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The Idea of You: japan

I thought there would be a joy in getting off the plane unencumbered. I thought I’d have a newfound respect for the ability to come and go as I pleased, unrecognized, the anonymity that I’d taken for granted. I thought there would be an exhilarating sense of freedom. But there was not. And perhaps it was coming down from the tour high, but everything to me felt bleak, dichromatic, insurmountable … like a Wyeth landscape.

It might have been all the travel or the lack of sleep, but New York to me seemed sad. I arrived at the Armory Show Thursday morning, after a ten-hour flight and a quick shower at the Crosby Street Hotel. And nothing was quite right. Matt and Josephine had flown in early in the week to assist Anders with the setup of our booth at Pier 94. Lulit had arrived the day before. We were featuring five of our artists. Already our sales had exceeded expectation, but I could not manage to focus. I could not help but feel as if I were walking around in a fog, with some essential part of me missing. And I kept getting lost in thoughts of him.

I’d woken the day before in Rio with Hayes’s arms wrapped so tightly around me, I could not breathe. And I knew he sensed, even in his dreams, that it was ending, and he did not want to let me go. And I think he feared that me leaving Brazil was me leaving for good. I think we both feared it.

I’d untangled myself and kissed him and stroked the side of his bruised face and whispered a thousand times over that I loved him. And that I would join him in Japan. I promised. I promised.

And to have been uprooted from that and transplanted to Manhattan selling art on a Thursday felt off-kilter. Inside, I feared something was dying.

*   *   *

That evening I went back to the hotel, the site of our first tryst, and I got into my bed and everything came flooding back. How he was still such a stranger to me then. How nervous I’d been. How he’d touched me and unfolded me and gifted me his watch. “Thanks for giving me the pleasure,” he’d said. As if he were the only one benefitting. As if I’d done him a favor.

*   *   *

On Friday, we received news that Anya Pashkov had been offered a solo exhibition at the Whitney. I celebrated with the rest of our team, going out for cocktails at the end of the day, but I was there in body only.

It was on the cab ride back to Soho when we crossed through Times Square that my heart stopped. There, several stories high, was a billboard with the new TAG Heuer campaign. Hayes in black and white. Soulful eyes, generous mouth, stunning. They had captured him so beautifully, I began to cry.

The campaign debuted in a variety of publications that first week of March: EsquireGQVogue, and Vanity Fair. There were three different ads that ran, each photo more breathtaking than the next. And just like that, Hayes Campbell had successfully separated himself from the rest of his boy band. He’d redefined.

“They’re perfect,” I said to him that night on the phone.

“You’re just saying that because you’re my girlfriend.”

“I bet I could find twenty-two million people who would agree with me on Twitter.”

He laughed at that, his voice muffled. He’d been treated by a renowned plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills earlier that day. It was an outpatient procedure, and Raj was in charge of post-op duties while Hayes convalesced at the Hotel Bel-Air. I hated knowing that he was in L.A. without me.

“I love you,” I said. “I wish you were here.”

“I am,” he said. “In your heart.”

*   *   *

On Saturday, Lulit and I had dinner with Cecilia Chen, our potential client whom we’d had to reschedule the day the gallery was vandalized. She was in New York for the show, and so we met up at Boulud Sud near Lincoln Center. I liked her. A lot. She’d lived in Paris long enough that all the good things had rubbed off on her. Her accessories, her insouciance, the way she flicked her wrist. We were just winding up with cappuccinos, and discussing the work of Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche, when a portly middle-aged man approached our table. At first, I assumed he must have known Cecilia, or perhaps even Lulit, but when he shifted his weight, I noticed beyond his shoulder two tween daughters holding cell phones and I knew.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Are you Solène Marchand?”

I nodded, albeit reluctantly.

“I’m so sorry to interrupt your meal, but we’re here visiting from Chicago, and my girls would love to take a picture with you.”

I don’t remember saying yes, although somehow it happened. I do remember the expression on Lulit’s face: bewildered, admonishing, torn. Cecilia looked on confused.

“You’re even prettier in person,” the girls said. “Tell Hayes we love him.”

