Raphaël hasn’t been in Paris long. So he says. He just wants to make a few new friends, get a few new clients. He specializes in couples photography, in addition to tasteful pictures of pregnant women, he says–but isn’t that an oxymoron unless you’re Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair or some shit? He also does fashion photography “on the side.” He’s looking for a face (read: body) that will speak to him. Evidently, it’s Christina’s. She isn’t especially “outstanding” in the aesthetic department, but she does have this certain “it” quality. The kind that all photographers still seeking to be of a “retro” nature desire. But there was nothing retro about Raphaël’s sleaziness as far as Christina could tell. It seemed rather garden variety, in fact, in its attempt at feigning “politeness”–doing her a favor by even deigning to speak with her, make her “an offer.” For what was she, just another brunette girl dressed in a way that was “asking for it”–short dress, ass cheeks peeking just ever so slightly out, long brown hair and an expression that connoted a false air of superiority. Of course Raphaël was going to approach her, that was clearly what she wanted. But if this was the case, then why couldn’t Raphaël simply be direct and tell her that he “liked her look,” as opposed to digging up the false excuse of needing to talk to her by inquiring, “Did you just come out of that restaurant?” It was an establishment right near the corner of Rue Maître-Albert, and she had only gone in out of desperation as she was famished already from the day’s touristic walk. Luckily for Raphaël, Christina still had some of her naïveté left–not too much, but enough to take his attempt at earnestness as genuine sincerity–and therefore returned, “Yes…why?”

Raphaël, conveniently positioned next to his motorcycle, proceeded to adjust his helmet underneath his arm as he said, “I was thinking of taking my girlfriend there and just wanted to know if you liked it…”

Christina was starting to see Raphaël’s game. He didn’t have a fucking girlfriend. Maybe a girl he fucked, but there were probably a few of those, for women are so open, vaginally, to what they’ll allow into their body, what with the scant number of men still claiming to be straight left in the world. But she didn’t feel like being a bitch yet today, she had to work up to that level, still too young at twenty-three to settle into it fully–for it to come as naturally as her period (yes, she still surrendered to getting her period, though most of her friends had done away with it via the use of various pills and IUDs). Maybe in another year’s time, it would be easier to act coldly, to bristle outrightly at the Raphaëls of the world. But today, she was still feeling charitable, like a “pure” spirit unbesmirched by the rampant creepoids of the world. In his own mind, Raphaël probably didn’t even know he was a creepoid, had no sense of true self-perception whatsoever. For the most part, that was everyone’s great problem in life: not being able to see themselves as they truly were, though all others around them could seem to. And they would happily tell Raphaël all about it if only he was willing to lower the walls that fortified his illusions of “just wanting to make girls look their best.” The asterisk of that sentence being: while I get a boner and then tell them to do something about it. And they’re always willing to do something about it–they’re just so grateful to be told that images from the shoot are “likely” going to end up in Vogue Paris or Vogue Italia (isn’t that weird how a city gets it own Vogue, but Italy must be all-encompassed for fashion with the entire country? Why can’t it be Vogue Milano?). In fact, Raphaël had never encountered a woman who said no to him, not on the street nor in the studio. He didn’t know if it was just because he was that good-looking or the girls he honed in on were simply that desperate to see their pliant bodies and countenances in what remained of the non-internet folds of pages. Suddenly, his fantasy of Christina bending to his every demand (in addition to just bending) in the studio was interrupted by the presence of another, younger girl walking by, her ass even further than out than Christina’s.

Raphaël was comforted with the thought that he would still be alive when women were so “evolved” that they went back to the roots of Eve and chose not to wear clothes at all. It would be the new fashion, he imagined with a gleam in his eye as he envisioned this form of utopia.

Christina was starting to lose patience with Raphaël and his glass-eyed drooling, so she snapped, “I actually have to get going. Hope you take your girlfriend to the restaurant.” And as she started to walk away, Raphaël felt like he was being separated into two, for he couldn’t decide if he should pursue the roughly nineteen-year-old girl or continue to finish laying the groundwork he had already started to with Christina. He knew he should proceed with the latter, but he felt paralyzed, as though his glans (for he was not circumcised as is still the European male custom after all this time) was branching into multiple directions that he couldn’t control or himself follow. And then, all at once, he found himself running after Christina, thrusting a business card into her hand and screaming, “Here! Take my card! If you need any photos while you’re in Paris.”

Christina arched her brow as she took it from him, because it would have been too cruel to say no, and she could see that there was clearly some sort of war going on inside of him that she could never possibly understand without herself being in possession of a corpus cavernosum. So she nodded, thanked him and pretended to walk away toward the Seine–that fake part of Paris that everyone wants to be close to when they visit, which is why Paris feels like even more of a perpetual cluster fuck than New York (for at least there is more than Notre-Dame, Sacré-Cœur, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower that people want to see in order to get them to spread out just a hair more, to dilute themselves enough to make the city feel breathable). And as she hid slightly behind the nearest edifice, she watched Raphaël give the same spiel to whoever this other “provocateuse” was. It was on that day that her naïveté faded entirely, and she held on to Raphaël’s business card for sometime after, keeping it as a sort of talisman in her wallet and storing a picture of it in her phone as a reminder that no matter how special a girl thinks she is, there is always another girl–more “special” a.k.a. more modifiable and more guileless. In truth, to be guileless as a woman was to be filled with the semen of guys.

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