Last year my boyfriend was hired to work on a movie that was shooting in the UK. He had to move there for nine months and we decided that I would fly out and stay with him while he was working. I had never been to London, so it was a great opportunity to model overseas.
I met and signed with an agency a week after I got there. I was immediately whisked off to castings in a city where I had to learn the public transportation system within an hour. Luckily, the London Underground is color-coded and a million times easier to learn than the NYC subway. I’m also very attracted to British men and was more than happy to ask for directions.
I couldn’t get enough of tall, pale, Pete Doherty-looking men asking me, “Where are you trying to go, love?”
Umm, inside of your pants?
It was also the first time in my life I contemplated smoking cigarettes to look cool. Fuck, London is so cool.
My first two castings were with Net-A-Porter and Topshop. The Topshop on Oxford Street is the craziest store in the entire world. It’s five floors and they have a café and nail salon in it. There’s an entire floor just for bags. It’s nuts, guys. My reaction upon first walking in there was like Kevin McCallister’s when he sees Duncan’s Toy Chest in "Home Alone 2."
I think every girl I met in London was wearing at least two pieces of Topshop clothing at all times. I may have an unhealthy obsession with Topshop. I need to change the subject.
I ended up booking a job for Regis Salons that was shooting in Manchester. I was actually in New York for a few days meeting with editors about a book I have yet to write, when my London agent called to tell me I booked the job. It was a pretty decent-paying job so I was stoked.
I grabbed a slice of pizza on my way back to my hotel and called my boyfriend to tell him the good news.
His response was, “That’s great news, umm, I think we need to break up.”
I’m sorry, what did you say? Yeah, he broke up with me. Oh, it was four days after my birthday too. Happy Birthday, go fuck yourself. I had moved to London, got a visa, an agency, and ditched commercial season in LA against the advice of my manager to be with a guy I was in love with. At least I’ve learned my lesson about never relying on men for anything.
I made a lot of changes in my life to be with him in London, and now all that work was a total waste. My first response to him was, “Umm, no we are not breaking up.” That didn’t work.
I sat on my hotel bed staring at my uneaten slice of pizza, asking why he was doing this now, as opposed to when I got back to London. He said his friend told him to call me now rather than later. Great advice, idiot! Now I had to sit on a nine-hour flight back to London trying to figure out my life.
He said, “Well I thought maybe you’d just want to fly back to LA and not see me again.”
“I have a job in Manchester and most of my clothes are in your house, why the hell would you think I’d do that?”
I was so angry. I really wish he had waited until I got back to London to drop this news on me. I couldn’t eat or sleep. When I got back to his house I started packing. I asked him what the hell went wrong and why he hadn’t told me he was having these feelings before I decided to drop everything and move my life to London.
He said, “Well I didn’t feel like this a week ago.”
Oh, well that’s OK then. Whatever you need holds precedent over my needs. Thanks for trying to work things out since I did everything I could to accommodate your life.
There was no discussion, the only thing I got out of him was, “I’m sorry, but this is what I need in my life right now.”
Cool. Well, see ya later person I spent most of my life with for 10 months.
I still had a job that day, so I took the train to Euston station, and then boarded a train to Manchester. Despite having my heart broken, it was nice seeing the English countryside. I thrive off of unknown places, so this job was a good way to focus on something other than the process of a breakup.
Two hours later and I arrived in Manchester. I saw three other models at the station looking confused so I assumed they were headed to the same place I was. We took a cab to the salon and spent the next eight hours getting our hair cut, dyed, and dyed again. I had a hair job a few weeks prior to this one, so my hair kept getting shorter and shorter. Whatever, I really needed the money.
The models all had rooms at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Manchester was everything I imagined it to be -- cloudy, sassy, and amazing. Despite being really depressed, I decided to take a walk around Manchester for some photos. The other models were all eating dinner together, but since I’m way too socially awkward for that type of thing I told them I was just going to hang out alone in my room. They definitely thought I was a sociopath.
I wasn’t wearing any makeup and had no desire to put any on. I wasn’t going to see anyone so I didn’t care. I put on the same clothes I had been wearing for two days and ventured out. About 20 minutes into my walk, a guy comes up to me.
“Excuse me, are you French?” He asks in his British/French accent.
“Nope, American, boring I know.” I’m such a Debbie downer.
“Oh wow, I expected French to come out of your mouth, you dress like a French girl, what are you doing here?”