When they’d parted, I attempted to return to the conversation as if nothing had happened, just as I’d seen Hayes do a million times. But Cecilia was not having it.

“What was that all about? Are ten-year-olds suddenly collecting art in Chicago?”

“Her boyfriend’s a musician,” Lulit interjected before I could say anything. “He has a following.”

Musician. It was rather diplomatic of her.

It was not the first time that week it had happened. No fewer than half a dozen teenage girls had stopped me on the streets. Random visitors kept popping into our booth pretending to look at the art. I felt it, eyes, everywhere. I did my best to ignore it and hoped it would not affect my work. I was trying to do that now.

We returned to the topic of French contemporary cinema, and my boyfriend did not come up again. But I had seen the expression on Cecilia’s face, that very Parisian look of disdain. And I knew that moment had changed everything.

*   *   *

Early Sunday morning, the day I was to fly out, Amara met me at Balthazar for breakfast. The French bistro was a block from my hotel and just loud enough that I did not have to worry about people eavesdropping on our conversation. Because that had become something I was concerned with—privacy.

We’d been talking about her. She’d met someone, on Tinder. They’d been dating for three months and she was cautiously optimistic.

“He’s young,” she said, smiling.

“How young?”


I laughed at that. “That’s practically over the hill where I come from.”

“… and he doesn’t want kids.” She sipped from her latte. “Lucky me, right?”

“Lucky you.”

“Does Hayes want kids?”

It was a completely benign question, and yet the absurdity of it struck me. I placed down my utensils and began to laugh. “What the fuck am I doing? I can’t believe you asked me that. And it wasn’t a joke. He’s twenty-one years old. He doesn’t know what he wants. I mean, yes, he says he wants kids, but … Oh God, what am I doing?”

Amara was quiet for a moment, watching me, and I had to wonder what she was seeing: a woman on the verge of losing her mind.

“What are you thinking?” she said after a minute.

“I spent ten days with him on tour in South America, just following him around. We go from city to city. From the hotel to the stadium and back to the hotel. There are walls of screaming girls everywhere and we are constantly surrounded by security. They pace our floor. We can’t go anywhere by ourselves. We can’t sightsee. We can’t have a casual dinner at a restaurant. We can’t go for a walk. We can’t do anything without an entourage and bodyguards, and this is his life for months out of the year. Months. I can’t do that.”

She nodded. “Do you love him?”

Crap. I was going to cry. Here. In Balthazar. Under the gold lights and the oversized French mirrors. My avocado and poached eggs on toast were getting cold. “I love him.”

“Okay, then.”

“But I don’t know that that’s enough. I think Isabelle is miserable. She’s not herself. His fans are stalking me. They defaced our gallery; they send death threats, dildos to my house. Not to mention the harassment on social media. I don’t know that I can do this…”

“What are you most afraid of?”

“Everything.” I smiled, but it felt forced. “Isabelle having a nervous breakdown. And it being my fault. Getting older. Getting old. My boobs, my upper arms, my ass. All of it. Eventually he’s going to take a good look at me and be like, ‘Bollocks! You’re forty!’”

Amara laughed. “That’s a good accent you do.”

“Thank you.” My thoughts got drowned out in the hum of the restaurant. Laughter, the clinking of silverware, the scraping of bistro chairs on tile. “But even if everything were perfect … even if the harassment stopped, and Isabelle grew to accept it … how would it happen? What, we move in together, we cohabitate, we have a kid, we get married? He goes on tour, I run a gallery? How crazy is that?”

Amara shrugged. “I don’t think there are any real answers. I think you just do it.”

I sighed, pushing away my plate. I’d had all of seven bites and my appetite was gone. “You know what I’m most afraid of? I look at Daniel and Eva having a baby, and I think, I can’t give him that. I’m already old. By the time he’s ready to have kids I will be too old. What am I saying? He’s twenty-one. He’s in a boy band. I can’t have a child with a guy in a boy band. How insane would that be?”

“It’s not just ‘a guy in a boy band,’” Amara said. “It’s Hayes. It’s Hayes. And you love him.”

