The Rules of Friendship

Some people are magnetic.

They have an energy or a manner that eludes you, and makes you want to be a part of their inner circle. There are also points in life when this energy is exceptionally strong, normally during periods of self-searching…or self-sabotage.

Sometimes one even equals the other.

During a lonely period of time in my mid-twenties, I would travel back and forth monthly from Riyadh to Paris. I knew the city, bright and seductive, and I knew the language, but my relationship with Paris had shifted since my heart shattered months earlier. Everything seemed dull, muted. On my days off, I would wander alone in my isolation. Sometimes for hours, visiting the same museums and galleries that I used to once, trying to care, but unable to. During a moment of relief from my solitude, a quiet Sunday night after weekends filled with tourists and locals alike. I made my way to an unremarkable brasserie, Le Conti, marked with a red neon sign in the 5th arrondissement, an area I knew well. With pockets now filled with euros, it didn’t matter the price. Nothing really mattered. I scoured the menu as the waiter approached.

What would you like to drink? He asked in French. I responded with Sancerre, and he smiled at my pronunciation – either appreciating it or mocking it, I couldn’t tell. I had never been one to be assertive or aggressive with men, but at this point, all I wanted to do was feel. Anything. Anything that could give me something to hope for — a grain of sugar q— to keep hooked.

He cornered me after leaving the WC at the back of the restaurant, Est-ce que je peux te donner un bisous? (May I give you a kiss?)… I blushed, fuck it. Oui. And like that he gave me a kiss, and I felt something. A kiss turned into a late-night encounter starting on motorbike. Fuck. Fucking. That’s what it was really. But I was lonely and empty and starving for any human affection. Throughout these periods of week-long trips to Paris, I would spend my nights out partying with, what I called, mes amis de vendredi, my “Friday night friends.” I envisioned myself as Natalie Portman’s character in Léon…blasé, smoking cigarettes…seemingly uncaring. We would spend the nights before my day off taking parachutes of MDMA, feeling everything, the warm sensation of calm, then going home sucked dry and alone.

Going through the day’s motions in a trance, waiting for the next party, the next escape, my need for human interaction grew. I had money, and they had none. I would willing dole out euros for taxis, drugs, alcohol — just to feel a part of something.

They accepted graciously. I gave to them graciously. The come downs after the long nights were the most difficult and they embraced me. Let me cry on their beds. Sat with me so I wouldn’t be alone. Then I would leave to Riyadh, longing for the next holiday away from the lonely country filled with golden palaces, cold hallways and baby princes.

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