My dearest friend,
Here is my tale of lost love. It happened near my birthday in June 1977, and it still feels like yesterday.
Mirage-like waves hovered over the molten tarmac, so Suzette ran to escape the nauseating stench of creosote, holding her breath until the doors slid open with a swoosh. The bracing coolness surrounded her, while she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
Suzette had fashioned her cropped tee shirt with scissors for ultimate airflow. Sher wore tattered blue jean cutoffs with flip-flops she labeled as ‘survival wear.’ Mother always scolded, “Never go out looking ragged, because you never know when you’ll run into mister right.” Today Suzette didn’t give a fuck.
She’d swept her long red hair into a high ponytail to keep it off her neck in this burning hell of summer. Drops of sweat trickled down between her breasts while she navigated her languid body toward the produce section. The relief of the cool interior embraced her. She relished the delicious water sprays emanating from those hoses that would erupt and give a tingling sensation on her bare arms.
She lingered, holding an eggplant in her palm, admiring its globular beauty, its depth of color as it changed in the light with the weight of its interior promise of meaty flesh. She thought of pairing it with garlic and marinara sauce when he leaned in.
“Ah oui, she is a beauty!” he said.
She turned her head toward the enchanting familiar ring of a Frenchman’s accent, expecting to see Jacques. But it wasn’t him, so she pouted, recalling Jacque had returned to Paris. The cheeky Frenchman interrupted her thoughts once again, “You were expecting someone, yes?”
She felt a chill while cool drops of perspiration tickled down her bare midriff. Still cradling the eggplant, she turned toward him, looking down to watch sweat pooling in her navel. He observed along with her as if it were a magnificent thing to behold, and because her rib cage led his eyes to a petite waist that gave swell to lush wide hip bones and a flat but perfectly rounded tummy.
She looked up, “No… no, I thought you were someone else”.
He held no resemblance to Jacques; shorter with tanned skin, scrappy looking. He wore jeans with a threadbare T-shirt and sneakers. Deep black eyes, long lashes, and unshaven, his hair stood up by itself in twists, like the sweet sad look of a street waif.
“I am so sorry to have bothered you, mon Cher,” then turned to walk away.
She called after him, “I’m Suzette”
He stopped and turned to her, “Jean-Michel, c’est un plaisir.”
Her nipples perked up in the cool air and she blushed, then laying the eggplant down she turned and removed her sunglasses to examine him more closely.
“You have the eyes of a cat, he exclaimed… je l’adore!”
“Merci” she smiled, turning to the eggplant as she placed it in her cloth shopping bag.
“How will you cook les aubergines?”
Holding the bag in front of her chest, she spoke,
“Um, I make a sauce? And layer it? I call it eggplant lasagna, but it’s just a take on what you would call aubergine parmesan. I love the melted cheese,” she said, shrugging her right shoulder.
“Do you care for fromages français?” he queried.
Suzette bit her lip, closing her eyes, “French brie?”
“Ah, Brie de Meaux, mon préféré!”
Jean-Michel reached out, taking her fingers in his warm hand. Suzette followed without hesitation, but she hung back a little as he held her slender finger while she observed him, smiling to herself because he had a skip in his walk; light steps, like a dancer. When he released her, his nimble hands selected a Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio, French Brie by Notre Dame, and a Mozzarella di Bufala. He rocked them in his arms, then took hold of Suzette’s hand again.
“Come! We must choose the wine!”
Suzette cocked her head and raised her eyebrows, but trotted along obediently in her flimsy flip-flops reciting under her breath, “Oh my god, what the fuck?”
Because she was already in love with him.
He sped around, picking up a carry basket, and set the cheeses in it as she trailed him through the French wine aisle and back toward the checkout where he pulled out a worn leather wallet and paid for everything with cash. Suzette gave him a look of helplessness when he pushed the bags into her arms.
“What is it?” he said.
“It’s just–No, it’s okay… Thank you.”
“Ah Suzette, I am enchanted, and it is I who is thanking you.”
“An occasion to be generous–if you knew how I have craved this normalcy in my life.”
She tilted her head, Jean… should I call you Jean?
He nodded, “You may call me anything you like,” taking the bags from her and setting them on the cement floor.
“You owe me nussing… only…”
“S’il vous plaît Suzette, meet me tonight? I am sincere, I cannot live without to see you again!”
“How can I say no?”
“Well, I agree, you cannot say no!”
She laughed, falling against him, her mouth to his adorable ear. She whispered, “Tonight, at the Rendezvous lounge, eight-ish?”
Her breasts squished against his thin t-shirt. Suzette felt a pull in her groin. “Oh dear,” she sighed standing back again watching his eyes devour her.
He pulled a card from his wallet and handed it to her, “In case you have need to contact me”.
When she was safely back in her air-conditioned apartment, she picked up his card. Jean’s full name was Jean-Michel Cousteau. It had a Calypso logo with an inscription: “A lot of people attack the sea–I make love to it”–Jacques Cousteau.