My heart caught in my throat. I could feel the tears welling.

“And he adores you…”

“I know … But that’s bound to end, right? One day he’s going to wake up and realize I’m twice his age. And he’s going to freak the fuck out and leave me.”

Amara reached out to squeeze my hand on the table. She was quiet for a long time, and then: “He might not.”

“He might not,” I conceded. “But he might.”

*   *   *

I arrived in Los Angeles that evening. Only hours after Hayes had departed for Australia. And yet it was probably for the best, because I wanted nothing more than to curl up with my daughter and hear about her life. She was not her usual excitable self, but she filled me in on school and fencing and the musical she’d been cast in and her crush on Avi, the soccer-playing senior. (“Do you think he’ll notice me now since I don’t have my braces anymore?” “How could he not?”) She seemed to be functioning, normal. Eighth grade.

And so I tried not to let the other things bother me. The pile of mail I’d received without return addresses or addresses I did not recognize—letters and cards and packages—I placed unopened in a box, on the instruction of the detective who was assigned my case after the vandalizing of the gallery. They were monitoring my mail to see whether a pattern of threats had been sufficiently established to be legally considered stalking. Apparently one dildo was not enough.

*   *   *

On the following Tuesday after I’d gotten back, we received the news from Paris: Cecilia Chen had decided to go with someone else. She claimed that Cherry and Martin, another reputable midsized gallery, was a better match. “They’re slightly less flashy,” she said, “and that appeals to me.”

Marchand Raphel was many things, but flashy was not one of them. And I knew then that she’d gone and Googled me, and my boyfriend, and based her decision on that.

*   *   *

“Solène.” Lulit cornered me as I was leaving the office that evening.

“I know what you’re going to say,” I said, “and I’m sorry—”

“No, you don’t,” she cut me off. “What I was going to say is: I like Cecilia, a lot. I think she would have been great for us. I think we would have been great for her. But I like you more. And I want you to be happy.”

Her tone, her voice, her expression were all so sincere, in that moment I remembered everything I loved about my best friend, and I began to cry. “It’s tearing me apart. I love him so much. And it’s tearing me apart.”

“I know it is,” she said, wrapping her arms around me. “I know it is. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out. We’ll make it work.”

But again, I could not imagine what that would look like.

*   *   *

I was still hurting when I arrived at Isabelle’s school to pick her up after her rehearsal that evening. But I did not want her to see it, so I covered, as I usually did, and pulled up to the carpool area with a smile.

She was standing far off to the side when I approached. There was a cluster of older girls to one side of the entrance, laughing and texting. And I was happy she was not with them.

Isabelle climbed into the car and slammed the door before I’d even shifted into park. “Drive.”

“Hey, peanut. How was your day?”

“Drive, Mom. Just drive.”

“Oh-kay … No ‘Hello’? What happened?” I looked back over toward the older students as we peeled out. “Do you know those girls?”

“I do now.”

“What happened, Izz?”

“Nothing, Mom. Just a bunch of girls from the Upper School who wanted me to ask you if you could get a picture of Hayes Campbell’s penis for them. You know, typical teenage stuff.”

My stomach lurched. “They said that?”

“No, actually, they said ‘dick,’ but I thought I would edit it for you to be polite.”

I pulled the car over then, frazzled. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.”

“But as long as you’re happy…” She began to cry.

“Oh, Izz…”

“Please keep driving. Please don’t stop here. Please don’t stop until we get home.”

“Okay,” I said. “Okay. Okay.”

It wasn’t until we got on the 10 that she added: “And remember that guy Avi, the one I think is really cute? Well, he finally spoke to me today…”

I nodded, my mind elsewhere.

“He came up to me in the hall just as I was going into Life Skills, and said, ‘Tell your mom I turn eighteen next month.’ So yeah, that’s how my day was.”

“Izz…” I could barely find my voice. “I’m so sorry…”

She was shaking, the tears streaming down her face. Everything she had held back for so long, released.

“We can talk to the head of school.”

