Maxime is a mature man of 30. He is one of London’s 20,000 French ex-pats. He looks very French and is really unusually handsome. I did not burst into tears or feel as though I were going blind but there was certainly a sharp intake of breath. His message to me said this:
Dear Madame, I have read your whole profile and I feel as though I will never recover. You are The One. I am totally and completely in love with you. Please have pity on me. You have torn my heart from my chest.
I was rather taken aback, as you might imagine, but of course I replied, because who’s not going to reply to a message like that, especially when it comes from someone with the face of a romantic hero who is in London and not in Russia. We moved the conversation to Whatsapp, as one does, and I logged out of the dating app. I assumed he just wanted sex, which would not be very difficult to get, with his unusually handsome appearance, especially in a city like London, with a population of 8 million people. As such, the conversation might predictably have focused on simple, practical matters such as getting me to come out to meet him. Instead, there was a long conversation, lasting all evening and again the next morning, in which he continued in a similar vein and said things like this:
I love you already.
Please, don’t text anyone. Say you will be only for me.
I’m totally in love with you. I’m really serious.
I can’t look at any other woman now I’ve seen you. Please come and be with me.
I hardly knew what to say. He wasn’t asking for sex. I wasn’t even in London – as most of this was unfolding, I was in Spain. I avoided saying anything that directly referred to this imaginary relationship between us, because what could I say, so I made general remarks about love. I thought he would become bored and quit. I was wrong. At the end of Day 3, he proposed.
Marry me. Be my wife. I cannot live without you and I cannot love you any more than I do.
‘Why do you love me?’ I asked. ‘Because I was born to love you’, he confidently replied. ‘When I saw your face and read all your beautiful words, it was like being struck by lightning, I was shocked. I knew that you were the one I was made for. You are tender. You are passionate. You are beautiful. You think like me. You talk like me. You were made to love and be loved. I am here now. Let me love you. I am your husband.’
He would not give up. He insisted that he was serious. He proposed again and again. He begged me to come home to London. I let him think that I continued to stay in Spain. In fact, sceptical of his extravagant claims and in no mood to be diverted from a path I had already set for myself, I returned to London for a matter of 48 hours, just long enough to take care of some business and pack my suitcase afresh, and then I went to Paris, where another French man was awaiting me, whom we shall call Alain, after Alain Delon.