It was early August and things were not going well.
I had just called off my engagement, the fingers on my left hand unused to feeling for a ring that was no longer there. Elsewhere, not one, but two people I considered my closest friends had broken my heart in totally different, though equally painful ways. I was hurting, big time.
One especially rough night, knowing I would drive myself batty if I stayed in alone with my thoughts, I told myself to buck up, threw on a light summery dress, and went up to one of my favorite spots in Paris: Montmartre.
There, I knew, Midnight in Paris would be playing on a huge screen en plein air; part of an itinerant outdoor summer movie series that roamed the city.
“I have to at least check it out,” the journalist in me reasoned. Plus, the meta factor of it alone: seeing Midnight in Paris, hearing that gorgeous Parisian soundtrack, while overlooking Paris — I couldn’t pass on that.
Neither, apparently, could anyone else.
Weaving through crowds of picnickers and tourists, I finally found an open space along the railing. I took in the scene, felt at peace for a moment, snapped a horribly grainy photo with my phone.
I’ve seen this movie a dozen times, I thought. I don’t need to stay.
Marion Cotillard’s face lit up the screen. “I love it,” she whispered quietly to Owen Wilson, complimenting his book as they meet for the first time. “I’m already hooked. Hooked!”
Dammit, I realized, as I silently started reciting the next lines in my head. I can’t leave. I love this movie.
So I stayed.
As I stood there, I became aware of the people around me. Couples resting with heads on shoulders, friends gathered around picnic blankets sharing a bottles of wine — and there was me, like a day-old baguette, standing alone.
While countless people to my left came and watched and went, I noticed a figure on my right who stayed. He was tall and skinny in the typically Parisian way, and he too was alone.
If this was a movie, this would be the perfect meet-cute, I mused.
I stayed in my spot for nearly two hours, until the very end of the film. I watched Owen Wilson’s character break up with his fiancée. I watched him stroll onto a Parisian bridge, meet a cute French girl, and walk off with her into the credits.
People around us started packing up their blankets, shuffling back towards Sacre-Coeur. I snuck a few glances out of the corner of my eye. He was still there.
I’ll stay until the credits finish rolling. I like watching credits. Ever the delusional romantic.
The credits gone, the screen faded to black. I didn’t move. He didn’t move.
I realized I was being ridiculous.
At that point, though, I stopped caring. The wind had picked up, and in the crisp summer night air, looking out towards the twinkling lights of all of Paris spread out before me, I felt like Kate Winslet at the bow of the Titanic (if the Titanic were a Parisian stone balcony and Leo had ditched me to stand alone while he ate dinner on the other side of the ship).
Heights being one of my greatest drugs, coupled with the gorgeous breeze, I suddenly felt the happiness that had been eluding me. I was staring at a beautiful city, I city I called home; I had just watched Midnight in Paris — in Paris — and darn it if I didn’t look good to boot.
Even if this dude never talked to me, which he wouldn’t because I had clearly watched too many Disney films, it didn’t matter. In that moment I was utterly content.
I turned to leave. He turned to look at me.
“Volzseavioemlealefum?” said the cute curly-haired stranger.
I stared at him, speechless.
He repeated himself, slowly, in French. Did you like the film?
Yes, I replied shakily in French, very much.
Have you seen it before?
Yes, many times.
I told him I was an American writer. He told me he was a French actor. The irony of it all, given what we had just watched, was not lost on either of us.
There was an awkward pause. The wind continued to blow around us. I thought that was it. Then:
Would you like to go for a drink with me?
I accepted, and we walked off into the credits.