Above, one of the most romantic photographs ever, Robert Doisneau's Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville, Paris. Below, the tale of a very different kiss, written soon after my junior semester abroad in Nice, France
We had been at the nightclub several hours when X. sat down close beside me. Around us violet lights glowed eerily on stuffed white couches, the dance floor swarmed with writhing bodies. Though it was a student soiree, drinks, even Cokes, cost 100 francs—fifteen dollars—so I'd been sipping my one complimentary screwdriver all night. After awhile a slow song hummed and the lights dimmed to a softer blue. X. moved closer and whispered, "You must experience a French kiss."Photo via www.robertdoisneau.com
I laughed and twirled my swizzle stick slowly through my drink. "You know, we have French kisses in America."
"You do?" He looked doubtful.
"Yes. And I have experienced them."
"Ah, but never from a French man."
"So they're different from American French kisses?"
He sneered. "Beh, oui! It comes from a French man."
I laughed again. "Okay, go ahead. Show me what a real French kiss is like." He leaned over and kissed me and it was the worst kiss I'd ever had. It was a long kiss and I started to feel like I was being strangled. By the time he let go of my tongue, my only thought was that I'd rather suck on my swizzle stick all night.
X. felt he'd had an altogether different affect. He leaned back, his dark eyes shining. "So you like, non?"
"Well," I said in all honesty, "it definitely was different."
Still, I let him kiss me again, in Cannes, at the top of a high hill just after we watched the pink and purple sky melt into the inky darkness of the Mediterranean. Earlier he had pulled me barefoot across the wintry beach in front of the Hôtel Carlton, filled my arms with peach roses and fed me tortellini and red wine at a sidewalk café where the waiter winked at us knowingly. ("Ah, there goes X. again," I imagined him thinking as he offered us fresh raspberries and more wine.) As for X. , all he said at the top of the hill was, "T'aime les vues, non?" Yes. Yes, I did love views. I had told him several weeks ago, and this particular view was spectacular, with a string of glowing lights now illuminating the meandering curves of the Côte d'Azur.
The kiss, though, was still bad.
"Use the good china for breakfast."