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  • ST. TROPEZ SUMMER

    by Beata Henrichs-Lieb May 16, 2017

    ST. TROPEZ SUMMER

    It was the summer of 1983 and I had just turned 13. That summer, I went to St. Tropez with my best friend, her older brother, and her father, Edward. He took several rooms in a small hotel called the Le Yaca. Calista and I were as close as two girls could be. It was a marvelous time of my life, filled with innocence, adventure and laughs. We were given quite a bit of freedom, and from my perspective now, knowing exactly how much trouble we COULD have gotten into, we actually handled our freedom pretty well. We had a lot of freedom. As long as we showed up to dinner, we could pretty much do whatever we wanted.

    Even though Calista and I did not get into any kind of trouble that had any lasting psychological effects, we certainly ran with a fast crowd. We were precocious and interested in adults. Back in 1983, St. Tropez was still “small.” It had not been corrupted into the obscene and vulgar display of wealth that it is now.

    Edward was loved in St. Tropez, and therefore so were we, and the town was ours for the taking. We could go anywhere and do whatever we wanted, and because we were so young, our antics were encouraged. Putting on shows at Club 55, where we ate lunch every day; dancing all night at Les Caves (the only disco to be at); maneuvering around town on her brother Christian’s Kawasaki, the two of us squeezing onto the back, holding on for dear life; boat-hopping in the port; party-hopping in The Park; rolling with Serge and Pedro in their cigarette boat; bonding with their model “summer” girlfriends they’d flown in from Paris. The days just blended together, always the same, but never boring - just fun, with not a care in the world.

    I was sitting on the back of a banquette one night at Les Caves, cheering along to Peter Gabriel’s Solsberry Hill, when I met Didier. Handsome and brooding, he was for sure troubled (even at 13, I had a type.) This night, Les Caves was packed and he squeezed in at our table. The waiter brought over his bottle of vodka with his name taped to it – “DD” – and an assortment of mixers. I’m still baffled by how they managed to cram all that booze onto one of those tiny little round tables. I had seen him around, but we’d never spoken. He didn’t speak very much English anyway, and I didn’t speak any French. Perfect. The great thing about a disco is it’s so loud you don’t need to talk. Anyway, the night played out as every other night did that summer. Practical jokes, dancing, smoking, and a lot of cheering for songs we loved. Basic Disco protocol. DD was probably 18 or 19. Pedro had told me that DD’s parents had sent him to St. Tropez for the summer because they were concerned he’d gotten into drugs. I guess they were hoping a summer by the sea alone would somehow cure him of this affliction. He was leaving the next day.

    When the night wound down we spilled out onto the street, and there was talk of moving the party back to Serge’s villa in The Park. Calista and I decided to just head home. Christian had been shacking up with a Swedish model who’d somehow managed to find her way to St. Tropez after backpacking through the Alps, so he had taken off long ago. As we were turning to walk away, DD pulled up on his red and white Kawasaki and offered me a ride. I remember feeling embarrassed and scared all at once. That moment when you’re faced with leaving the safety of your best friend and going off ALONE with a boy was very new to me, and I felt self conscious. I was not really equipped emotionally to handle that kind of independence yet. It was all wrapped up in some moral murk that had to do with virginity and innocence - girl/woman stuff that I struggled with, well into my 20s.

    It was all fun and games in the disco, secure and safe with the pack, but now I was being challenged to actually separate from the safety of the group and break off, alone, with a boy. I was not quite ready, but I had to go.

    At Calista’s urging, I hopped on the back and we took off. My hands wrapped tightly around his waist, we cruised through the pitch black night of the unpaved back roads of St. Tropez, the bike’s single headlight cutting through the night like a knife. After a while, we pulled up in front of my hotel and I got off the bike. I remember that I was desperate to say something cool, something mysterious. The romance of the motor bike ride had lulled me into a sort of trance, and I decided I was in love with him; I needed to show DD that I was not just any old 13 year old girl. That I was special, worthy of his brooding admiration.

    At the time, there was a movie out called Hotel New Hampshire. I had seen it like 100 times, and I was always looking for an opportunity to drop my favorite line from the movie - this was my big chance. I leaned in and gave him a very (in my opinion) smooth kiss that landed somewhere between his neck and shoulder. When I recovered, I looked him dead in the eye, and recited my line: “Keep passing the open windows.”

    The Angst!

    With that, I disappeared into the safety of the hotel. Thrilled with my performance, I flew up the stairs and into my room, ready to relay every detail to my roommate, only to discover that Calista was not there. Crest-fallen, I changed into a tee shirt and hopped into bed. I replayed the scene over and over in my head, waiting for Calista to return, filled with hope and excitement at this turn my life had just taken. I was not at all clear what that turn was, but it was big - I was sure of it!

    After a while, I must have drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I know I wake up and find that DD is in my bed. To say I freaked would be an understatement. I screamed, shoved him off me, and got out of there as fast as I could. I ran down two flights to Christian’s room, where he was less than thrilled to see me. His girlfriend was sweet, but I was not particularly welcome. Christian got up and went upstairs to see – in his words – “what the fuck.” I hid in the bathroom, terrified for my life. His girlfriend sitting on the edge of the tub petting my hair. Things had gone from dreamy to real as quick as a Drag Reduction System. To be honest, I knew nothing of real. At that point, I only knew about dreamy.

    After a few minutes, Christian came back. I knew him well enough to tell that he was pissed.

    "B –" he stormed, “You fucking idiot. Get out!”

    "Don’t send me back to him!"

    "You told him to come to your room! What’s your deal?"

    "I did not!"

    "He said you told him to come through your open window."

    The summer carried on, and we all had a good laugh at my expense. DD went back to Paris and I never saw him again. I'd like to say I never quoted corny lines from movies again, but that would simply not be true. I’m a hopeless romantic. I just cant help myself.

    OUR ST. TROPEZ PICKS:

    Les Caves du Roy | Saint-Tropez | Night Club | Officiel

    Le Club 55

    Hotel Le Yaca

    Rondini

    Alexandra Lloyd Les Parcs de Saint Tropez

    Spotify | Playlist 




    Beata Henrichs-Lieb
    Beata Henrichs-Lieb

    Author



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