“Who is this funny little Frenchman?”
The Rendezvous was a perfect hideaway, a restaurant for lovers. The cool dark interior with red leather horseshoe-shaped booths. Suzette was familiar with the bar, the impeccable service, and decent cuisine.
Suzette pushed the paneled leather door forward, stepping in, allowing her eyes to adjust to the dark cool room. She hated entering a bar alone. Isolation and fear overwhelmed her senses. It was bothersome having to swat away men’s advances.
She sighed in relief to see Jean-Michel leaning on the bar with a drink in hand. He had been watching for her. She felt grateful because it is never a pleasure to wait for a man.
Jean-Michel greeted her with a kiss on each cheek, then held both her hands, “Let me look at you… ah merveilleux!” and she turned for him like a child showing off her summer dress.
He wore slender black trousers with high-heeled boots, a lightweight black sports coat over a black silk dress shirt with a screaming abstract tie. She reached up and touched his unruly cowlick.
Suzette’s hair tumbled past her shoulders, and she glimpsed red highlights shimmering in the mirror over the bar. Her little black summer dress with spaghetti straps criss-crossed her back, dipped down toward her ass. It was short, showing off long slender legs and her turquoise high-heeled sandals.
“I took the liberty to reserve a table. Do you mind, Cheri?”
The maî·tre d stood by and escorted them to a dark corner table.
Jean ordered a buttery chardonnay with escargot. While they sipped the wine, he wasted no time explaining to that his father was Jacques Cousteau.
“I am the oldest son, I have spent much of my life sailing with my father.”
“Why are you in Los Angeles?” she asked, feeding him a garlicky dripping nibble of a snail from her plate. She leaned in to lick it off his chin, then looked around, embarrassed. But it was dark, so she relaxed in their private little nest.
Jean touched her juicy tongue with his, and gave a great sigh, “Ah, Suzette, we have been in the studios making a film. A documentary. It is taking a long time and I am weary of this land of automobiles and concrete. We will leave on Monday, for a new expedition to the island of Crete. We have so little time, mon cher,” he urged, watching Suzette sip cognac from her snifter.
Suzette nestled her bare leg close to his. Her heat drove him to reach around and touch her lower back, letting his fingertips slide beneath the straps of her dress. He pressed her toward him with the flat of his hand and whispered in her ear,“Je Veux que vous.” (I desire you)
His sanguine eyes met hers, but Suzette remained calm, allowing Jean to slide his hand down her spine, his middle finger slipping between her moist crack. She squirmed and sidled closer to him, arching her back to give him more access as she reached for his left hand, pressing it to her left thigh and guided it up, pushing her skirt away. He dared massage her sticky wetness through her panties until Suzette’s breath came in bursts. She lay her head on his shoulder. “Don’t stop” she whispered. Soon she was on the edge of orgasm, feeling desperate. She had never done such a thing in public.
Jean-Michel kept his cool, paid the check, and scooted Suzette out to the parking lot. The midsummer sun had set, but the tarmac was still steaming. The glow of the moon in a clear sky lit the way to Suzette’s vintage Mercedes.
She leaned against the car in the heat of the moonlit summer night, his hungry mouth upon hers. He pulled back to view her pretty face, and smiled, “Oh my Suzette enchantress, que dois-je faire?” (What are we to do?)
“This isn’t possible” she cried. Please Jean, you can’t leave me yet!”
He took that as permission to ravage her lips again, sucking and digging with his tongue. He floundered, sliding his hand up the back of her thighs, finding the waistband of her panties.
“Cheri, Je suis fou de toi!” (Dear, I’m crazy for you)
Her legs began to weaken. She turned to open the back door of the sedan and backed in. She slid her underwear down and threw it behind her. Jean gathered her dress above her waist to view her in the moonlight.
“Belle chatte!” he exclaimed.
She lay back with her legs spread for him. Jean was adorable, scrambling to please her. She laughed watching him struggle, gritting his teeth while trying to get out of his jacket. In frustration, he threw it and his tie on top of the car, unfastened his trousers, and dove in.
The mandatory silence passed while they held each other. She was feverish, needing him more than she’d ever wanted a man in her life. She smiled and reminded herself she needed to brush up on her French. But tears streamed down her throat. This was impossible! She couldn’t endure another heartache. Since Jacques returned to France, she’d been bereft.
Jean whispered, “Suzette, I must see you again. We have but two days. We will be together, yes?”
She loved him for using the word yes instead of no. It was a small thing, but meaningful. With Jacques there had been so many no’s. She was sick of impossible relationships.
Suzette lay there for many hesitant moments wondering how she could ever let him go tonight, and how after two more days, she knew it would break her again. She shouldn’t take the risk of breaking both their hearts.
He perceived she was thinking about it, “Look at me!” He pushed himself up, his glistening eyes pleading.
