I was 19 with cobblestones under my feet and the smell of the Seine in my hair. I wore a long black dress, hippie sandals, and a smile. I'd been up for 27 hours.
He stepped out of the crowd like a petal from a wet, black bough. He looked like James Dean and had to speak loudly for me to hear his French words I could not understand. I searched his blue eyes for a translation. He tried again in German. I bit my bottom lip.
"Do you speak English?" Finally, I smiled. "Yes."
He took both my hands in his and said these words I'll never forget: "You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, and I want to have dinner with you tonight."
I was with a group of 60 about to board a boat for a dinner cruise through Paris. His hands were warm. His leather jacket groaned as he pulled me in, gently, just an inch . . .
"Who are you?"
I still struggle to remember his name. It could have been Michael. Or Damon. It might have been Matthew. He said he was from Texas. His father had sent him to Europe for a year to "be."
A voice yelled something in French and my line started to move.
"I'm with a group. I can't . . . "
"Please." His long fingers closed more tightly. "Just dinner. I think I'm in love with you."
The sun was setting, my group was boarding. I had no choice but to kiss him.
The strength of his jaw under my hand, his soft lips, the way my fingers slipped through his as I walked sideways up the ramp. I didn't take my eyes off him until the first bend in the river erased him. He never moved.
I ate nothing. Heard nothing. I remember only a bridge that looked like his lips, and the lights of the tower.
My only regret in 39 years is my fingers slipping through his.