Ou étions nous? Ah yes.
So after the Mexican meal of egregious lying, I imagine he dropped me back in my metal box. I don't actually have photographic recall of even these momentous events. I forget to say that when he invited me back to his seventies hovel with Kiss wallpaper, I did - in deference to my mother - consider whether he was likely to be planning to cut me up and put me in bin bags, but concluded that I could totally take him if it came to hand to hand combat. He is fairly short, and had starved himself for months so the army would reject him.
We saw each other on and off, at school and out, for the next week or so in a sort of "better than watching yet another carjacking" fashion. At some point, in another café (which felt tremendously sophisticated. Me, a French man, an espresso! It was everything I'd been dreaming of for the last 5 years in York, brooding over copies of French Elle in my bedroom), he asked me in his atrocious English if I wanted to be ''eees girlfreind'. I was too polite to say no (truly, this is the story of my life) and we had an awkward - really awkward, almighty clashing of teeth - kiss and he dropped me back off at the metal box. I instantly regretted failing to say no properly, and chucked him, equally awkwardly, the next day. I can't imagine what I found to say. It was probably complete rubbish, but he got the message.
He took it tremendously well (he didn't seem terribly wedded to the idea either) and continued chauffering me around and chatting amiably to me over the Aromex and the drug busts and the weeping of the profs. Since he had started talking French to me I had had the chance to realise:
1. He was not an earnest half-wit and had a rather dry sense of humour.
2. Behind his giant eighties glasses he was actually rather fetching, with deliciously long eyelashes.
3. He was IMMENSELY useful. He had a car. He had a house - albeit a disgusting hovel in a tragically boring village - that was not made of metal and situated in a hotspot of social tension. He had found, and plugged in, a TV for me. I was in awe at this feat of practicality. Noone in my family has ever known how to handle a screwdriver. It was rather erotic.
One day, just about this date, actually (I think it was 2nd February. It's the only thing we have that passes for an anniversary and neither of us quite remembers when it was), he asked me if I wanted to go out for choucroute. I couldn't think of many things I would like less than choucroute, but it was a testament to his slow-acting charms that I agreed anyway. The choucroute was as horrible as I expected. Giant slabs of greyish meat and the pervasive smell of vinegar - ideal for a vinegar hating vegetarian (a concept I was forced to abandon, being dependent on the school canteen for sustenance, and the school canteen not being big on vegetarian, or indeed any, options) . Thankfully there was also an enormous quantity of Riesling.
Lots of Riesling, and almost no choucroute later, he suggested we went on to the cinema and I happily agreed. This seems a million miles away, in another life - a FILM at eleven at night? With the man who now gets edgy if he isn't in bed by ten and won't see a film if it's on after 4pm? But then, I remember I spend a long time beautifully putting my make up on back then too. And of course, I had real hair; and eyelashes. And I wore contacts. Ok, he's the one who got the dud. We drove across dark and rainy Rouen to the cinema, only to discover that the only thing we could still get into was Aladdin. We went anyway. We were the only ones in there, and I don't think we got much beyond the trailers before we jumped on each other. We went back to the hovel, and in the immortal words of Mrs Trefusis "his lips came down on hers and there were no more words, only the moonlight, blah blah blah".
I never really left, after that, returning to the metal box only to pick up clothes occasionally. I can't say it was absolutely idyllic - we fought All. The. Time. He got stoned a lot with his cousin Christophe and I sat bored in the corner. He was jealous of every man under the age of seventy five who glanced at me. But in-between fights we managed to have lots of fun. We drank a whole bottle of gin between us and went to a drumming concert in a village hall, and he had to carry me back home after ten minutes. We were extras in a film set in an S&M nightclub. He took me to school on his motorbike and introduced me to tubes of Nestlé Lait Concentré on sponge cake (quatre quarts) as a breakfast food. We had a steamy, erotic holiday on the Brittany coast with an economy pack of turkey thighs, gallons of wine and Alexis de Tocqueville (not in a 9 1/2 Weeks way, the turkey thighs. Or, indeed, Alexis de Tocqueville who was, and remains, a boring bastard and the bane of my first year at Oxford). We stayed in bed all morning on Sundays, then went for lunch at his granny's for our only proper meal of the week. I secretly threw away his Demis Roussos CD and his brown gardener's shoes. He sneaked in to meet me for breakfast in the Pavillon de la Reine (crazily extravagant! A present from the Bearded One who was feeling guilty about something) in Paris when I went to visit my mum and sister, then he took the Space Cadette up the Eiffel Tower. He helped me hide the true, grisly nature of Canteleu from both my parents when they visited, by not letting them anywhere near it at night. Or, indeed, during the day. Or at all.
It was always a holiday romance for me though. I really don't know how, or when, it shifted. The only turning point moment I can think of is perhaps when we were staying in a grisly B&B that summer in the south of Ireland, in the kind of small town where people have vestigial tails and eat their young. With no money and nowhere to go even if we had any, we were sitting in bed one evening in a halo of static from the nylon bedspreads, observed by fifty three bleeding Jesuses, looking out of the window. A tiny light flickered in the fields on the far side of the lake.
"What do you think that is?" I asked him idly.
"Quelqu'un en train d'enterrer son fils" (someone burying their son) he said, deadpan.
It made me laugh a lot.