“Yes. I will spend three days with you Jean. Counting today”.
He relaxed in her arms. Suzette felt they hadn’t satiated their curiosities together, reserving the thought they had only one afternoon and one more evening to navigate each other’s bottomless depths.
Sunday afternoon Suzette traced the lines of his face, his long slender nose, and dimpled chin, down his neck to his hairless chest. She followed his tan lines, then the line to his navel, then continued down to his toes where she nibbled until he cried out.
Suzette turned his compliant body on his stomach and on her knees she traced the lines back up again, his firm buttox where she reached between his legs, turning him again, licking and bringing him to climax in her mouth. She sat on his chest, slid back pumping his hardness inside her aching cunt, he brought her to an orgasm that soaked them both.
“Qu’aimez-vous, Suzette?” (What do you love, Suzette?)
“Quels sont tes reves pour ta vie?” (What are your dreams for your life?)
“An artist, I want to be an artist, but not the kind you think. I’m fine with my life in the salon, but I want to be a chef. I enrolled in culinary school starting next month.”
“Ahh, merveillex, he exclaimed. Why am I not surprise? Cuisine! It is our connexion!”
She smiled and was up on her knees again, thinking how lovely it would be to be free, to sail the open sea.
“Please tell me about your adventures, what’s it like to be a sailor?”
Jean Michel, reached out, cupping her plump breast, running his hand down her lovely hip bone to her thigh, rubbing his thumb against her tender sex…
He began, “Okay, Calypso, she is a fabled sea nymph like you, Suzette.”
His accent made her smile. He, like a boy with his funny ways of pronouncing English.
Jean Michel started again, “She has big role in Homer’s Odyssey. She keeps the Greek hero Odysseus on her island so she can make him her husband. That woman Calypso keeps him hostage for seven years!”
Suzette kissed his fingers grinning, “This might tempt me to hold you hostage, Jean-Michel. Tell me more.”
“Well, Calypso expeditions are big money, Suzette. My father bound by commitments, a contract. Expeditions go on for weeks, even months, mon Cher; they are not fleeting sails… like our affair,” he laughed.
Suzette’s tears gushed like a waterfall.
Jean-Michel reached to console her,” “S’il vous plaît, mon amour, forgive me…”
She clung to him, intertwined in her sheets.
“It’s all right, it’s okay,” she bawled.
“No! It is not okay.” He turned his head, put his thumb and finger to his eyes holding back his own tears.
“So, are you going to cook the Aubergine for your man? I am starving here!”
She loved that he made her laugh. They hadn’t eaten since dinner last night. She remembered she had an eggplant lasagna in the freezer from last week, and pulled her naked body up, put on an apron and served it to him in bed with a flourish and the red wine he had purchased.
He went crazy, “OH! My Suzette… incroyable chef!”
Just the thought of how they’d met caused her to weep again.
“Oh, no no no mon Chéri!”
“I will show you what kind of man I am… I will wash dishes!
She threw herself on the bed, “Oh no you won’t.”
They slept and lingered in bed until Monday morning.
When Jean Michelle departed, he made promises he couldn’t keep.
“No, please,” she cried.
Suzette felt a gnawing emptiness when she closed the door and paced, glanced at the dirty dishes in the sink, and ran to the bedroom to throw herself in the sheets seething and tearful, then tore herself out of the apartment because their mingled scent crippled her. His touch, his gentle love that made her feel safe and content.
“I miss his funny face,” she told her friend over coffee. Will my mind ever be free of him? Is it possible to love someone so much, so soon?”
On returning home Suzette noticed a message on her answering device. His voice sounded sad, “I am missing you.”
She picked up her phone. Maybe they haven’t left the harbor yet?
Suzette fell to her knees, because the hotel phone continued to ring, and ring, and ring.
She raised her head when she heard a knock on the door.
Jean-Michel was full of adoring caresses, “Sit, Suzette.”
It was a proposal. Not of marriage, but of something far more committed.
He got down on his knee and pleaded, “Suzette, Je suis en amour avec vous (I am in love with you) and I wish for you to come with us on our voyage. Please say you will. You will have no worries. We will pay for your house while we are away. I have arranged for you to come.”
Suzette’s first thought was, “But”…
Jean-Michel had expected her answer. He urged, “Go to culinaire school when we return in six months. Please say yes, I can’t bear to part with you.”
Recalling what she had given up for Jacques, Suzette answered, “No, Jean-Michel.” God, she hated that word.
“I will be here. I will make my life, and you will do your job. She crossed her heart, I promise I will be here for you when this voyage over… I will!”
So, my dear friend, I lost Jean-Michel that year, but I gained a life. I think it was because of him I’ve become successful in my little catering business. I never heard from Jean-Michel again. When I think of him I always wonder if he mourned our love as much as I did? I think he would have been a fine father. Our boy looks so much like him, his dark eyes, his twisty impossible hair!
voici à l’amour, Suzette