15 November 2010

France, Adventure No. 34

Dimanche, 17 Octobre.

A lot of men ride the trains at night.

It was the first time I had felt really alone, there in the station with my red overcoat buttoned up to the top and my shoulder bag mounted firmly on the bench beside me.

There was one who paced the gum-spotted platform, peering at me every so often through his unkempt facade with these sad eyes that belong only to those who know what it's like to perhaps sleep on a sidewalk or to eat someone's cast-off Egg McMuffin for breakfast. But his ratty beard and feral appearance were the least of my worries.

A young man, 26 or so, had already invited himself to take a seat beside me; an action that prompted me to grip my book tighter and pour over it more intently. But not because it was nighttime and I was alone, but because this particular fellow wreaked of wine-coolers--or anyway, that tell-tale odor of having been drinking steadily since 5. He leaned in too close and in his blurry French, asked me where I was going, where I was living, and, incidentally, "Est-ce que vous voulez dormir chez moi ce soir?" I politely declined and shoved him on his way.

Almost immediately, another, older, and on the verge of a drunken stupor, sat down in his place and promptly began to sing about liberty or something. I never really got a good look at him, but I do recall with perfect clarity the filthy tennis shoes he wore, which had obviously seen too many winters; their Nike symbol faded to a depressing brownish-blue. He kept up his song for a good 10 minutes and drank at intervals from an over-sized soda can--clearly the source of his musical courage.

As we boarded the 21h25, I found myself hunting for the most deserted seat to take, where no one might seek me out to ask about my life or my American accent. I suppose I also hoped to avoid further encounters involving invitations to sleepovers or unsolicited drunken serenades.

I sat down at the furthermost window seat and attempted to decipher some of the graffiti etched into the thick glass window that the winter air had made icy. Letting my mind toy with the idea that loneliness isn't necessarily a bad thing, and that sometimes it's just what a girl needs, I unbuttoned my coat, reopened my book, and read all the way home.


Natalie Cherish said...

I can't believe that guy actually tried the "voulez-vous couche avec moi ce soir" line?! hahaha I guess even French guys have lame pick up lines. Great post :) Stay safe

emmma said...

Mon dieu, ma petite. If you wrote a book I would totally read it. Sounds a lot like the France I remember. Be careful is right. I'm still gonna write you that looooong facebook message. Hopefully before you get back to the states!

LEAH said...

I hope you carry mace, my love! Or a brick in your purse.

Claire said...

I know, Nat! You'd think they'd try to get a little more creative!
Em, geez girl, whatever happened to that book idea we had in highschool? (what idea DIDN'T we have in highschool.) You know, about growing up homeschooled and thinking we were the coolest kids to walk this earth? Still think we should pen that..
P.S. Long FB message, PLEASE!!!