Friday, May 31, 2013

From Paris, 29 July 2012

The Paris metro slows, squeals, and the doors ram open. It is rush hour, it seems, at 7:00 PM, and rivers of people pour first out then in through the train's doors. I walk, then am rushed forward, into the train. There are so many people and nothing to hold to, no place to grip to steady myself. So I wait for the first lurch into forward motion and hope I don't topple into the lap of the elderly woman sitting behind me. The lurch comes. I teeter back but keep myself upright. 

It is as the train begins to move that I sense an unsettling feeling that something is amiss. I have ridden subways before--New York City, Washington, D.C., London--and this feels different. But why? I peruse the faces around me. Some stare glakedly at the floor. Some flick through their phones. Glancing over my shoulder at the elderly woman I see her press her blue grocery bag tighter against her abdomen. A tinny voice in the train's speaker announces the next stop. And now I understand what it is that is different.

No one speaks. No one chats with his neighbor or jokes into her phone. A sea of silent faces surrounds me, faces bespeaking the length and drudge of their day. I listen to the other ambient sounds--the clack of the train, the whish of wind through the half-opened windows, then a screeching of metal-on-metal as the train nears the next platform. 

The elderly woman stands with her groceries and begins to shuffle toward the door. I move aside to make space for her, and she hoists tired eyes to mine. I smile. The doors open. And she is gone. 

Silence remains, feeding my understanding that words, at times, say too much.

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  1. how sad when life gets so tiring that we can't even smile at each other anymore.

    1. I agree, Debbi. Though I thought it was incredibly interesting that everyone understood the "no talking" rule and adhered to it. You would actually get glared at if you did speak. So, so different from the American mindset where we seem to "let off steam" after a hard day by talking. (No wonder we get the reputation for being loud.)

  2. I don't think Okies, or most southerners, would do well in Paris. Unless it was Paris, TX. Way too friendly :)
    I would like to go there, however. Especially if they don't have tornados.

    1. Nope, no tornadoes. And it's an amazing city. If you ever make it across the ocean, you gotta take a gander :)

  3. I don't remember this about the Paris metro! Beautiful piece, Anna!


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