The train slowed as it pulled into la Gare de l’Est, the cars bumping and wheels grinding as it came to a stop. It was late. I’d have to move fast to catch the last metro home. I didn’t have the energy, I was tired, cold and hungry, which made me grumpy.
I slung my satchel around my chest, grabbed my carry-on, and made my way to the exit. As I neared the door, I could feel the cold January air flooding into the car. I tightened my coat around me as I stepped down the stairs onto the quay, carry-on in my right hand.
Looking for the nearest exit, I turned left without looking and ran full on into woman. Our bodies collided, time slowed, as we compressed into each other. Her hair flowed into my face like an ocean wave. I could smell her hair, her scent, her femininity. She squealed in surprised, her voice full of youth and nubility.
The world rushed back into real time and I saw her. My eyes opened wide in awe and disbelief that a woman could be so beautiful. I remember her eyes, supernaturally blue, sapphire blue, as if they glowed from a power within; her skin, white, milky, alabaster, as if she were a statue come to life; her hair, black, glossy, like the feathers of a witch’s raven.
Our eyes locked. Her angry gaze cut through me. I felt exposed and in danger. I looked down and apologized. “Excusez-moi mademoiselle,” I said, putting my right hand to my heart and bowing slightly as if addressing a queen.
I looked back up. Our eyes meet. She had assessed me in the blink of her eyes. She regained her composure, her body relaxed, she touched my arm, and said, “excusez-moi, I was not looking where I was going,” which I sensed was untrue.
I stepped aside. She passed, turned her head, looked me dead in the eyes, gave me a slight smile, and disappeared into the stream of the exiting crowd.
I was perplexed and confused. I’d never had that sort of exchange with a woman before. I didn’t know what to make of it. Was it good, bad, or somewhere in between?
The crowd had thinned. I started walking toward the metro station, looking for #4 Port d’ Orleans, increasing my pace before I missed the last metro home. I followed the signs, and descended the stairs to the quay. There were a few people and groups, up and down the quay, quietly waiting. I leaned on a large concrete pillar, too tired to pay attention to my surroundings, waiting for the train, smelling the air filled with exhaust from electric motors. I could hear the hum of the approaching train. In an instant it was in front of me, slowing down, coming to a stop, the doors hissing open.
I waited a bit, for the groups to board the train. Tired and on auto-pilot, I leaned down, picked up my carry-on, boarded, and sat down on a folding seat by the door, putting my carry-on between my legs.
The train slowly accelerated, humming, rocking, back and forth melodically. I looked up out of curiosity to see who else was on the last train, and I saw her, sitting on the first bench catty-corner, facing towards me. Surprised and caught off guard, that I would ever see her again, I immediately looked down, not wanting to be caught staring, looking at her from the corner of my eyes.
I couldn’t get over how beautiful she was. Preternaturally beautiful, as if she wasn’t one of us, somehow not human. She was reading a Kindle, iPods in her ears. Her dress was Parisienne, black on black, the only color, the blue in her eyes, and the blood red of her lips.
She oozed sensuality, sophistication, and confidence. How could that be for a woman so young, a woman in her early 20s?
She read quiescently, only her thumb moving, ever so slightly, as she page forward through her Kindle. Her eyes never looked up, not even to see who new entered the car, when stopped at new stations.
I would look up, occasionally, to glimpse at her. She was fascinating to me, not only because of her beauty, but from her vibe. I couldn’t explain it, couldn’t figure it out. Why was I so drawn to her, like a moth to flame?
The train pulled into to Ile-de-la-Cite, rapidly slowing down, passengers counter balancing so as not to fall over. The doors hissed open. In the corner of my eyes, I saw her stand up and start walking up the aisle towards the doors, towards me. I raised my head slowly, our eyes met, locked, time stopped. She smiled, subtly, but enough for me to see. Her eyes, gentle, tender, inviting. I smiled, a slight smile back, my eyes saying everything she wanted to hear.
She turned and exited the train. I stared at her, my mouth open in amazement. The klaxon sounded, the door started closing. Panic surged up within me, as I feared I would never see her again. I bolted up from my seat, headed towards the door, abandoning all behind me. The doors slammed shut with thud, I pulled down on the handle, they were locked.
The train started to move, I looked at her. She was looking back. Our eyes locked, as the trained sped off into the darkness of the night.