. I, on the other hand, am guarded.
Two days later we go on a double date with his friend and Coco – they seemed to have hit it off that night, and I want to encourage her. The guy tries to kiss me in front of the Opéra Garnier. Not that easy, I say. Too bad I’m leaving tomorrow and going back to Uni soon, he complains. I challenge him, knowing all too well he lives more than an hour away: if you’re feeling adventurous and really want to see me again, come tomorrow at the train station, my train departs at 7am.
Paris, July 2019
He left me yesterday. I tried to suck it up at work, but I ended up crying in the cardboards and my boss set me free for the day. I hate this stupid warehouse job. I hate that I took it just to be in Paris, with him. And now he had left me. I was on my way to the train station to go back home for the week-end, the same train station he had come to meet me in the early morning eleven months prior.
He met me there again. I tried to look presentable, despite the deep dark circles around my eyes. ‘Is this the last time I’m ever seeing you?’ I cry out loud. ‘Of course not’ he says. Lies. He left me after months of fight against a broken sexuality, for a body that I couldn’t master, for a pain that only I endured, for a condition that he just ‘couldn’t get over’. He hugs me stronger than he ever has the past months, kisses me. I implore him to tell me he loves me one last time. He does, and I hate him for saying that.
A little boy sees me crying and comes to me, intrigued. My ex says ‘see, you attract them all, you’ll find someone fast.’ Asshole. The robotic voice of the train station reminds me it’s time to go. He kisses me. I feel every inch of me trembling as I part from his body, knowing I’ll never get back to it. I take my luggage, we share a pitiful goodbye look, and I watch him disappear into the crowd as I get in the train. The train is packed. It’s late. I text him ‘Je t’aime, thank you for everything.’ He sends back ‘Thank you for making me grow up so much. I hope your work will pay off. Take care of you.’
I watch an awful movie because it’s the only thing I could tolerate. I contain my tears. The stranger to my right tries to overwatch by my shoulder. A baby cries. My mom awaits me on the station platform in a blue dress. I break in her arms.
By Laura Dazon
A summer fling
So what now?
Manchester, July 2020
The first day was in Manchester. My friend Rosie and I had got the train up for a few days to see our other friend, Emily, who goes to university there. I knew of her housemate, Sean, who this is about, however I didn’t know that we would get so close during those few days.
Aside from the awkward smile we exchanged in the hallway as soon as I arrived, I didn’t properly meet him until the second day as I felt a bit awkward introducing myself. It was the following evening where we first spoke, sat with about 4 others in a bar called Courtyard, which was enveloped in warm red lighting. We often found ourselves making each other laugh through little one liners and drunken antics. It was about 1am when we all left, and he was still the only one of Emily’s friends who I hadn’t properly spoken to, so as we were leaving, I gave him a little hug and said, “hey, I’ve been meaning to say hi”. From there, we were talking all night.
We walked home, arms around each other, oblivious to the fact that everyone else was ten minutes behind us. We spoke about family, education, life in general and music (where, to my absolute joy, we first discovered that all of our favourite artists were mutual). The rest of that night while the others carried on the party in the living room we were sat peacefully outside, continuing on with our gripping chats and listening to the music we had been talking about on the way home. We laughed about the mutual awkwardness we first had, despite the fact that we were regretful about it costing us a day together.
A special kind of energy was shared that night. We found each other’s presence so warm and comforting — it was clear that we both had a special kind of connection that we treasured for the rest of that night and the rest of mine and Rosie’s visit.
Cardiff, August 2020
The last day was in Cardiff, where he had come to visit me after our time in Manchester. After another tender and affectionate few days together, on the last day we were both feeling melancholic about the whole situation. The mood and energy was noticeably different from every other moment of excitement and happiness there had been.
Sat on a bench in Bute Park he looked at me with a sort of sad confusion and asked, “so what now?” — and that question got me thinking exactly the same. Neither of us knew if we really wanted a relationship, especially one that was 150 miles apart and in the middle of our university lives. Maybe if we lived closer things would be much different right now. Maybe they wouldn’t. As he got on the train, we didn’t share a final hug. We felt an intense amount of passion in that short time we got to know each other, and we do still talk from time to time, where our mutual affection and feelings for each another are self-evident. However, things such as distance and other small nuances prevent those feelings from growing into anything substantial.
So, everything has stopped — but, it might not be a conclusive stop. Time will tell.
Long-distance got the best of us
Unwind time whenever you feel the pain, stop and pause the good moments and move on.
