Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Romance of Paris...

Since Peace Corps volunteers are among the most shameless gossipers around (myself included) it should not have come as a surprise that other people speak about my girlfriend Paige and I. However, we were a little caught off guard to hear many volunteers were speculating that we were planning to get engaged in Paris. Last year, couples that went on vacation often came back engaged so we presume that’s how the rumor got started.

However, Paige and I would like everyone to know that we are definitely not getting engaged in Paris. Although, come to think of it, if the “two months salary” rule actually applies to engagement rings, one could save a fortune since our piddly little Peace Corps stipend adds up to very little. I could just spring for a lovely chrome washer at the local hardware store, glue a glass bead to it and call it a day. So it got me thinking, what if I did propose to Paige in Paris? I wonder how that would go? I’ll set the scene for the marriage proposal in Paris that we aren’t going to have:

After a riverboat ride along the Seine we pop into a quaint restaurant with candles and white table clothes and lots of romantic ambiance. Unfortunately, I accidentally order Paige the liver pate and braised calf's head instead of the salad with blue cheese crumbles and roast chicken because I can’t read the menu and am too ashamed to admit that I can’t remember hardly anything from my one year of college French. I order another bottle of wine despite Paige not wanting it so as to better put her in the mood to say, “Yes.” To further build the romantic mood I purchase a red rose from the obnoxious salesmen who always wander into Parisian restaurants frequented by tourists and give it to Paige as the entire restaurant lets out a collective groan of disgust.

Upon leaving, we purchase matching red berets and make our way to the Eiffel Tower. Paige reluctantly puts hers on and mutters something insulting under her breath. The moon is rising and a gentle snow is falling. Paige starts to shiver and I offer her my coat—ever the gentleman. I’ve been anticipating this moment, and have thus been wearing two coats the whole time. Paige seems to think this hollows the gesture a bit. I disagree. An argument ensues. I buy her chocolates as an apology.

Upon reaching the top of the Eiffel Tower we make our way to the guardrail and look out on the most romantic city in the world (besides Las Vegas). I ask the French security guard by the railing to take our picture and he reluctantly agrees. Just before he snaps it I get down on one knee and pull out a ring of very dubious design. The Frenchman with my camera involuntarily vomits in disgust since this is the 10,000th time he’s seen this corny routine. Paige rejects me outright for such a contrived, cliché and untimely proposal. We return to Georgia and everyone mocks me.

Actually, Paige and I were a little shocked to hear the rumor of our impending engagement. So we’re trying to spread a counter-rumor that we’re actually going to Paris with the intent to break up. I’ve listed below various scenarios of our potential break up in Paris:

1) The first morning in Paris, Paige goes to the corner bakery to buy me an almond croissant. A young circus performer with gentle features and a full head of hair saddles up beside her and invites her to sit with him. Paige has never been to France and thus didn’t know just how seductive the French accent is. She falls for him in minutes and they rush off to the circus together. Meanwhile, I sit in our apartment for a week waiting for her to return, wondering all the while if it wasn’t a little rude of me to send her out to grab my breakfast while I sat on the couch watching soccer highlights.

2) Fed by rumors I’ve heard since early childhood of “a place in France where naked ladies dance and a hole in the wall where the men can see it all,” I set out early one morning in hopes of finding it, in spite of some ominous and not so veiled threats from Paige. My search comes up empty and I return to the apartment at nightfall utterly dejected. Paige is gone. There’s a note though, but quite frankly her language and tone were abusive and crude and I refuse to repeat any of it.

3) After mistakenly thinking our waiter was mocking me at the bistro where we’re dining, I develop some unexpected and fairly stubborn patriotism and insist on ordering “freedom fries” instead of “pommes frites.” The waiter and some neighboring tables take offense, an argument breaks out, things are said that can’t be taken back, World Wars are referenced (my bad), and in the melee that ensues I’m severely beaten by a dozen Frenchmen armed with pepper grinders. Horribly embarrassed, Paige walks out of my life for good and into the arms of the man who runs the late-night falafel stand around the corner.

4) Suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed by homesickness for Georgia, Paige shuns the many culinary delights of Paris and insists on eating all her meals at the one Georgian restaurant in Paris. Utterly and completely disgusted, I promptly dump her and go out for a crepe.

5) After an afternoon spent wandering through the dazzling former palace of a French king, I suddenly decide I want a life of couture, elegance, chandeliers, delicate appetizers, wine tasting, and especially velvet pants and those frilly shirts with the ruffled collars and wide cuffs. Basically I become quite a dandy and take to sauntering the streets while quoting extensively from Voltaire during casual conversations. Paige dumps me.

6) While sitting down to a three-course meal in a local bistro Paige falls in love with the lobster bisque, stuffed quail and crème brulee. Recognizing her heart no longer belongs to me, I accept my fate and wander off in search of a heavy rock to tie to my leg to so I can drown myself in the river. Goodbye cruel world.

7) While watching a mime perform outside the modern art museum I become suddenly inspired. Years of bouncing from one job to another in search of my life’s calling finally comes to an end. The vision of spending the rest of my life trapped in an invisible box I can’t escape from while wearing face paint and ridiculous suspenders inspires such immense joy in me I could burst. I attempt to express this to Paige, but not in words. Oh, no. Instead I do it silently, using exaggerated facial expressions and ridiculous body movements. Paige accepts my decision, but out of deep respect for my family she goes to a local gun shop (do they have those in Paris?) purchases a handgun and promptly shoots me dead. The jury rules it justifiable homicide and my parents send her a thank you card.

8) While we attend a Christmas Eve mass at Notre Dame I receive a divine calling and decide to become a Catholic priest. And apparently the church has some fairly strict rules about dating women, thus dooming our relationship.

9) We discover the apartment we’re staying at is near the graveyard where former Doors front man Jim Morrison is buried. It turns out Paige is a huge Jim Morrison fan and insists on holding a séance on his gravestone along with a bunch of degenerate burnouts and losers who keep a vigil there at all times. After witnessing 5 minutes of this disgusting scene I flee.

10) During our layover in Munich on our way to Paris I feel the land of my Nickum ancestors calling me. I insist we skip our flight to Paris to better explore the culinary wonders of Germany instead. Paige boards the flight to Paris and never speaks to me again. And I soon discover there are no more Nickums in Germany and that I’m not even very German at all. Still, I guess it beats discovering the culinary wonders of my Irish ancestors.

11) Being from Texas, Paige insists on putting BBQ sauce and ketchup on her fois gras and practically everything else she eats. Disgusted by her Texan ways I dump her, and then wander off into the rain wearing my North Face jacket in search of the nearest Starbucks while listening to Nirvana on my Ipod and thinking afterwards maybe I’ll join an anti-war protest.

12) Unbeknownst to me, I have a certain je ne se quois that French fashion models can’t resist. The constant attention I receive by these beauties drives Paige into a jealous rage that can’t be calmed. I try to reassure her, but my kind words are lost on her. She leaves me in a huff and I’m forced to into the arms of these “conventionally beautiful” women that I don’t really desire. Loneliness drives men to desperate measures.

13) Suddenly confronted by a mugger on the metro, I ditch Paige and make a hasty retreat to the back of the subway car so fast it would make a French soldier proud. Paige beats the mugger bloody and dumps me for being a coward. A coward? “When in Rome,” I always say. Or France.


Blogger Jennifer said...

Scenario #13: Paige is sighing as she overlooks the Parisian skyline, when suddenly a deliveryman passes an envelope to her, addressed to Ryan Nickum. She puts down her baguette and thanks him. She has the notion that she shouldn't look at it, but curiosity overtakes her and she tears it open. It's Ryan's first social security check. Disgusted, she lets it fall from her hands to the cobblestone street below. She leaves on the first plane to a country with a high ratio of young citizens.

4:23 AM  
Blogger David said...

Absolutely brilliant. You never cease to amaze me with your words. I had to control my laughter so noone would hear me at work. Fabulous! It's ironic that your pain and suffering brings so much joy to others. You're a matryr. Keep it up!

11:35 AM  

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