One a.m. in Paris on a Monday at a gay bar called “Open” Cafe. Open, indeed. To Leonard and the one other patron in the place glued to his phone likely hoping that someone on Grindr was in his vicinity. They were. It’s just that no one was interested in messaging him back. A rainbow painted as though one giant horizontal brush stroke across the room added to the overall lack of chutzpah in the joint, Leonard noted to himself as he sucked down another gin fizz wishing he was instead sucking something else. But no, here he was with the only other lone gay man in Le Marais. The only one who couldn’t seem to “pair” easily even if just for a night.
He was in from San Francisco for a mere three days before his business mixed with pleasure trip would force him on to Milan. Where he was almost certain there was even less adequate gay action. Paris, on the other hand, was the modern birthplace of the gay man. Or was that Berlin? He supposed a little of both. Maybe he should have gone to Greece. The real birthplace. Or Rome. He didn’t know anymore. Everything was a jumble of dick pic images in his mind. A constant flurry goading him whenever he was alone.
It didn’t much help his self-esteem that the only other sentient being in the “cafe” preferred to stare at his phone as opposed to at least falling into the classic trap of “you’re a gay man, I’m a gay man, we should just fuck.” Leonard would’ve loved nothing more than to fall into that trap at this very moment when he was feeling alone and even the preoccupation with work had faded from his mind somewhere around midnight. He was somewhat disappointed but not all that surprised to find a lack of selection in the neighborhood in terms of what would actually be, er, open. He didn’t think a place so literally named would be the primary option apart from the ominously named Bear’s Den and the somewhat equally ominously named RAIDD Bar. There was some middleground in the form of freedj, but upon walking in to find that it was a congregated mass of non-dancing (and seemingly non-gay) people in the center of a small dance floor with the DJ blasting Stromae, he decided it was best to walk right out and try his luck elsewhere.
So here he was. In Gay Pair-ee. With nary a gay opportunity in sight. Even if he was willing to engage with this other homme tout seul if he wasn’t so goddamn antisocial. Of course, the French were the only non-friendly sect of Europeans it seemed. The sole variety that couldn’t be persuaded with a wink and a nod. Despite being the variety Leonard was most craving. Maybe there was something to the theory of being more desirable the more unattainable you were. If that was the case, Leonard was the very zenith of repellence. Still, he was not going to be back anytime soon, and what did he really have to lose in prostrating (ha ha, sounds like prostate) himself before this ostensible automaton who might very well have a mechanical dick for as alive as he looked at this moment?
The answer came when he steeled himself with the false confidence necessary to approach the man who would tersely tell him his name was Michel. Though he was certainly nothing like the saint. More arch enemy than archangel it would turn out by the morning. But for now, Michel was game enough to embrace whatever attempt at flirtation Leonard was trying his best to muster. For some reason, he never felt he had this issue in the Castro. Despite not exactly being a twink’s age, he was the one always approached rather than vice versa. It was likely because people could sense a sort of moneyed aura around him and they merely wanted someone to buy them a drink. Yet he chose to ignore that fact and made himself believe that it was because of his inherent charisma. His undeniable handsomeness. Of course, he was blocking out the fact that no one paid attention to him when he wasn’t dressing in Gucci and Armani.
After enough awkward chit chat, most of it quickly shut down whenever Leonard made an attempt to speak in French, they decided it was time to go back to Michel’s place nearby. Before they had reached the decision, it was urged on by the only working bartender, who came over to them and handed them the check without asking if they wanted another. It was quintessential Mariah Carey code for, “How ’bout you get the fuck out?” So they did.
At Michel’s place, Leonard was somewhat taken aback to find a magnanimous library filled with rare first editions ranging from the tomes of Simone Weil to Marcel Proust. It was strange, for he hadn’t really pinpointed Michel as being much of an intellectual. As he gazed at the spine of Camus’ The Stranger, he was interrupted by Michel tapping him on the shoulder and snapping, “Please don’t touch anything.” He then thrust an old-fashioned glass in his hand filled with some sort of amber brown liquid he took for whiskey or scotch. He was never very adept at identifying spirits geared toward a decidedly old man demographic. Cocktails were more his genre, but who was he to argue when a lubricating agent was much needed to cut through all this social frigidity emanating from Michel’s very core?
It didn’t take long before a smash cut to them in the bedroom, filled with bizarre hunting trophies that didn’t quite jive with the average gay man’s philosophy about living and letting live. Still, he did his best not to look up or directly ahead as Michel railed him in such a way that made the experience feel more like a dry anal rape than a pleasant buggering. Nonetheless, this was what he had come to Paris for, wasn’t it? A “romantic” tryst. An opportunity to find love, or at least someone he could meet up with now and again over the years whenever his work took him to the so-called City of Light. Yet it was in darkness that he awoke. Squirming around in what felt like a very confined space atop what felt like a giant marshmallow with the same squishy texture. It soon dawned on him that he was inside of a trash bag-packed dumpster.
In a panic, he started screaming and kicking the sides of the receptacle, which now smelled utterly unbearable. Awareness has that effect on people, walloping their senses into overdrive. In this case, the olfactory one wasn’t having it. His furor felt like it lasted for hours, but it was only two minutes before someone finally opened the top and helped him out. He was still in Le Marais, but he had no memory of where Michel lived or what his building looked like. Everything after staring into the eyes of some dead creature’s head was grayed out. He hadn’t had enough to drink for such a profound blackout and suspected Michel to be the only possible culprit. Feeling around his pockets, he also learned that he had been cleaned out. A visit to his bank account online confirmed that the funds had been drained. How could anyone possibly think Paris was a romantic place?
Determined to exact his revenge, Leonard returned to the Open Cafe later that day to obtain Michel’s last name by claiming that his “boyfriend” had forgotten the receipt last night and desperately needed it. The bartender assumed it was just a line for Leonard to amend a missed connection, not believing this meek American would be up to anything insidious. So it was that he handed him the receipt with the last four digits of Michel’s card and full name: Michel Marchelier. Never trust an asshole with an alliterative moniker.
Back in his hotel, Leonard set to work on his computer, intensively researching Monsieur Marchelier with his advanced resources and skills (the world of San Francisco tech was a mafia unto itself), and quickly learning that Michel most assuredly killed whoever originally lived in that apartment. Or at least put in the time to wait for him to die. Hours later, a few “tweaks” here and there led Leonard to turn on the TV to catch the news report that had surely already been playing for the past several minutes. The one that showcased Michel’s image at the side of a newscaster announcing that he had been the long sought after “Rue Monge Murderer.” Targeting most especially little girls walking home from school. That was the power of a deft keystroke and the rerouting of criminal records and “matching” DNA. He was the god in control of their dynamic now. Even if Michel hadn’t murdered someone to overtake that domicile, he got what was coming to him. And Leonard would do (and had done) the same again and again to any paramour that tried to take advantage of his “mild-manneredness.” Oh how loveless the life of a gay man could be.