I called Artem three days before I was to fly to Paris. I told him that I would meet him at the Peninsula Hotel on the Champs-Élysées for breakfast and that he should go directly to the hotel the day before, spend the night, and I would meet him there after I landed. No worries, I told him, as I would quickly hop into a car at DeGaulle airport and make my way through the city with eyes closed so I wouldn’t see an inch of the beautiful city without him.
Artem was living in Salzburg so it was a hop, skip, and a jump for him to get to Paris. I suppose we could’ve met anywhere in Europe, but I thought if I was going to fall in love again, I was going to do it in the most romantic city in the world. I wasn’t sure what Artem was thinking exactly, but by his agreement to meet me at the hotel on September 3 I thought that whatever butterflies he was feeling, I was feeling too. After all, who really would jump on an international flight or European train to meet another man and risk being dumped in Paris, or worse abandoned?
But that’s not Artem. Artem is different. Artem is a man of his word. And while he is charmingly shy, he’s got this courageous low center of emotional gravity. You see, Artem is an honest, trustworthy, funny jokester; a genuine listener whose strong shoulders have always been available for anyone needing a good cry; a bewitching man whose charm oozes through images that grace the cover of some of Europe’s glossy magazines. But behind the exquisite beauty of his piercing blue eyes is a compassion so deep that you can’t help but leap off his high cheekbones and plunge headlong into his sun-glistened azure eyes; those eyes erased my hesitation and I burrowed headlong wooing Artem, knocking on the door to his soul; to stand in the pouring rain of doubt and silliness and uncertainty; to belly-up to the buffet of life and take that first nibble knowing, just like Eve in the garden, that temptation is sweetest right before you take that first bite.
So I decided to fly in business class in case this whole expedition would go horribly wrong and I needed to vacate my beloved and beloved Paris in haste. Artem asked me later that week in his delicate Ukranian lilt, “why did you hedge your bet?”
I turned to face him in that early morning, in our lovely bed and touched his cheek, drew my fingertips across his eyelashes making him blink and giggle and said, “I was scared. The ache I’ve felt for weeks has been tortuous. My longing for you runs deep in my heart like a thick vein of copper. And I haven’t been so hypnotized by anyone in my life.”