She knew it was coming. The separation between them had been discussed many months in advance, and Adriana was prepared for the fact that she probably wouldn’t see Augustin after their sojourn together in France. They had met each other in London, both traveling alone, trying to figure shit out about life—as though adhering to the absurdity of the Elizabeth Gilbert philosophy of self-discovery. They stayed on the Isle of Dogs, an area once deemed by certain playwrights to be “a dog’s life” for any person subjected to spending time there. But the price was right. They shared a room and lived inexpensively on shepherd’s pie and pints, both growing as plump as Adele by the time they were ready to switch countries and head to France.
Adriana misguidedly fell fast for Augustin. This would turn out to be a grand mistake as he had a certain extremist lust for adventure that Adriana could not rival, no matter how much she was in love with him. She had no desire to go to places like the Congo or China—she was daunted enough with the extent of Western Europe and the Nordic countries. She wanted one of them to be different, for him to be satisfied or for her to be less so. Lyon was to be the final stop on their tour together. She would continue to Turin, where the cold weather of the moment would match the coldness of her heart in the wake of its decimation. He would go on to Morocco, where he would begin an interminable exploration of the African continent. Their divergent itineraries had been no secret to Adriana, but she somehow assumed Augustin would cave at the last minute, that he wouldn’t be able to go through with leaving her for the sole sake of global reconnaissance.
They ingratiated themselves to France by starting in Paris, where they roamed through the arrondissements with the carefreeness that only seasoned expatriates could possess, though, of course, they were nothing more than mere travelers avoiding convention for as long as their funds would allow them to. They were together, but apart—as they always had been in their brief but instantly familiar relationship. Augustin’s sightseeing pursuits consisted of museums and historical points of interest, where hers favored bookstores and cemeteries. She intuited no sense of sadness on his part for the inevitable conclusion of their time together. As far as his worldview was concerned, it was the way of existence for people to blow in and out of it like leaves or cocaine. He told her the sort of platitudes that can only be appreciated in theory, but not in practice: “If we’re meant to be together, we will be,” “Everything that’s meant to happen will,” etc. She wanted to kill him for having this power over her, a power that she would never have over him. About three days in to their journey in Paris, she made the mistake of bothering to address cela doit sauter aux yeux (a.k.a. the elephant in the room). They were sitting at the generically named Café Central, taking a small break before making their obligatory pilgrimage to the nearby Eiffel Tower. He had ordered two Americanos for them, mistakenly thinking that the garçon would understand that this meant coffee. Instead he brought the cocktail of the same name containing Campari, vermouth and club soda. Augustin and Adriana should have been tipped off to the fact that something was amiss when he brought olives as an appetizer. But, just as with their relationship, they chose to ignore all the things that were glaringly not quite right.
When Augustin told the garçon of the misunderstanding, he huffily and in stereotypical snooty French fashion instructed, “In Europe, Americano is a cocktail. You might want to remember that.” He then removed the glasses and slapped down the new and intended order minutes later. To Adriana, it seemed possible that the vibes of ire were a result of being near her and Augustin’s tense energy. As she sipped her coffee, she told him the most logical course of action was for them to break up and not pretend that there was any conceivable way that things could continue between them. She wasn’t going to want to spend her life moving around and seeking to distract herself with folly the way he wanted to. And he wasn’t going to spend his life pretending to care about another person, when his first love was himself. It hurt her to say these realities out loud, and his admission, “I don’t know if I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” cut to the quick, reverberated in the pit of her stomach. She held back tears, knowing she would have plenty of time to cry on her own. They walked silently to the Eiffel Tower after she paid the check. He put his arm around her, a conciliatory gesture to remind her that they still had another week to spend together before splitting up in Lyon. She knew it was inane to try to pick a fight with him, that she might as well settle into the rest of their time together, like a rape.
When they arrived to the Eiffel, it was from the rear entrance of it. Augustin wanted to take a picture of the two of them with the landmark as the backdrop, but Adriana desired no part of such a memory. Nonetheless, he chose an Asian woman to snap the photo, a series of which all turned out like shit, with a prominent shadow cast over them and the tower barely given its due depiction. She took it while kneeling on the ground and therefore angled the camera upward, adding to the overall dark pall that characterized their non-smiling faces. These pictures were the final summation of a rapport that had burned out. Adriana wanted to cry again. It was all she could think about doing, yet the release of the tears, she feared, would never cease once begun. And Augustin had little patience for so-called maudlin emotion.
As they made their way closer to the structure, she walked ahead of him. She would now always associate the Eiffel Tower with agony. It wasn’t a monument to human accomplishment, but one to human cruelty. She stifled her sorrow, knowing that nothing good would come of it in that moment. In fact, she stifled it for the remainder of their time together in France. Until those final minutes in Lyon.
The city was, like so many European ones, invaded with a mix of old and new culture. But it was pervaded foremost by stairs—many, many stairs. It made a person wonder how the Gallo-Romans didn’t live longer, what with all those means to achieve ironclad health through exercise. Adriana and Augustin climbed what seemed like every stair-filled path rotely, making their way up to the Théâtre et Odéon Antique, where ancient denizens put on a show as good as the one Adriana was trying to put on now in feigning stoicism. She watched Augustin prance over to the center of the stage, where he shouted arbitrary sounds to test out the acoustics and projection of his voice. Adriana couldn’t help but smile and laugh at him. He was one of the few people able to make her do so, and soon he wouldn’t be around to do it. She was going to have to come to terms with the unwanted task of being ripped apart from Augustin later that day, when her train was scheduled to depart.
Though he was hesitant to do so, Adriana coerced Augustin into accompanying her to the train station. He told her it wasn’t necessary, that they would see each other again soon enough. Adriana wanted desperately to believe him, but knew he was deluding them both in spouting such assurances of hope. It is for this reason that she was adamant about having his companionship for the last few minutes leading up to her departure. They arrived at the Gare Saint-Paul about a half hour before the train was scheduled to leave for Turin. The pressure to speak to one another—to get in the last sentences of what was supposed to be a meaningful conversation—resulted in them saying nothing. They just stared, taking in the details of the other person for the ultimate appraisal. Apart from those ghastly photos in front of the Eiffel Tower together, this would be how they most remembered each other.
Adriana couldn’t prevent the tears from falling now, but she at least held out until a voice over the intercom announced the arrival of the Turin-bound train. She cursed herself for being a woman, for getting attached and, most of all, for sacrificing what was supposed to be the levity of her European jaunt to the unshakeable memory of Augustin.