I could see him clearly. Alone and slouching in his seat, he had a baby blue coloured helium balloon tied to his wrist. Mid-drift exposed and circa 40 year old beer belly protruding, he had a look of misery on his face. The unopened bottle of champagne which he was desperately trying get to its contents may have indicated some joyous occasion, however the posture, facial expression and evidence of utter intoxication was telling me otherwise.
The overflow resulting from the released pressure spilled on the trains floor as the man deliberately tried to catch each drop , bringing the bottle to his lips. Wrist and sleave to his mouth he wiped away the excess as the Line 1 carriage turned a corner.
The cork rolled aimlessly on the floor, bumping haphazardly into peoples feet and the muselet eventually found its home under his seat waiting to be found again – maybe.
I don’t know if anyone else saw said man. The few people scattered around were all absorbed and fixed to their phones. In fact, the only thing that is interesting to Parisiens in the Metro is their phone. Every now and then you see a paperback but phones win hands down. The reception is terrible and the frustration with network blackspots drives everyone insane. So, people like me continue to discreetly stare and always keep their useless phone close by – in case of unwanted reciprocated staring.
I am not the only one who stares. The patting down with the eyeballs is common place and I am assured others just want to be stared at and dress solely for this purpose.
I recall a time when it all started with ‘the shoes’. I was seated on the packed train, minding my own business and aimlessly flicking through screens wondering what App I could unsuccessfully click on next when, slouched over my phone I spotted them. Lime green snake skin loafers, each adored with diamante brooches.
My eyes couldn’t help but travel up this persons pressed white pants, the seam perfectly positioned to the front. I hesitated. Not surprisingly, the shoes and pants were tied together with a matching lime green tailored sports jacket. Then there were the smaller details that really made this eye catching outfit – if you thought it wasn’t already. The diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire leopard on the lapel, a cravate which was seasoned with an ornamental jewel and the perfect amount of shirt sleave peeking beneath his jacket. Who was this guy? And, more importantly who was he meeting and where?
His uniquely shaved goatee and slicked back styled hair didn’t give much away and neither did the hint of make-up and contouring which was surprisingly very masculine and eye catching. I stared in fascination. So many questions, no answers whatsoever just the annoying Metro announcement in Japanese, German, Spanish, English and French telling us to ‘be aware of pickpockets’.
Chiselled face, lime green shoe guy is one of so many people I wish I could just say, “hey” to. You know, just find out their story, like “where do you even buy shoes like that?” Others on the Metro you can’t get further away from. Like the punks who want to cause havoc and to set off the fire alarm in the train (yes, this happened) and the dodgy folks who just rub up a bit too close to you as you grasp your handbag, and also try not to fall over as the over packed Metro screeches to a halt atthe next station.
I apologise but this is how my story finishes today. With unfinished stories of people who are just making their way from point A in Paris, to point B in Paris. Sadness, happiness and mystery. The whole Paris Metro system is a mystery to me which I have developed a love/hate relationship with. Like why does it sound like crickets chirping in some stations? Answer here. And how come there is an amazing smell of freshly baked croissants and pain au chocolates wafting down a forbidden passage “passage interdit” at the horrible and creepy maze of a station called ‘Chatelet Les Halles’ as I catch the dreaded RER B every Thursday?
Maybe I am thinking too much on the Metro? Maybe I am staring at too many people, letting my imagination get the better of me? Or, have become too accustomed to the Metro’s awful smells only to be shocked when a pleasant aroma comes wafting my way?
Perhaps I should just follow the masses and just keep fiddling with my phone, trying to keep my eyes to myself and even decide that whilst commuting, it may be a good time to cut my toenails? Hey – there is no time like the present?
Happy New Year.