The Girl from the Subway

I checked to make sure I hadn’t lost anything: map, wallet, camera, water, bag—good.  I left my headphones at home. I figure the (lack of) language skills, huge backpack, and obvious foreign-ness are barrier enough. The train arrives carrying hundreds of Parisiens and I find myself hesitating as if my choice of car could make a difference.

She glanced up from her metro map and caught me looking. Slightly embarrassed, I waved my own map by way of introduction. She smiled understandingly. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Spain.” “Where are you going?” She pointed to a stop I didn’t recognize. I was on my way to the Musee d’Orangerie. “Oh!” Her eyes lit up—“you must go to the Pompidou, it’s wonderful.”

I asked what brings her to Paris. It turns out she was a model. A Spanish model. “That must be fun!” I offered. Her eyes didn’t share my enthusiasm. “Look,” she said as she pointed past her smooth calves to her feet: angry red rashes framed by the harsh rubber of her sandals. “From walking to all the castings. They expect me to smile and be happy, but it’s not easy. I’m here alone; I miss my friends and family.” I knew the feeling. “Maybe we could keep each other company over dinner tonight”, I suggested. But she had five more castings and a flight home the next morning. “I’ve been here for two weeks, and only visited one museum,” she added sadly.

The train announced our terminus; we were transferring to different lines. I held out my hand, “It was wonderful meeting you.” “You too,” she replied, “and when you go to the Pompidou be aware of the gypsies.” I asked her to expand though I already knew the answer. “Because,” she continued, our lonely eyes absorbed in the company of a direct gaze, “they will try to steal you”.

I wished her good luck. Thank you, she said, squeezing my hand before letting it go.

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