“And say what? What are you going to say? What is she going to do? Send out a school-wide email warning against teasing Isabelle Ford about her mother’s indiscretions? What is she going to do, Mom?”

I had the sensation that I might vomit. There, in the car. The bile rising, my knuckles white against the wheel. I’d begun to sweat. There was no place to pull over.

“How long has this been going on, Izz? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Since January. Since those stupid pictures from Anguilla. But I know you’re happy and I know you love him. And he’s really nice, and you deserve to be happy. Because Daddy’s happy. And I don’t want you to be alone.”

“Oh, Isabelle.” My heart was wrenching. These were the thoughts that had consumed my daughter. “We can change schools,” I said. “You don’t have to go back there.”

“But I like my school,” she cried. “I like my school. And where would I go? Where would I go to school with other thirteen-year-old girls who don’t know Hayes Campbell? Zimbabwe?”

Traffic had come to a standstill on the PCH. Construction. The sun was setting over the Pacific, purple and perfect. And once again I cursed California for having weather that did not mirror my mood.

I leaned over the divider to hug her, my own tears falling. “I’m sorry, Izz. I’m so sorry.”

“I know you told me to just ignore it, and I’ve been trying, I have. But I can’t. I can’t, Mommy. I can’t.”

I held her, and sobbed with her, and breathed in her hair until the traffic started to move. And I knew.

I knew.

And all the other things, they did not matter.

*   *   *

That night, after I made Isabelle a bowl of hot chocolate and she calmed down enough to fall asleep, I called Hayes in Australia. It was three in the afternoon and they’d just arrived in Adelaide. And the second I heard his familiar gravelly voice I began to cry.

“What happened?” he asked.

“I can’t do this. I can’t do this to her.”

What happened?

I told him. About Cecilia first, and then Isabelle. And for a long time he did not say anything.

“Are you there?”

“I’m here.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

His breath was heavy. “Can we not discuss this right now? Can we not … Can we not make any decisions right now? Can we just deal with this when we get to Japan?”

“Are you not listening to me? Have you not heard anything I’ve said?”

“I heard you. What do you want me to tell you? ‘It’s fine, let’s just end it’? I’m not going to say that. I love you, Solène. I’m not just going to give you up without a fight.”

I was quiet then.

“And I’m like eight thousand miles away from you. I can’t do anything from here. I can’t … Fuck. Fuck. You promised me you’d come to Japan.”

“I know I did.”

“You promised.” His voice was quaking.

“I know.”

“Please just come, and we can figure it out then. Please. Please.”

*   *   *

Windwood’s spring break was for two weeks at the end of March. Georgia’s family had invited Isabelle to join them on their annual ski trip to Deer Valley. I let her go. That it happened to coincide with the Japan tour dates did wonders for alleviating my guilt.

*   *   *

On Saturday afternoon, after Isabelle had safely departed, Daniel came by the house to sign the school’s annual tuition contract. He did not bring up Hayes and we managed not to argue.

“Make sure you email me your itinerary,” he said. We were standing in the driveway: he, leaning against his car; me, pulling letters out of the mailbox.

“I will. As soon as—” I froze. There in my hand was a large manila envelope. No return address. Postmark: Texas.

I dropped it, shaking.

“What’s wrong? What is it, Solène?”

I could not speak.

“What is this?” Daniel picked up the package from the ground. I could see the phallic outline in his hand, taunting.

“Don’t open it.”

“What is it, Solène?” He tore open the envelope and looked inside. “Did you order this?”

“Yes. Yes, I typically order dildos and then cry when they arrive.”

His tone shifted, the realization settling in. “Did someone send this to you? What the hell? Solène? Did someone send this?”

I did not respond. He reached into the envelope, withdrew the note enclosed, and read it. “What the fuck? Solène, who sent this?”

“A fan.”

“A fan? What kind of fucking fan sends this? I thought they were all sweet little girls like Isabelle.”

“Most of them are. Some of them are not.”

“How long has this been going on?”

I told him.

His face fell. “Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to bother you. I didn’t want your judgment. It’s okay, I’m taking care of it.”

