“See You Again Yesterday” Summary
Sedaris has never felt any specific attraction toward France, either as a destination or as a place he might want to live. Instead, he finds himself living in France because of his partner, Hugh.
Sedaris first meets Hugh when he is helping a mutual friend paint her apartment. They need a twelve-foot ladder, and Hugh allows them to borrow his. Though Hugh is living in a spacious apartment on Canal Street, Sedaris is not surprised to learn that he is single: while other New Yorkers are “out on the town,” Hugh is spending his evening baking pies and listening to country music when Sedaris comes to retrieve the ladder.
Sedaris acknowledges his own shortcomings as a romantic partner and wonders whether he is destined to be alone forever, especially given his exhaustive list of boyfriend deal breakers. This includes—among other specifics—men who own cowboy boots, abbreviate street names, have nipple piercings, say the word “zeitgeist,” and read their own poetry aloud for strangers.
Hugh tells Sedaris that he has come to New York from France, where he lived for the past six years. Hugh talks about his house in Normandy, but Sedaris stops listening and begins to daydream about living abroad himself. Sedaris imagines that everyone should live abroad at least once, and he fantasizes that moving to a foreign country would be an exciting challenge and transform him into a cosmopolitan “citizen of the world.” Sedaris decides then and there that he will make Hugh his boyfriend—even if he has to resort to trickery.
Nine months after borrowing the ladder, Sedaris and Hugh move in together. They plan to spend the month of August in Normandy, but Sedaris backs out at the last minute, intimated by French people—or, more accurately, by how the French are portrayed in popular culture. He feels certain these sophisticated people won’t take kindly to an American visitor; unlike Americans, the French seem to have serious doubts about whether the United States is the greatest country in the world.
The following summer, however, Sedaris does accompany Hugh to France, enticed by the prospect of all the shopping he will be able to do. Unfortunately, the only French word Sedaris knows at this time is the word “bottleneck.” Undeterred, he freely uses “bottleneck” as a catchall response in all his conversations. As it turns out, Hugh’s house in Normandy is in rough shape, with no electricity or running water. Sedaris is further disappointed to discover that there is nothing of interest to shop for in the surrounding community, though he doesn’t hesitate to dutifully reply “bottleneck” whenever the locals enthusiastically greet him.
As he and Hugh work on the house, Sedaris is surprised to learn that French people are not snobby or arrogant like he expected. The locals are excited to hear about life in New York City, which they seem to believe is the most fabulous place in the entire US. Under the impression that Sedaris and Hugh have frequent encounters with celebrities back home in New York, a group of French teenagers even begins to regularly congregate outside their house.
Slowly, and with the help of Hugh and the locals, Sedaris begins to learn a few more...
(The entire section is 824 words.)