Tag: addiction

Andreas in Paris

Quite an extensive excerpt from the next book.


Andreas, Paris

August 2006

My son went home to school at the end of July because he was still wait-listed for our school of choice in Hong Kong. It was less than ideal, and I made the more than 15-hour journey monthly to see him, but I was divorced and by far the major bread winner in our family, so doing just that took priority, and especially when paid at the level I was. Having been born myself into the most supportive family on earth, I knew quite well that he was as loved and safe and coddled and adored in my parents’ care as any one child could ever be, and in fact probably better off there in any case, at least for now. 

Andreas and I had arranged to meet in Paris the day before my birthday, and spend three nights together there. In the same room. For most women on their 36th, this might not have been a stretch, but for me, it was a knowing leap into an unknown abyss. It’s not just the pall that hangs over the entire event, e.g. the inevitability of sex, but also the immediate familiarity of showering, toilet habits, changing – like the express train to knowing far too much about someone you’d very possibly prefer to just adore from a distance.

We were staying at Le Meurice, my Paris habit that somewhat parallels my London one, though not to the same extent of frequency or familiarity, and when there I often arranged a special pedicure that is anathema elsewhere in the world. Andreas wasn’t due to arrive until that evening after work, so I did some light shopping, had the pedicure, took a long, hot bath and settled in for the wait. And wait. I do not remember exactly what time it was, except that it was about ten minutes after his flight was meant to have departed from Munich when he called. He had arrived at the Air France counter to be told that though his ticket had been purchased, an e-ticket had never been issued. As such, they had to call the ticketing center in France to manually issue it. From what he said – and from the near outraged tone of his voice – he truly lost his temper. They dawdled about for long enough that he had missed the last flight to Paris that evening. He had texted me when he arrived at the airport, so I knew he had arrived there in plenty of time and had wondered why I never heard back before the scheduled departure. Now I knew.

He toyed with the notion of renting a car and driving, but I told him that I would stay awake worrying as it would be the well into the wee hours of the morning before he would arrive. He retorted that he did not want me to wake up alone on my birthday. In the end, instead of going back into town, he checked into an airport hotel in Munich and took the first flight out the next morning.

By the time he arrived, I was understandably more anxious than I might otherwise have been, but when I opened the door to our opulent room, all I could see was a gigantic bouquet of flowers consuming my view. I giggled aloud and he moved them to one side so I could see his face, which was looking me up and down in an intentionally mischievous, almost mock-seductive manner. He kissed me on both cheeks and came inside. Never one to rest on his laurels, he immediately announced, after putting his bags in the dressing room, that he had berated the staff for not sending a bottle of champagne on my birthday, and that it was on its way up along with plastic cups, a satchel, and other goodies. It arrived far more quickly than I anticipated, leaving me with the notion that he had arranged this prior to his arrival, and within minutes we were making our way across the Rue de Rivoli, past the Tuileries and down towards the Seine.

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The Unbearable Pressure of Being

Last Saturday night, we were invited to a small party in honor of our son’s best friend who had recently graduated from college, as had mine. For us, it was a celebration for all of our sons – four in total – of a tight-knit group who actually only became friends because of our boys and the unbelievable bond of friendship they share. Over the last eight years, their relationships spread to us and we often spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and even Summer vacations abroad together, so synchronous was their friendship and our ease with one another. Last weekend would be no different, and perhaps even easier than ever before; the hard part was done, we were all relaxed, caterers and bartenders had been hired and all we had to do was sit on the expansive deck in the perfect Southern sunset and enjoy our wine and conversation.

Before the sun said its goodnights completely, at which point the boys retired to the pool below as we held our position at the candlelit tables above, I sat with the four of them and discussed their pasts, their futures and genuinely soaked in the joy of each of them and the power of that as it was multiplied exponentially by the concert of their camaraderie. I am blessed to have the son I do, and he is multiply blessed with these friends for life. Privileged? Perhaps. All of them products of a great private school in a well-known Southern enclave, each with parents whose cosmopolitan diversity and success is surpassed only by their respective love for, and devotion to their children. Indeed, it could be this above all that bonds us: to have experienced and enjoyed all that we have in our lives, we are parents first, above all else.

That night we stayed with our friends as we now always do, given the distance between the cities we currently call home. The boys, too, stayed the night, five of them in total squished together in a human puzzle on the large, field-size sectional sofa of the theater room, just as they had so many weekends when they were in high school, and so many holidays when they were in college. When my friend and I made our way downstairs around 11 the next morning, still in our PJs, coffee cups in hand, all of them were up and playing, save one who had arisen early and made his exit. He is our favorite – we all admit it – the happiest, most open, loving, free-spirited among them, and we bemoaned the fact we did not have the chance to bid him a proper farewell and enjoy our tight “other mom” hug.

My son and I drove home later that day, both of us a bit hungover, but recharged with humanity for having spent time with true friends rather than merely existing among those who think they know us but are aware of only what we are prepared to present or they willing to see. We need that, we humans, more often than it is availed and far more often than we admit, especially in the increasingly inhuman and virtual times in which we live. To be reminded that we are not alone, that even those who appear most perfect have issues and frustrations and things they would rather not drag into the light of day, but occasionally do when they are in the rare company of those of kindred spirit and unwavering trust.

The next day at home we started the ugly business of moving as we prepare to return forever to the rural shores of our beloved Wales. It has long been my dream and a promise I made to my son, so to have it come true has infused us both with a heady tonic of tolerance and determination for tasks we might otherwise find tedious and tiresome. But whereas I awoke alert, energized and ready to tackle whatever obstacle needed tearing away to reveal the view of our long-imagined future, my son was subdued, quiet and averted my gaze. I went through the day going from conference call to packing and back again, and he said that he was merely tired and would recover once he’d enjoyed his daily run. He headed out around 2 in the heat of the day and returned shortly after 3, a smelly, humidity soaked mess. He stood at the bar of our kitchen stretching and sweating as I dabbled and chatted, but rather than seeing that the veil of funk had lifted as it usually did post-cardio on days such as these, I detected a heaviness which could not be heaved loose by mere physical jostling. He looked at me directly and said without affectation, “Alex’s mom died.” I replied, stunned, “What? When? We were just with him Saturday night. He was perfect and happy and…”

“This morning, apparently. I don’t know anything more except that it was the result of some addiction,” he said.

Alex is the lovely kid; our favorite, the lightest of heart and most nimble of mind. The one who arose early Sunday and darted from the house before we could say goodbye. My son was mistaken as a result of the shock of the news and we later discovered that she had indeed be found on Sunday morning by Alex’s sister while he was still slumbering between his friends, safely downstairs, below and protected by others who love him as their own. That anything had been wrong at all, I would never have known. That something so dire had transpired left me and our circle in a state of uncomprehending disarray.

We never knew. It had been going on for a number of years. You never know.

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