“You didn’t want my judgment? Solène. I care about you. I’m always going to care about you. Something like this happens, it’s serious. You need to tell me. Fuck my judgment.”

I stood there, wiping away the tears with the back of my hand. I did not want him to see me suffering. I anticipated it: the great big “I told you so.”

But instead, he wrapped his arms around me and held me close. It had been so long. I found myself searching for something familiar.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

When he got into the BMW, he still had the envelope in hand.

“I have to give that to the detective.”

“I’ll hold on to it. I don’t want this reminder in your house. It’s disturbing as hell.” And with that, he flung the package into the backseat and pulled out of the driveway.

*   *   *

I arrived in Osaka Monday evening. I did not have a plan other than to love him as profoundly as I could. And then let him go. It seemed to me my only true option.

We lay in bed that first night in our suite at the Imperial Hotel. Close, clinging, postcoital, my fingers tracing his face. We were not talking about it. Us.

“So this is the new nose…”

“It’s the old nose. Just 2.0.” He smiled.

I held his chin in my hand, tipping his face in one direction, and then the other.


“It’s pretty perfect.”


“Botticelli.” I smiled.

“He actually made it one percent more symmetrical than it was before. He could have gone for a whole three percent, but we weren’t sure if it would visibly affect the symmetry of the rest of my features.”

“You realize how ridiculous this conversation sounds, don’t you?”

He smiled, his lips curling, his hands at my waist pulling me on top of him. “You mean when there are still girls missing in Nigeria? Yes, I absolutely do. But you yourself said it was art, so…”

I kissed the tip of it, delicately. “It’s art. All of you is art.”

“That’s why you love me,” he said, soft. As if he were reminding me.

“That’s why I love you.”

*   *   *

Tuesday afternoon following the boys’ sound check at the Osaka Kyocera Dome, Hayes and I slipped out of a service entrance at the back of our hotel with Desmond in tow, and strolled through the adjacent Kema Sakuranomiya Park. Whoever scheduled the Wise or Naked tour was brilliant enough to coordinate their Japanese dates with peak cherry blossom season, and our hotel happened to abut the Okawa River and the blossom-laden promenade that lined it.

We walked hand in hand, with Desmond a few paces ahead of us. Feigning normalcy. Hayes in a gray fedora and Wayfarers, almost unrecognizable.

“So there are a few big producers who are interested in meeting with me,” he said after we’d been walking for several minutes, drinking in the scenery, the canopies of pink. “To discuss potentially collaborating. Partially because of the Grammy nom, but also the TAG Heuer campaign.”

“That’s great. Who?”

“Jim Abbiss, who’s done a ton of brilliant stuff. Paul Epworth, who’s tremendous. Both have worked with Adele. And Pharrell…”

Seriously? That’s huge. And you’re just telling me now?”

“Well, they didn’t specify meeting with August Moon. Just me. Which is a little awkward.”

“Hayes.” I stopped walking then. “That’s a big deal.”

“I know,” he said. I could see it in his eyes, the excitement.

“Are those guys less pop?”

He smiled, bright. “They’re less safe.”

*   *   *

Wednesday morning, when the guys were whisked off to do a radio show, I went for a long run on the promenade. I returned to the hotel through the riverside entrance, and en route to the elevators I passed Oliver in the airy lounge. Evidently, the guys had finished early. He was seated at a table beside the wall of glass, his back to me, deep in conversation with a woman I did not recognize: Japanese, early thirties, smartly dressed, refined. Her body language read slightly stiff, but Oliver seemed unusually comfortable, and as I rounded the bend I could see his face. He looked, to me, happy.

*   *   *

Thursday found us in Tokyo at the Ritz-Carlton. I watched the band’s press conference from the back of a full room. Yearning to see Hayes as the rest of the world did. In addition to their publicist, whom I had met briefly backstage in Osaka, there were two other women who accompanied them, dressed chicly in head-to-toe black, clinging to their note cards and microphones. And as the questions began I realized two things: these women were August Moon’s translators, and one of them was the woman from the lounge at the Imperial Hotel.