“I’m just here for the night working, I actually came from London. I work as a model.”
Then we talked for a few more minutes, and I could tell this wasn’t going to be an easy conversation to get out of. I just wanted to be left alone so I could take more miserable photos of Manchester’s dreariness.
“I was supposed to meet a friend for a drink but he cannot make it, would you like to join me?”
I stood there, wanting to say “no,” but for some reason I decided to go with him. That was very un-Melissa of me, but I figured anything was better than moping alone in my hotel room.
His name was Patrick, and he took me to a pub called Simple where he knew the bartenders. We had a few very delicious ginger/vodka drinks. We talked about lots of stuff. He told me his father was originally from Africa, but he grew up in France and recently moved to Manchester. He worked as a stylist, which was apparent from his clothing. I asked if he liked LCD Soundsystem, and he said, “Who?”
His accent was pretty French, so I had to ask him to repeat a few things. He kept saying words like “fate” and “unbelievable.” I told him about my breakup and he had nothing but reassuring things to tell me. At one point he assumed I was 20 or 21.
“Oh no, I am much older. My birthday was actually last week.”
“You cannot be older than 25,” he said in his French accent, which was growing on me.
“Oh Melissa. Do you know how much more I like you now? You are such a beautiful woman, and you are older which means you are wiser. I’m so happy to have met you.”
Any guy that likes me because I’m older than he thought is definitely a winner. I think he said he was 32, I can’t remember. It was refreshing to talk to a guy from a completely different country who was just happy to have a conversation. We went to a couple more pubs -- The Gas Lamp and San Carlo Cicchetti. Manchester was such a cool little city.
A weird thing that made me even happier (and this might sound really stupid) was that I had no makeup on. I usually feel uncomfortable going places without mascara and concealer to cover up my stupid acne scars, but I didn’t care that night. Patrick told me I was beautiful and I believed him.
After a few hours, we left the bar and walked through the Northern Quarter. It was April so it was a little cold, but I didn’t mind. I enjoy everything about foreign countries, mostly the architecture. I could’ve walked around Manchester for hours and not gotten bored. Patrick asked if I wanted to come back to his loft so he could cook me salmon while we listened to Amy Winehouse.
“I should go, I have a shoot tomorrow.” Classic model excuse.
“Oh come on, you can’t leave me now, we are soulmates.”
Maybe it was the alcohol or his charming accent, but I agreed to stop by his place. He lived five minutes from where we were, and when we got there he couldn’t find his keys. Oh of course, he’s a serial killer and doesn’t actually have a home, just my luck. One of his neighbors was actually leaving and recognized him so he let us in. Phew, not a murderer, as of yet.
We get into his apartment and he shows me around.
“This is the kitchen where I will cook you many dinners.” But all I heard was the serial killer translation of it, “This is the kitchen where I will cook you. Many dinners.” I’ve seen way too many Dateline episodes.
He offers me another drink but I’m already kinda drunk and shouldn’t be drinking the night before a shoot anyway. We hang out on his
couch listening to Amy Winehouse, and I decide I should probably go home.
“I wish you could stay longer, but you must come back to visit me.” He seemed legitimately sad.
“Of course I will.” I had no idea how I would ever get back to Manchester.
We get up and walk toward his door. He turns around and starts to kiss me. Uh-oh. We make out for a few minutes, but I have to put an end to it otherwise who knows what would happen (probably some fucking). I was a tad drunk but my adult brain was still telling me I should leave. Looking back I totally should’ve stayed and had sex. Son of a bitch!
He offered to walk me back to my hotel, which was very sweet of him. We held hands the entire way back. I got his phone number and he got mine. I was using a temporary iPhone with a UK number, so I gave him that. He didn’t want me to leave because he was afraid he’d never see me agai. I really liked him, but I was also really bummed about my breakup, so my thoughts were all over the place. We said goodbye and I smiled the entire elevator ride up to my floor.
The next morning at my shoot while I was getting my hair and makeup done, I received a text from him, “Thanks for the fantastique time Melissa. Beauty is within your body…your movements…your smile…your soul. Please lets meet again and make our dreams real together.”
I don’t remember his last name and the phone with his number in it went back to Marvel studios, so I have no way of talking to him. Maybe it’s for the best?
I would like to tell him how happy he made that night, though. This is so cliché to say, but he restored my faith in humanity. There are so many people like Patrick who I just haven’t met yet, and agreeing to hang out with him for a few hours was a really great decision.