India, May 2018
It seems like yesterday when I first saw you at Anita’s birthday party, your hair was all messy and you were late. You came in and waved hello to everyone you knew but the extrovert me couldn’t help but scream a hello to grab your attention. Honestly, at that moment I thought I’d never see you again. Abhinav, you had all my attention when suddenly you started talking about the stars and the comets. I liked the way you smiled; it just made the whole room light up. A stranger who I instantly regretted not meeting earlier. We had a brief awkward conversation about how our childhood dreams were far from what we were doing today. You wanted to be a pilot and I wanted to be an astronaut. Little did I know, I had finally found the pilot of my butterflies and happiness, my pilot! We instantly bonded after that brief conversation and I remember how we were talking about flying a plane as a passion when we got rich.
We cut the cake but somehow my eyes never left yours, I was curious to know if we would ever meet again.
India, December 2019
I got off the car with a stone in my stomach and a slight tremble in my knees, while you parked the car, I was ready to break down. We walked to Anita’s terrace while she ran down to fetch some juice and fruits for us. He took out a small box covered in red gift paper and told me to unwrap it. As soon as I opened it there was a small hourglass in one hand and you held my other hand. “Unwind time whenever you feel the pain, stop and pause the good moments and move on.” Listening to this my heart broke into a million pieces but we had to do this, we had been constantly fighting for over a month and we couldn’t handle the long-distance that came along when I left for university.
I barely looked at him that afternoon as my heart ached, but I knew it was right for me, my heart knew it. You dropped me off and gave me the tightest hug and had guilt in your eyes, we both had been through a lot in the past few months and were only becoming toxic for each other. I hugged you back, glanced at your face one more time and never looked back. Since then, I have packed all your gifts in a box, kept it hidden and never looked at it again.
I paused at the good moments and moved on.
By Muskan Arora
When I boarded, I was just another teenager wanting to kiss a stranger on holiday
Between Amsterdam, Spain, and Portugal, on a Royal Caribbean cruise, June 2017
It began at the boat’s departure port, yes, my romance takes places on a cruise. It’s essentially a room of excited holidaymakers evaluating what they are stuck with for the week. Meanwhile, my 16 year-old-self was seeking contenders for the holiday romance at the forefront of my mind. I suss an only child across the room, immediately my mind races: he’s probably also on holiday with his unbearable family constantly telling him he will ‘meet kids his own age’, looking for something exciting just like I was. I did the best I could to grab his attention from where I was, but it generally wasn’t something I had mastered at that point. Nevertheless, the thought was something I couldn’t get off my mind.
The day passed, I realised of 2,500 guests it was impossible to find this mystery boy, let alone in a scenario that could be in any way romantic. However, I would not be writing if that were all. Later that evening, on my way down inside the boat’s lift, the door opened to reveal him to me once again. To my astonishment, he had no issue in telling me that he’d also noticed me earlier and asked if I was heading to the restaurant like he was. Despite just devouring a 3-course meal, I wasn’t about to lose this opportunity, so off I went. There was something exhilarating about being so upfront with an absolute stranger, someone who was non-existent before now. It is generally not who I am, but made it so much easier to open myself, it was like a new chance to sell myself to somebody. We walked around the boat for hours. He seemed to know the more secluded areas on deck. I never considered questioning why or even telling anybody where I was.
We both had this ‘fuck it’ attitude, nothing to lose, and an obscene curiosity of how far it could actually go, all from an unexpected night that didn’t seem to end.
End of the cruise, July 2017
One week later, on our last evening shared, we hadn’t planned to meet as we had done previously. However, It seemed that abandoning our families to sit on the top deck shivering together because we still weren’t bored of discussing weird topics felt like the best option, because whether it was intended, I saw him there for the final time. When I boarded, I was just another teenager wanting to kiss a stranger on holiday, when in fact, the reality of my holiday romance was so much better than I anticipated. The experience was almost therapeutic, I was able to both say and do things unimaginable to my peers back home, with somebody who was completely unknowledgeable, and I could leave knowing nothing would come back to me, and we each found pleasure in this.
It hit 2 am, with the ship disembarking in roughly 4 hours, we were sat on a deckchair hidden at the back of the boat. It was a deckchair we’d favoured throughout the holiday, a deckchair which had seen and heard far too much by this point, remember the ‘fuck it’ attitude. We both knew that living at opposite ends of the country, having each other’s Snapchat was the closest we could stay afterwards. Neither of us appeared upset, while we had spent every evening together, it wasn’t like we had made an emotional connection, it was just that the fun we’d been having was over. I’ll never know if he repeatedly found romance on every holiday, but it’s still one of my most special memories.
It’s not quite the Titanic, but it is a story I hope I never forget, and always makes for an incredible game of never have I ever.
By Sarah Mason
This concept is inspired by ‘S’aimer comme on se quitte: chroniques du premiers et du dernier jour’, a book by Lorraine de Foucher, as well as Le Monde’s own interpretation of this idea.