paris sidewalk cafe
“I want it all”, Hanna told him.

He’d been walking back to his hotel after his conference presentation and decided to stop at one of Paris’ renowned sidewalk bistros. He’d found one that looked attractive. As he walked along the row of seats and tables a striking woman in a trim burgundy suit followed him with her gaze. When he turned his head to look at her, she raised her head and looked directly into his eyes, not averting her stare for a moment. He stared back, with a slight smile at her forwardness. He’d discovered that Parisians are fond of checking each other out, especially in public places like the brasseries and the Mˆ©tro, so he didn’t think this terribly unusual. He stopped walking. There were few empty seats in the bistro, and as he walked back towards her, the woman, still gazing right into his eyes, nodded towards the seat beside her, inviting him to sit.

She offered him her hand and they introduced themselves. They spoke French. She said she was Austrian, from a village in the mountains. Her long wavy hair was jet black. They explained what had brought them to Paris, and then moved the discussion to philosophy, and life goals. Hanna spoke exuberantly about her intentions in life:

“I want it all. Love, friendship, adventure, discovery, fun. I can’t, won’t be tied down. It’s not that I’m extravagant or unwilling to take responsibility. My ecological footprint is very small. I own next to nothing. I owe nothing. I don’t drive. I care about the planet, and about people, especially people who are responsible, who care.”

He asked her about her expensive-looking wardrobe, where she lived, and what she did for a living.

“I have three outfits, casual, that I made myself, that go with me everywhere. If I need something different, like this suit, I buy it in a thrift store and then, when I’m done with it, I donate it back, or give it to someone who needs it. My home, near a small village in Austria, is a one-room cottage in a forest. I sold the property to the government for one euro, on condition it never be developed and that I be able to use the cottage for free during my lifetime. It’s powered by wind and solar power, and it’s more or less empty. When I’m home I sleep there, prepare simple meals from local foods, write, paint, sculpt, weave, play music, and do research. But I’m a nomad, I’m comfortable anywhere and I like to move about and spend time with the many people I love, who are all over the planet. So I speak at conferences for the cost of transportation to the conference site. Most places I go I know people I can stay with, and I give them gifts of my artworks in thanks for their hospitality. If I don’t know anyone, I just make a new friend when I arrive. It’s fun.”

She asked him where he was staying, and when he told her, she asked if she could spend the night, and the one following, with him. He suggested it might be awkward, since the room had only one bed. She smiled at him wryly.

“I was hoping we’d make good use of the bed. I love making love, with people who are intelligent, sensitive, and kind. Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s not because you’re putting me up for the night. I’d offer to make love with you even if I couldn’t stay the night. I want to do a sketch of you, and that’s what I offer you for your accommodation. My offer of love is free.” She smiled again.

They talked for awhile about how to make the world a better place. He told her he had given up on trying to bring about systematic change, and instead intended to create models of a better way to live: intentional communities, natural enterprises, self-organized collaborative events. She liked the approach. She was a model herself, he discovered, of living light upon the land, of the gift economy.

They ate vegan food, watched the people, laughed, poked gentle fun at each other. Then, at sunset, she took his hand and said simply “time to make love”.

She was an expert lover. She teased him for hours, not letting him climax, while she taught him exactly how to please her, over and over. They took a bath together, and later a shower, in between rounds, and by the time they were sated it was the middle of the night. He was ready to sleep but she dragged him outside to show him Paris at night, when almost everyone was in bed. They walked for about an hour, holding hands, singing quietly, sharing confidences, laughing, crying. They went back to his hotel room and made love one more time, gently, slowly, by candlelight, and then slept in each other’s arms until noon.

They made love again when they awoke, and then Hanna gave him a speech she had clearly recited often. She lay on his shoulder, caressing his chest, and said:

“Tomorrow I leave for Stuttgart, for a conference on collaboration and innovation. You are really on to something, you know, with your talk about Love and Conversation being the keys to making the world a better place. But I’m not so sure about intentional communities, or about physical communities at all. The world has changed, and you can’t re-isolate people in communities, even if it may be for their own good. I have four lovers in Stuttgart and I am looking forward to being with them all. I will tell them about what I have learned from you, and from talking with you. I will probably pick up some new ideas and understanding from them, which I’ll relay to you, the next time we meet. And we will meet again, in Rio, in January, when we’re both at the same conference, and, if you’re up for it, at my place in April, as we discussed. I just want you to understand that I love you, but I also love many others, and I have to be free to spend time with them too. You understand? We can have a lot more fun until I go tomorrow, but no sad goodbyes, no tears, right?”

He was quiet for a moment, and then nodded, smiling. She went on:

“You should try doing what I do. Sell everything you have and become a Love Nomad like me. Make your ‘intentional community’ the whole world, all the people who ‘get’ what you’re saying or who, at least, because they’re intelligent and sensitive and caring and imaginative, could get what you’re saying. And just have fun loving them, in the way they want and deserve to be loved. And conversing with them, spreading the ideas and information and insights you have around, like a virus.”

All that day they explored Paris, and each other. They returned to the bistro where they’d met for dinner, and Hanna, using the same ‘eye trick’ she’d used on him, invited a wildly-dressed Parisian woman named Mireille to join them for dinner. That night was a threesome, of passion, and of conversation about art. Mireille was a performance artist, and she had adorned her body with tattoos, piercings and temporary drawings about Gaia, making a virtual canvas of her body. Hanna drew a sketch of him on Mireille’s shoulder as her two new lovers were sleeping in each other’s arms, and when she rose in the morning she left them a note, with her cell phone number, that read:

“I give you to each other, in love.”

Image is from parlerparis.com. The character of Hanna is based on a polyamorous woman I knew many years ago, who at that time was living with five lovers. I’d like to believe this is what she might have grownup to become.

Category: Short Stories
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