There was a sense of pride I felt watching the guys. For all their competitive boyishness behind closed doors and boisterous antics onstage, they were surprisingly poised. They were witty and charming and gracious. I tried to remember what impression I had of them that first night at the meet-and-greet. How skilled they were at engaging their fans. How at ease in their bodies. So damn likable. And none of that was lost in translation.

In between the “konnichiwas” and the “o-genki desu kas” and the “arigatos,” there was the adaptable “ganbatte,” which Hayes and Rory had taken a particular liking to, and which, I learned, translated to the sentiment of “do your best, try hard, good luck.” An encouraging greeting, if ever there was one.

*   *   *

Hayes and I ducked out to visit the Mori Art Museum and explore the Roppongi district under Desmond’s watch later that afternoon and returned unscathed. I considered it a blessing.

In the hotel’s sky lobby on the forty-fifth floor, we bumped into Oliver and Reiko, the translator. They appeared to have either just finished cocktails or were meeting up—it was not entirely clear. But what was clear was that they were heading out together at the same time. We stood by the elevator bank with them making small talk. I don’t know why I assumed they’d be going down, but when the up elevator arrived, the two of them stepped in behind us, and Hayes and I gave each other looks like teenagers who had happened upon some delicious piece of gossip. We rode together in silence, and when the elevator slowed as we approached the fiftieth floor, Oliver’s stop, Hayes leaned forward, put his hand on Ol’s shoulder, and said loud enough for us all to hear: “Ganbatte.

“Wow. Is that a thing?” We were giggling once the doors closed.

“It will be in about five minutes.”

“Did you know about this? How long has it been going on?”

“In Ol’s head, about three years. This is the first time she’s responded.”

I was amused. Good for Oliver. “Your friend … is very, very complex.”

“No.” Hayes smiled. “He’s complicated.”

We arrived at the fifty-first floor and acknowledged the security detail on our way to the corner suite. Hayes was futzing with the key card.

“You nervous?”

He smiled, pulling me into him and pressing me up against the door. “Does that feel nervous to you?”

He kissed me, and then he grew serious. “You can’t fucking leave me. You can’t fucking leave me, Solène.”

It jarred me. That he’d been carrying it with him, just below the surface. Beneath all that pop star charm and charisma, he was hurting.

“Let’s go inside,” I said.

But inside was no better. Even with our breathtaking view, the lights coming on all over Tokyo and Mount Fuji on the horizon, we were trapped in some surreal world where everything looked perfect and yet still we could not make it work.

“I don’t want this to end,” he said.

“I don’t want it to end either.”

“You’re letting them win. You’re letting them end us.”

I didn’t say anything.

“I promised myself I would never let them do this. I would never let them dictate my happiness. And you’re allowing them to do this to us…”

“Hayes, it’s not just about us anymore.”

“I know. I know … it’s Isabelle. I’m sorry.” The tears were falling. He wiped his face. “Fuck. I’m fucking crying like a little girl. Okay. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to have a shower. And you’re going to join me. And we’re going to have sex. And then I’m going to be okay.”

I smiled at that. Through tears, I smiled. “Okay.”

*   *   *

On Friday night, August Moon played the first of four shows at the Saitama Super Arena to a sold-out audience of thirty thousand. It seemed there was no end to the amount of fans who would fork over all their allowances and babysitting money and Bat Mitzvah loot to see the guys perform over and over again. Hayes had once told me that five hundred dollars was not out of the ordinary for floor seats. It boggled the mind.

We left the arena as we always did, running at a decent clip to get everyone into the vans or buses and out of the lot before the fans exited the stadium. The girls would still be singing “That’s What She Said” or “Tip of My Tongue,” one of the encore numbers, long after the guys had cleared the stage. Their voices traveling through the night, bright, blissful. It was a lot of fucking power. I tried to imagine what it would take to give that up. But I did not have the gall to ask him.

*   *   *

Late Saturday, after the show, the lot of us congregated in the Ritz lobby. The guys wanted to go out clubbing with what seemed a third of their entourage. It was a big bunch and they were loud, and while Raj was coordinating with drivers and security, Hayes and I decided to bow out.

