Whenever we travel, it occurs to me how many lives exist out there in the world. There are people of every size, shape, age, skin color, belief system; each one carrying his or her own beating heart. Each individual in the sea of humanity.
On the metro we have the chance to momentarily cross a few paths…
The little girl, maybe seven years old with light brown skin and braids protruding from her small head. She speaks to her mother in French and shyly looks at me. I ask her in “charades” if it is ok to take her picture. She smiles and…click….she and her mother seem pleased. When we exit the metro her young mother digs into her purse and tosses a few coins into the cup in front of the musician playing some sort of instrument I have never seen before – the music is upbeat and sounds complicated and I hope he is here when we pass through the station again. We each go down a different street at the top of the metro station steps.
The old woman wearing a baggy sweater and even baggier pants. She is reclining with her eyes closed at the moment we enter the car. She has her sandaled feet on the seat opposite her but makes room for my 77 year old mother to sit. I am positioned with my back to her, but I can smell the strong unpleasant stench of someone who hasn’t bathed in a very long time. I turn around to check on my mom and catch the eye of the wrinkled odiferous woman. She smiles at me and I return the unsaid greeting. As she exits the metro car a younger woman wearing headphones boards and takes her seat.
The post dinner threesome we encounter in the metro elevator. We are a threesome ourselves, satiated by the savory and sweet “best crepes in Paris” and also full of fine but not expensive French wine. We find the Abbesses (“Abyss”) metro station and make our way to the elevator (no one but me is up for the winding stairs challenge even though we are going down, so I acquiesce and press the down button).There are three French speaking people already in the elevator and we start talking because they seem hesitant as the discharging doors open; I’m thinking, “even we slightly tipsy Americans know what to do!”. Immediately Chris and the thirty-something gentleman begin a non-stop dialog about French/world news – they aren’t talking world cup soccer (turns out he is a journalist who grew up in Paris). Baba and I converse with the two young women who are translators (the blonde woman is Swiss and translates medical information; the Romanian brunette is a journalistic translator and is married to Chris’ new best friend). Each of the two women know at least eight languages between the two of them and I fight the urge to ask them if the post office is open in German partly because I know neither one of them is named Otto (I realize only a couple of you will understand the background of the high school German piece of my history). Baba is feeling a little less inhibited however and shows her French acumen by counting to five and I can’t resist any longer and chime in with her. This brings us to our metro stop; we bid each other farewell with hopes that the other enjoys the remaining evening.
The well dressed French businessman walking with a purpose. We are maneuvering many pieces of luggage down the streets of Paris toward the metro station. We stop at the patisserie to load up with tasty snacks for the train ride to Migennes. We enter the Trinite metro station and descend the flight of stairs, through the turnstile to find yet another flight of stairs to negotiate. We are walking in “Baba Sandwich” formation: Chris is in the lead with two heavy bags, Baba in the middle with her small wheelie bag, and I am bringing up the rear with two medium sized hefty bags. Along comes a thirtyish good looking Frenchman wearing a suit; he offers to carry one of the bags. At the bottom of the stairs “merci beau coup!”……HE says to ME!! I watch him as he walks midway down the platform and he sheds his suit coat for just a few minutes. Despite the fact that my luggage has caused him to break out into a bit of a sweat he smiles again ensuring that the metro doors do not close on us as we pile into the standing-room-only metro car. I look at Baba and say “WHO says French people are unfriendly!?!” It doesn’t occur to me whether he departs before we do.
We part ways never to cross paths again…