Admittedly, I was a little drunk. Nothing too terrible, and certainly nothing the Odeón metro station in Paris hadn’t seen before. I was waiting for the metro to take me back to the 14th adronissment. I had just taken myself out for a nice(r) dinner in the city center and sat with my journal, my carafe of wine I did not share, and myself, and sat the night away alone. I was not unhappy at all to find myself, at 11:30, in a Parisian metro station.
I sat in my red seat and looked around. There were many familiar-looking people about. No one that I knew personally, but types of people I felt I did, those that I’d bumped into and held the metro bars with the past few days. There were the tired people just trying to get home without being bothered; there were the people trying to bother the tired people; and then there was one couple who stuck out.
They were clearly saying goodbye, and loudly. He was in his mid-twenties, and she was slightly younger. He was tall and good-looking, well-dressed in the chic young Parisian way. She was shorter in the typical female fashion, and had on simple slim jeans and ballet flats, and was lovely. They would not have caught my eye had I not witnessed what was going on between them.
They spoke in French, but I knew he was telling her not to worry, that it would be ok and he would see her soon. He held her by her forearms, as if trying to pass his confidence to her through touch. She turned her head to the side, trying to look at something else besides her lover that was saying goodbye.
A metro train going the opposite direction slid in on the next track over. I watched as the air tousled her hair, and he brushed it back into place. She did not look at him, and he kept smiling and uttering soothing things to her over the din of the metro.
I thought about my love that I had left on a winter-dark and early January morning the month before. I thought about what that felt like.
We stood on the pavement outside the opening and shutting doors of the airport. My love picked me up in an infinite hug and I let my backpack slump over on its side. He squeezed me so hard I felt like I would still feel his shape over the next three months I’d be away. I looked at him, and it felt like I was breaking everything valuable. But he knew I had to go, and I knew that I would come back better. And so we both said nothing about the tears, and I walked in the opening and closing doors after a flurry of quick kisses. I got on a plane, and he drove away.
And this woman I was watching—she was being insolent. She was being hard and stubborn and as soon as her love left, she was going to regret not holding on to him the way he held on to her.
He tried to cajole her, giving her an elbow in the ribs every now and then. He tried picking her up, putting her down again, teasing her hair, and settled on touching her face. And finally, she cracked. She smiled, slowly put an arm around his waist, and leaned against him. The minutes were cracking away quickly, and the next metro would be here any minute rushing the love away from his.
I felt better.
But I still wasn’t satisfied. I felt like I was witnessing their last few minutes together that they would have for a while, and that she didn’t know what she was in for. Did she understand what it felt like to be apart from someone she loved? Did she know how lonely it felt being in a city like Paris, wandering the Louvre and pacing the Seine without her love’s hand to hold? Did she know what it felt like not sharing the bed with him? Did she know what it felt like to watch other lovers in a café while she drank her café au lait alone? Did she know?
He detangled himself from her and faced her. He began kissing her—one cheek, the other, her forehead, her eyes, her nose, her ear. He moved quickly, and again she regressed. She did not reciprocate. She only stood there. I could feel the whole metro station watching them, like a burlesque show, but more tasteful in nature. They were standing behind the yellow line as instructed, on stage, and they did not notice.
I wanted to yell, “Love him! Love him now!” But instead, I sat in my red seat and tried not to blatantly stare.
I thought about my love back home. He was probably sitting at his desk, working on something brilliant. I thought about the way he runs his hands through his hair when he’s frustrated or overwhelmed or tired. I thought about how I can almost feel his heart break for others when he feels an injustice has been done. I thought about his knee touching mine. I felt all of those things sitting in my subway seat. This stupid girl didn’t know what she had precisely in front of her.
I thought about how I would make a fantastic leap into his arms when I saw him again and how I would not let go until I felt certain that his shape felt the same as it did three months earlier when we had said goodbye.
And then the metro came. It pulled up, and I waited until he would inevitably get on the metro and wave goodbye to her, and she would watch as it pulled away from her. I wanted to see their last wave before the doors closed. I wanted to see her understand. But the doors started beeping and I had to step on.
I saw them hug, and then they both stepped on the train a few cars down.
The doors closed, and I said goodbye.