When they departed, Hayes made his way from the bar over to the baby grand in the corner. I followed, sitting beside him on the narrow bench.

He began to play, his fingers moving over the keys, fluid. A melody I had not heard before. It was at once delicate and haunting, raw. And I felt it almost immediately, my insides seizing. It was personal.

“Is that something you wrote?”

For a moment he did not answer, and then: “Something I’m writing.”

“What’s it called?”

“‘S.’” He said it plainly, no eye contact, no break in the music.

“Just ‘S’? Are there words?”

“Not that I’m ready to share.”

I sat there numb while he played for a minute more in silence. Then, very abruptly, he stopped.

“I think we should probably go upstairs now.”

“I think so, too.”

*   *   *

As the days passed, I was increasingly aware that our emotions were scattered. We went from laughing to crying and back again so frequently it became our new normal. On Sunday afternoon, we went shopping in the Omotesandō-Aoyama area. We’d started at Céline, where I found a classic box bag in gray. I decided to treat myself, and when I asked the saleswoman to ring it up, Hayes proffered his credit card.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m going to get it for you.”

“No, you’re not.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Don’t be silly.”

“Hayes, you’re not.”

“You’re really not going to let me buy it for you?”

“I’m not going to let you buy it for me.”

He stood there, looking at me for a long time, a bewildered expression on his face. “Oh-kay,” he said eventually.

I watched the saleswoman package the box, tying it all up with a bow, just so. When I turned back to Hayes, his eyes were brimming.


“You make it so fucking hard not to love you,” he said, soft. He lifted the neck of his T-shirt to wipe his cheek, and it seemed like something a young boy would do. His abdomen bared for a split second: the faint line of hair descending below his belly button, the crease traversing his groin. There was nothing about his body that I did not know, and that both comforted me and made me profoundly sad.

I wrapped my arms around his middle and held him close. “You, too.”

We followed Desmond over to Alexander McQueen, just a little ways down. Hayes had on his sunglasses, but no hat, and although he turned several heads, only two people stopped him for selfies.

I trailed him through the sleek new store, pristine white marble and gloss, as he picked up two scarves and a shirt. We were upstairs toward the back, in the men’s section, when Desmond approached us.

“We ’ave a bit of a problem.”

I could not recall ever having heard him say those words, and it alarmed me. He walked us to the front side of the store, where through the floor-to-ceiling windows we could see a swarm of girls gathering below, at least fifty. The second they saw Hayes’s face, their screams pierced the air.

“Shit. Where the bloody hell did they come from?”

“I’ve no idea. I’m going to get the driver to come around, but they’re multiplying fast.”

I could hear a commotion below on the first floor and feared some of them had already forced their way in, like locusts.

“Stay away from the glass,” Desmond said. “I’m going to check with security and make sure they lock the doors.”

There were a handful of other customers on the upper level, and I could feel them eyeing us, curious. One salesgirl, perhaps realizing who Hayes was, approached and bowed.

“Um, I’m probably going to have to leave in a bit of a rush,” he said to her, sweetly. “Could you ring these up for me, please? O-negai shimasu.

Hai.” She bowed and took his credit card.

“It’s like a tour bus just deposited them, out of nowhere. Are you freaking out? Don’t freak out.” Hayes reached to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear. “We’re safe in here.”

He had no sooner said it than a dozen girls came running up the marble staircase, camera phones at the ready, squealing, “Hayes!” Their behavior on seeing him was so oddly not Western. There was none of the grabbing or pawing that I’d become used to, but more of a delighted jumping and respect of his space. They did not physically have to touch him; it was enough to be near.

Desmond had called in for backup, and we waited another twenty minutes or so before Fergus arrived with two additional guards.

Outside was chaos. The crowd had grown to terrifying proportions. Girls in all manner of Harajuku dress, Minnie Mouse bows, and schoolgirl knee-highs. Fanboys with purple-dyed hair. I did not see how we were going to reach our car without being trampled. But the guards sandwiched us, and we moved through the throng like salmon swimming in the wrong direction. Perhaps it was because I did not understand anything they were saying besides “HayesHayesHayesHayesHayes,” but their voices were so high-pitched and cacophonous, it sounded to me like cats mewling. Cats in heat, grating, earsplitting. And I would hear it in my dreams for a long time to come.

