A few summers ago, I landed a coveted paid internship at an Upper West Side performance space. My boss was particularly easy-going and more than happy to accommodate my frequent smoke breaks. Every hour or two, I would sit on a little stoop at the corner of the building, feed my addiction and watch New York happen.
One afternoon, a way-too-attractive stranger walked by and smiled at me. I was 15 pounds overweight with no makeup on and wearing Birkenstocks. He was meticulously groomed and dressed like an Armani model. I figured either I was imagining it, or he was both homosexual and really, really happy. There was no other explanation for why I merited so much as a glance, let alone a friendly face.
He continued walking, and that was that. The next day, it happened again. He passed by and smiled. But this time, he took a few steps past me, then stopped and turned.
“Do you have a cigarette?” he asked, in a sexy French accent.
“Sure,” I said, and fished the pack out of my bag for him.
He took a cigarette and sat down next to me on the stoop. He wanted to talk.
“My name is Maxime,” he said.
“What’s yours?” I told him my name and asked him what his deal was. He told me he was staying at a youth hostel around the corner. He was from a town in France I’d never heard of, but spent a lot of time in the U.S.
He asked if I liked house music, and I said yes. He told me he was a DJ and producer and handed me his iPod so I could listen to a sample. The name of the DJ was one I’d heard before, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t him, but I didn’t say anything. He was so attractive and so French—why burst the bubble?
He told me to add him on MySpace, so later that day I did. His profile was a little sketchy and his comment wall was littered with posts from busty blonds of dubious origin, but the profile pictures were undoubtedly of him.
I needed to get back to work, so we parted ways, but he told me he was sure he’d see me again, and he was right.
I saw him a few days later on my lunch break, and we chatted some more. He told me that he owned his own company and that he did a lot of work with Sony. “And with these Russians I know.”
Then he asked if I could help him score some weed. I was clueless, so I made a few calls to friends and he was able to set something up in the neighborhood. After work, I met up with him and helped him find the gentleman with whom he was supposed to conduct his transaction. He told me he owed me dinner and we exchanged phone numbers, but neither of us ever called.
The next time I saw him, it was pouring rain. My little cigarette spot was well chosen—there was a nice, broad overhang, and as long as it wasn’t too windy, you could avoid getting wet. I was done for the day, and taking my evening after-work smoke, when Maxime ran up to me in a rush for cover.
“I need to buy new clothes,” he said. “I’ve got to take some cash out from the ATM.”
Um, OK,” I said. “Sounds urgent.” “What?” he asked. A New York-sarcasm barrier augmented the language barrier.
“Never mind,” I said. “OK,” he said. “Do you need to be anywhere?” I didn’t. “OK, here,” he said, handing me his iPod, his phone, some credit cards, a near-empty pack of cigarettes and a couple of twenties. “I’ll be back in a little while. I owe you.”
It was raining really hard, and his explanation for leaving me with all of his stuff seemed to be that he didn’t want to get anything wet. He was probably wearing some form-fitting Eurotrash track pants that didn’t have pockets, but I really can’t remember.
I sat there for 10 or 20 minutes, smoking and waiting for the Mysterious Maxime to return, pondering the possibilities. Were there drugs stashed somewhere in the battery compartment of his phone? Were the cash and cards counterfeit? Did he need to make sure he didn’t get mugged while he was doing whatever it was he was doing?
Nothing seemed to make complete sense, but when I later relayed the incident to my mother, she practically had a heart attack. “What do you mean a strange Frenchman left you with all of his stuff,” she asked with panic in her escalating voice. “You could have been killed!” Right, Mom. Sure. When Maxime returned (sans new clothes or any reasonable explanation for his actions), he told me he still owed me dinner. We walked around for a few blocks, still in the pouring rain, but nothing appealing was close by and both of us mostly just wanted to go home.
By this point, I had at least three of his phone numbers and he had my one. He promised to call and to take me out. He did call. We spoke once or twice, and made a few vague plans that always somehow got canceled.
At some point, I stopped trying to guess which of his sketchy prepaid phone numbers would be functioning each week and gave up. I never saw him again.
We’re still friends on MySpace and his pictures are still there, but according to the site, he hasn’t checked his profile since sometime in 2008.