Thoughts of love gather like dust in the attic of my mind and won’t be swept away. They cower like cobwebs in the corner, between boxes of broken promises, seeking shadow and shade at the first sight of dawn. Since love has knocked on my door and so often ran away, it is hard to believe that it really exists at all. It seems not everyone can hold a needle nor has the patience, never mind the skill, to sew a heart up so full of patchwork as mine, but French men don’t love like English boys do.
Sometimes monsieur and I don’t understand a single word of what each other says, and in some situations this proves useful. The language of love is different in each land, and communication difficulties create a helpful catch-net for the overspill of an over-eager heart. I’m allowed to call him ‘mon bien-aimé’, which is ‘my beloved’, after just one month because my palms have never felt the weight of these terms of endearment before. It’s a good excuse. These words are suddenly pearls that I’m scared to drop, placed in the palm of my hand I stammer and shake, the light they reflect is blinding, it scatters too far and falls short at my feet. I explain that it’s the fault of the French professor for forgetting to verse us the art of love, that we never had any lessons on how to address someone to whom we are attracted with amorous intent. This is followed by the innocent if slightly intentional hint that the only words of this kind that I know are ‘copain’ and ‘copine’, which happen to be boyfriend and girlfriend. At any rate, it worked. I’ve bagged myself a beautiful French boyfriend, a moustached connoisseur of cheese and wine who brings me croissants back from the boulangerie. I’ve never been so spoilt, though he insists on teaching me how to ski and eat snails.
In his arms, my heart is a beast raging out of control, thrashing its weight against the bone-white barbed-wire cage of a chest, but the futility of words frustrates me, particularly with the impossible task of trying to share it all in a foreign tongue. If I pick a flower and pluck each petal I will find out if he loves me, or if he loves me not, but l’amour à la francaise is much more advanced. Each petal that is picked brings love into blossom or bloom: “il m’aime un peu, il m’aime beaucoup, il m’aime passionnément, il m’aime à la follie, il ne m’aime pas de tout”. Whilst the English version may be bog-standard and boring, I either love you or I blatantly don’t, at least it is built upon the concrete structures of certainty that won’t crumble as soon as the sun comes out. As the hammer of my heartbeat threatens to rip through, tearing skin to shreds, my heart burst its banks in one sharp gasp: “C’est possible.” I am a bomb waiting to explode, burning from the inside out, a fire in my throat from the embers of words I never spoke: “C’est possible … que je t’aime.” If I have learned anything it is that the heart cannot be tamed, so don’t force it into hibernation.
When it is time to return to England, I wake and weep silent tears at his shoulder, trying to drown out the hum of his heartbeat though it can still be heard. The promise of love unstitching itself from my heart, again, I hadn’t anticipated that I would be this sad. It is like the sky has cracked and all the stars have slipped through. I wish I could stay. I wish I could sew the words “c’est possible que je t’aime” into a blanket, and wrap it round him to keep him warm through the winter. Sadly, the moment never lasts long enough, it flutters from the hand. Whilst I will return to Paris in just over one month, as after all, many more months of my year abroad await us, it feels like a lifetime and I will miss him every day. In any case, he takes me to the station and promises to be waiting on the platform when I come back.