He had come to inhabit the apartment by, like all good things in life, luck and chance. The man who had left it to him didn’t want to surrender it fully, wanted to, in his mind, always have the power to return to it, to revoke ownership on a whim. Of course, Nigel was never going to come back from Russia. The only person who had ever done that was Lee Harvey Oswald and we all saw how his reingratiation into the world worked out. So no, Alfonse was not worried about losing his housing at a moment’s notice. The only thing in his life that was constant and worth talking about–showcasing to others from his workplace at the university, the jealous lot who instead had to schlep all the way from the thirteenth arrondissement–was his apartment. With decor also inherited from Nigel, Alfonse worked diligently to fill in the interior design gaps and build a cohesive style that he described proudly to others as bourgeois pauvre.
An ornate tapestry above his bed frame was the latest addition to handsoming the place for his many rotation of guests, the lot of which did not merely include those he invited over for dinner parties, but the traveling “international” students that frequently came from the “far reaches” of Oxford on the sole basis that Alfonse’s reputation for “hosting” was legendary. Any girl (or boy) who entered the apartment went in knowing full well that something must be offered up in exchange for Alfonse’s many hostly duties–from preparing home-cooked meals and stocking the fridge with an ample supply of alcohol (which the students would inevitably require to “perform” what was needed to keep Alfonse feeling this was all quid pro quo) to taking his unwitting sex slaves around town whenever and wherever they wanted to go.
The matter of Alfonse’s pansexuality was, at one point in the mid-00s, the greatest source of his controversy-causing among the academic community. Now, it was viewed as a way of “being” he had trailblazed, what with the incessant touting of gender fluidity and “attraction to souls not bodies” being all the rage in the present. This is what made the number of male students flocking to his apartment surge more than it ever had (well, that and all British men were gay at cock). At first, Alfonse was pleased, almost relieved for the diversity in genitalia, for he had been up to his eyelids in vaginal juices for so long, he almost forgot that cum didn’t have to smell putrid.
But around week four of hosting the same twenty-two year old Latin studies major, he was desperately craving the taste he had so recently been sick of. Thus, he began stripping Louis of the amenities he had helped grease him to become so effortlessly accustomed to, expectant of. Louis, to boot, was the laziest in the bedroom that Alfonse had ever had the displeasure of knowing, giving head but once in the weeks he had felt comfortable languishing about doing nothing. It was sheer insolence, Alfonse decided, in addition to the realization that perhaps women were more giving creatures to be tangoed with in a scenario as precise and obvious as this. So it is that he hatched his plan to make Louis so disenchanted with the apartment that he would leave tout de suite. It began with not bringing him breakfast in bed, in fact, not making him breakfast at all. Worst of all, providing no fresh coffee in the morning either. Louis immediately started to crack, not even bothering to act polite about demanding where all the luxuries had gone, squawking in his annoying pitch, “Alfooooonse, why isn’t there any cofffffeeeeee?”
Alfonse shrugged and said, “We’ve run out. Go buy some and make it yourself.”
Well that was certainly the only straw needed to break the camel’s back on Louis’ tolerance for staying at Rue des Patriarches for another second. And no sooner had Alfonse turned his back to take some orange juice out of the refrigerator for himself to parade in front of Louis than Louis had rushed into the bedroom to throw his small number of items into a large but smartly slim attaché case and get the fuck out like Mariah said.
Caught in mid-sip, Alfonse was aghast, letting the glass crash to the floor and shatter almost as instantaneously as his own heart in the face of this crushing epiphany. “Wait, you’re leaving? As in, right now? After everything I’ve done for you. Now you’re just proving you were only in this for the conditions. And now that the conditions aren’t right, you’re fucking showing your true colors aren’t you?”
It was then that the full weight of the revelation, stemmed from a plot that had backfired more than he bargained for, sat itself with cruel force upon his shoulders. It was true he knew somewhere deep down that the students who came to stay with him did so largely only because they got something rare out of it: a free place to sleep in a part Paris that wasn’t riddled with vermin of the people variety for as long as they wanted. But some latently self-denying part of himself believed that they might actually like him as a person after enough time spent with him. Sort of like Belle did with the Beast. See beyond the less than conventionally pleasant to look at exterior and become somehow charmed by what was inside. To know that even his personality was not enough without all the accoutrements of being a glorified Airbnb host was an unsettling reality Alfonse had not been prepared to deal with, though he himself had invited it in slowly castrating the usual deluxe treatment of the guest experience.
He suddenly reconciled why he had turned down so many superior teaching offers in other major cities throughout Europe and even the United States over the years. He would never be able to find as good or alluring of an apartment anywhere else. This place was his golden handcuffs. His ticket to having all the things he never would without it: sex, camaraderie and adoration. Even if it all came at the additional cost of having to entertain and serve. Wasn’t that a small enough price for the tradeoff of not having to feel as alone as he truly was all the time?
As he watched Louis scuttle down the street hurriedly from the vantage point of his window, he decided, no. It was not a small price at all. It was then that he called up Nigel in Russia and warned, “I’m coming to St. Petersburg.” Surely it was still a communistic enough environment for people to like and love each other for reasons that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the aesthetic and location of one’s apartment. Ah, but then all the buildings were swirly and colorful, he imagined, like set pieces from Candyland. It was sure to mean everything was egalitarian in the exchange of that arcane currency called affection.
The next tenant at Rue des Patriarches, a fellow awkward and bumbling professor with little going for him (other than extensive knowledge of Ovid) in Alfonse’s department, was quick to take his now ex co-worker’s offer of inhabiting the apartment. And not so quick to dole out anywhere near the same level of service and amenity offerings as Alfonse. Which was why he was just as eager to take a better teaching offer in London as he had been to take the apartment when he found that the structure wasn’t yielding him anywhere near the same sexual results as it had for Alfonse.