“Don’t fall,” Hayes said to me, as if it were something I was considering.

There was shoving and pushing and pulling and the feeling of the world closing in on me, the fear of asphyxiation. And then finally we made it into the car. And still I did not feel safe. Our driver was yelling, “Sagattute! Sagattute! Move back!” They were banging on the windows, hard.

Hayes hugged me close, and buried my face in his chest.

“You’re okay,” he said. “We’re okay.”

But I was not.

*   *   *

We did not talk about it when we got back to the hotel. We lay side by side in our room with the view of Mount Fuji and simply held each other.

*   *   *

On Monday morning, the day of their last concert in Tokyo, the day before I was leaving, Hayes worked out with Joss, their trainer. When he returned, I was in the living room answering emails, finalizing arrangements for Frieze New York. Without saying a word, he showered, got dressed, and then sat down before me.

“I don’t know how to say this,” he said, soft. “I don’t know where to begin. But I love you so completely and the idea of you leaving is fucking breaking my heart. And I know … I understand every reason why you’re doing it, but it still doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t make sense that we can’t make it work.”

“Hayes … I’m sorry…”

He’d begun to cry. “Why? Why can’t it work? What if we’re just quiet about it? What if we just go back to not saying anything?”

“We’ve never said anything,” I said. “We’ve never said anything and look what they’ve done to us. I don’t want to hide, Hayes. I don’t want to feel like everything’s a secret. I just want to live my life. And I can’t do that with you right now without it destroying Isabelle.”

“You said you wouldn’t leave, Solène. You said you wouldn’t leave.”

“When? When did I say that?”

“At Bestia. At my birthday dinner…”

I was wracking my brain to remember. God, how he locked everything away.

“What if I quit the band?”

“You’re not going to quit the band, Hayes. It’s such a huge part of who you are. At your core. It’s this extraordinary part of you. It’s this gift. And you’re good at it and you love it. People spend their whole lives searching for something like that.

“You have to be true to yourself. You can’t just do this for me. Otherwise it will eat away at you and destroy you and you’ll resent me. And I don’t think either one of us wants that.”

He was staring at me, his eyes wide, but I couldn’t be certain anything was registering.

“And this is not going to last forever. Boy bands don’t last forever, so enjoy it. Because eventually you outgrow it. You move on. And someone will quit. And someone will get someone pregnant. And someone will go solo. And someone will come out. And someone will marry a questionable blonde and get a reality show. And it will be over. And you’ll never get this time back. So enjoy it.”

He sat there, quiet for a minute, the tears spilling, his nose running. “So that’s it … You’re not even going to fight for us … You’re just giving up…”

“I’m not giving up, Hayes. But … we’re in such different phases of our lives. And I can’t do this. I can’t do this to Isabelle. I can’t do this to myself. I can’t follow you around the world. I’m not twenty. I have a career and I have a kid and I have responsibilities. And I have other people who need me—”

I need you.” There was a desperation in his voice that startled me. “I need you, Solène. I need you.”

I could feel it then, his heart breaking. And something inside of me unexpectedly shattered. Something I was not even aware existed. And I did not know what hurt more: my pain, or knowing that I’d caused his.

“You can’t fucking leave,” he cried. “You can’t fucking leave.”

I moved to wrap my arms around him then, and I held on to him, as tight as I could, for a very long time.

When he’d stopped sobbing, I wiped his face, pushing his hair back from his forehead. His beautiful forehead. There was nothing about him that I did not love.

“You are going to be okay,” I said. “I know it hurts, but you are going to be okay. You have to know that. You have to believe that. I am not the only person you’re going to love.”

He nodded, slow. His eyes swollen, red. What damage I had done.

“How did we get here?” I heard myself say. “This was only supposed to be lunch, remember? This was only ever supposed to be lunch.”

“You,” he said, his voice frayed, foreign.


“You. You let me unfold you.”


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